yo la hanukkah week report.

caption: versus rock out on opening night, photo by liz clayton

longtime zinestress, photographress and indie nerdess extraordinaire and regular cf writer (if only cf were regular) liz clayton went to every single hanukkah show at maxwell’s and recaps it all for you…

though I grew up in a largely jewish community, my celebration of hanukkah rarely extended past greedily enjoying latke day in grade school — so when I realized that now that I live in new york, I could actually attend *all eight days* of the yo la tengo hanukkah shows at maxwell’s this year, I thought maybe I should do that. well, that and I don’t really have a home or a job, so it seemed truly like g-d’s will.

at first I thought I’d compulsively write about it, then I realized ira was going to do a much better job. so instead I just compulsively took pictures. but then gail asked me to write it up after all, so I offer a stream of my own disjointed highlights:

• gusts of arctic air sporadically and usually dismayingly blowing from the side of the room each night (best experienced when mark arm’s lyrics kept blowing away, or when chris stamey’s facial expression turned to alarm mid-song)
• robert scott’s voice on “blitzkreig bop”, night #2
• richard baluyut passing his guitar to jeff cashvan in the front row of the audience for a re-stringing, just like it was 1994, night #1
• learning not just that alex chilton was coming to town as the special guest for friday and saturday, but that he was coming on the chinatown bus from philly
• alex chilton taking his man-purse (w/copy of the new yorker sticking out) up on stage both nights (what, the joe puleo coat check isn’t good enough for you?)
• stealing a db’s setlist only to get chris stamey’s home address and all of his hotel charges from tuscon on the reverse side (this is not a band that expects their setlists to be souvenirs in 2007, apparently)
• the maxwell’s doormen recognizing me by day four and starting to fuck with me on day five
• upbraiding a guy for a disparaging anti-ohio comment immediately after times new viking’s set on night #8 — you’re looking for antipathy up the wrong tree, buddy
• comedy that makes me not hate comedy, or at least some comedy that makes me not hate comedy, most notably from peanut butter and eugene mirman and todd barry, though it would have been nice if the latter two hadn’t done material on social networking websites (come on!) on consecutive nights (ouch!)
• blue line swinger! last night only!

and obviously, yo la tengo yo la tengo yo la tengo. I could repeat that eight times, but you catch my drift. saturday’s show — joined by a more cheerful alex chilton — was my favourite of the bunch, the peak of a five-day arc, and no of course I can’t remember what they even played at this point, which night they opened with a terribly wonderfully noisy “barnaby…” and which nights I was trying hardest not to break my camera as I jumped up and down in the front row.

(also, while we’re here, and I really am trying to “keep it positive” (I actually said this to myself in my head the last night, clearly the result of some kind of ohio-hoboken-hanukkah-hot-toddy-emotional love rush) — why not take the freedom of an open forum and make a little mention of my latest pet peeve: front-row texters. seriously? you stand right in front of the entire crowd — thereby taking something away from them that they want — and then you text? what the fuck is wrong with people like this? what messages are these people even sending — “I’m being a huge asshole in the front of a concert right now and you aren’t”? in the past two weeks I have seen a) a girl cleaning her iphone screen during the entirety of a mountain goats song, about two feet from john darnielle, b) a guy take a phone call during alex chilton and yo la’s version of “femme fatale”, and c) a guy spend multiple songs texting at the last ylt hanukkah show, about one foot from ira. you know the band can see you, right? extra points to this last clown for deciding to handle my whispered reprimand of “that’s really disrespectful!” by intentionally crowding me out of our shared leaning-space against the monitor. at least shoving me slowed down his ability to text.)

anyway: that’s not what you came for. you came to hear whether the shows were amazing and special and crowded and humid and noisy and great, and they were. it seems very unreal to think that I saw versus and then the clean and then the db’s on three consecutive nights and then still got to see yo la tengo do something wonderful and different and enchanting every night, too. I mean, I’ve travelled to see them many times before — but travelling to hoboken every night for eight nights became kind of an insane exercise in both formal constraint, photographywise, and in life intensity. if being homeless were always like this, no one would bother to live anywhere!