Yo La Tengo’s first performance in Thailand in their 32 history was truly one of a kind

Yo La Tengo’s first performance in Thailand in their 32 history was truly one of a kind

From what I’ve seen this year, concerts and gigs are a very social thing in Bangkok. There are often a lot of musicians and music lovers at live music events and it’s very common to meet the same people time after time. HAVE YOU HEARD?’s concert last Sunday, featuring indie rock / shoegazing band Yo La Tengo and Thailand’s own indie stars Modern Dog, was a good example of this, with fans and non fans alike gathered to enjoy each other’s company and the quality music.

The venue at Voice Space was full and lively early on, and I thought it was a good move from HAVE YOU HEARD? to keep the doors of the main hall closed till it was almost time to start, keeping anticipation high. But in reality, there was no need to build anticipation, with everyone very excited to see Yo La Tengo’s first show in Thailand in their 32 history. As everyone waited, people were able to write their suggestions of who they would like HAVE YOU HEARD? bring to Thailand next on a large empty canvas titled “what bands do you want to see?” This show was the last of the Singha Light Live Series, and we look forward to more of the same from them next year.

 

I stood behind a fan during the meet and great later that night who didn’t want an autograph, only wanting to thank them for their music in person because “it soothes me when I’m feeling rough”. It was a perfect explanation of what the first set was, and hearing him say that, I knew exactly what he meant.

 

Once the doors did open around 8:30pm, there wasn’t much of a wait for the action to begin, with Modern Dog starting at 8:40pm. They seemed relaxed and at ease, something that obviously comes from the experience gained gracing Thailand’s largest stages for over 10 years, starting with some classic, straight-up rock numbers you’d want any good concert to kick off with. They filled their set with a lot of B-sides, which their fans in the audience loved, although I must admit I found the crowd a bit too quiet, in contrast to Modern Dog’s fantastic stage performance, each band member a hurricane of energy and passion. Over time though, the enthusiasm came, with the crowd really getting involved during one specifically upbeat song after which lead singer Thanachai Ujjin spoke about how honored they were to open for Yo La Tengo, who they have been big fans of for many years and who they have worked with in the past. The band also paid tribute to the event organizers and concert goers.

 

The entire set felt completely spontaneous, although I knew of course that it wasn’t completely so. The 3 band members switched instruments regularly, and improvised constantly, with Ira Kaplan leading the brunt of it, using his electric guitar in ways I’ve never seen a guitar used before, creating a wide array sound.

 

After a bit of a break, Yo La Tengo were up, playing the first of 2 sets, the first quiet and the second loud, something that I’ve heard is commonplace but was a first for me and quite a few others who I talked to. I found the first set very unique – gentle, soft, melodic – the crowd so quiet that every faint bit of lyrics and guitar carried through the hall like it was whispered in your ear. They started off with “Can’t Forget” and flowed with ease from one song to the next, interspersing the music with short thoughts and exclamations. Their set seemed to stretch time into one long moment, and their music made one feel as if they were floating on a cloud, with the crowd especially loving it as they played “Friday I’m in Love”. I stood behind a fan during the meet and great later that night who didn’t want an autograph, only wanting to thank them for their music in person because “it soothes me when I’m feeling rough”. It was a perfect explanation of what the first set was, and hearing him say that, I knew exactly what he meant.

Another long break passed and the second set began. I was curious to see what they meant by “loud” and it didn’t take long to find out. The entire set felt completely spontaneous, although I knew of course that it wasn’t completely so. The 3 band members switched instruments regularly, and improvised constantly, with Ira Kaplan leading the brunt of it, using his electric guitar in ways I’ve never seen a guitar used before, creating a wide array sound. It was all very loud and frantic, the fans really enjoying numbers like “Little Eyes” and “Stockholm Syndrome”. Each song was a performance that was clearly one of a kind, and all of us just lucky enough to experience it. As someone who does not know Yo La Tengo’s music very well, I liked watching those who were clearly big fans enjoying every moment, so much joy on their faces.

 

At the end of the day, good music makes for good memories, and I smile when I think of how many memories Yo La Tengo must have created over 32 years, and how many they have yet to create.

 

The end of their set finally came, and as they said their goodbyes and left the stage, much of the crowd left the hall. But the fans wouldn’t give up, with a call for an encore slowly sweeping through the hall, until most were either clapping or chanting, begging them to sing a few songs more. I didn’t think it was going to happen, but I was happy for the persistent fans when they did return to the stage, to huge applause. They sang 2 more songs, calm and sweet, ending things off with “My Little Corner of the World”, sang beautifully by a beaming and somewhat bashful Georgia Hubley.

It was a beautiful night filled with beautiful music and it was nice speaking with a few fans afterwards, talking about how much the band’s songs meant to them and hearing their stories of how they had discovered the Yo La Tengo’s music. Things rounded off with a signing session, during which I was able to ask Yo La Tengo what it felt like to be in Bangkok, to which Kaplan expressed that it was a great feeling, and a genuine surprise addition to their touring, after their gig in Taiwan.

At the end of the day, good music makes for good memories, and I smile when I think of how many memories Yo La Tengo must have created over 32 years, and how many they have yet to create.

 

— Written by Abner Olivieri, images courtesy of HAVE YOU HEARD?

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