After discussing the dilemma at great length in last week’s print issue, The Spin was faced with a tough choice regarding Saturday night’s entertainment. However, a crucial coin toss determined that our '90s-bred veterans of choice would not be Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Exit/In, but rather Yo La Tengo at Mercy Lounge. (We did, though, dispatch an operative to Exit/In who tells us that the show was well attended, that Spencer and the fellow members of his power trio ripped through a characteristically loud and wild hour-plus set that featured a cover of Beastie Boys' "She's on It," and that Spencer yelled "BLUES EXPLOSION!" no fewer than six times.) As they sometimes do, YLT opted to play a two-set show in lieu of bringing along an opening act, so we hustled with all our might to catch the entirety of both.
Despite our efforts, The Spin only caught the latter half of the band’s first set, but from what we’re told, what we missed wasn't much different from what we caught: Percussion was stripped to a minimum — when it was used at all — as the band crept like a mellow breeze through a softly strummed collection of their quieter hits. Song selections spanned from brand-new Fade album-opener “Ohm" to fan favorites and selections from what was easily the best-titled album of The Aughts: I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.
The band took a short intermission as the elbow-to-elbow crowd shuffled around for smoke and beverage breaks, while others shoved in their earplugs and seized the opportunity for a spot closer to the stage. Given that Yo La Tengo's opening set was such a subdued and low-key affair, it stood to reason that the follow-up would showcase the more turbulent side of the band’s exhaustive catalog.
Damn if our assumptions didn’t prove correct. Weighing heavily on cuts from their newest — including another, considerably more amplified version of “Ohm” — the band wailed through a guitar-heavy, jam-prone, career-spanning series of hits. Singer-guitarist Ira Kaplan frequently cut loose with violent bursts of mangled, washed-out guitar noise between more dialed-back and soulful interludes sung by bassist James McNew, managing to include a little something for a fan of almost any of their more popular releases.
When you’ve packed a house to this extent, two sets rarely quench the thirst of such a sizable audience. The band returned to the stage for a few encores, and Kaplan & Co. immediately made it known what an honor it was to perform before several members of locally residing indie royalty Lambchop. YLT dedicated part of the set to the 'Chop and closed out with a couple of covers — we're fairly certain there was a rendition of
Bob Dylan's "I Threw It All Away" in there, as well as The Spinners' "I'll Be Around" in there, as well as Sun Ra's "Dreaming."