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Yo La Tengo‘s current tour gimmick involves them playing two long sets, one “quiet” and one “loud,” at each show. It’s a pretty great gimmick, though; on Friday night at the 9:30 Club, the entire capacity crowd was dead silent during the stunning quiet set, which opened with a compellingly subdued version of the loudest song from Fade, the band’s newest record. (The same song would later make an appearance in the loud set.)
The loud set was full of the raucous, joyful noise on which Yo La Tengo made its name, with lots of guitar flailing (musically and physically) and one fantastic number I didn’t recognize that centered around an awesomely ugly, dissonant organ solo. But while the set was great enough, the covers-heavy encore was just as easy to love, starting off with a lengthy take on Sun Ra‘s “Nuclear War.” Yo La Tengo did multiple versions of this piece on a 2002 EP, of course, but hearing the band turn it into a sort of twisted singalong was a real treat. There’s just something oddly communitarian about hearing a thousand people chanting, “Nuclear war/it’s a motherfucker.”
Here’s the full slideshow, including obligatory guitar freakout photos towards the end.