This month I wrote a piece on one of my favorite bands, Yo La Tengo for the local paper the Portland Mercury:



(signed ticket stub from one of their Chanukah shows a while back)

For the Mercury piece I did an e-mail interview with their bass player James. Only a small portion of which was featured in the piece.


Here’s the whole thing, slightly edited.

Jack: Only through the magic of Googling that I found Stuff Like That There was a song by Betty Hutton from 1944, later covered by Bette Miller (from the movie For the Boys) and Kelly Clarkson (during her American Idol run). Did the band have any connection to the song in particular? The lyrics are pretty funny/sxualized

“I want some huggin’ and some squeezin’

and some muggin’ and some teasin’

and some stuff like that there.

I want some pettin’ and some spoonin’

and some happy honeymoonin’

and some stuff like that there.”

Was there any talk of covering that song? (why/why not?)

James: No, we never thought we’d cover it. I think we were drawn to it by the recent discovery of Sun Ra’s version. It kind of gives you pause, here’s this ferociously original composer/ performer, who always kept his arrangements of standards in the Arkestra’s book. “Take The A Train” could appear right after “Discipline 27.” 

Jack: I’m probably reading too much into that song, but it seems to be about feeling like your out of the game but getting excited by something again. Did these the songs on this album feel like getting your juices flowing?

James: You probably are. Nope, everything flows.

Jack: On the album you cover a Special Pillow song, a band you played in. Were there other Special Pillow songs in the running?

James: There weren’t, but they have a ton of great songs. I was lucky that Dan Cuddy asked me to be the guitarist in the original lineup. I was a giant fan of his band Hypnolovewheel.

Jack: Are you as much of a baseball/Mets fan as Ira (i’m not sure about Georgia and Dave)?

James: I am a fan to be sure. Measuring it is like asking how religious someone is.

Jack: Is it hard being on tour overseas while the World Series is happening?

James: Yes, it’s murderous. 

Jack: Do you try and arrange daily schedules to watch the games or tape them/watch them later? (especially since it’s the Mets).

James: No, it usually fits right in with our daily lives, unless we’re in Europe, and then all is chaos.

Jack: I read this was the first time you played upright bass? Is the true?

James: It was my idea. What was I thinking? Actually, I know what I was thinking. Al Greller played upright on “Fakebook” (and Wilbo Wright played upright on the subsequent tour), so I thought I’d go 100% on the concept of this record and try it. It’s a challenge, all right. Playing it every night on tour has been rewarding, probably in the way a boxer feels after winning a heavyweight match (every night).

Jack: Any plans to use some upright bass on the next Dump record? (any plans for the next Dump record?)

James: No plans (for either). One song on a new Shrimper records compilation (Led Zeppelin’s “Down By The Seaside”), and one new original 15-minute song on an upcoming cassette compilation.

Jack: Could you tell us a little bit about the recording process? Was it similar to previous records or did you try anything different? (IE- Instruments first then vocals, all live, different for different songs). Was it challenging to decide how the upright should sound/be mic’d recorded? I can imagine it’s challenging to get an upright mic’d right for live shows.

James: It was nothing like previous records (except “Fakebook,” I guess). Almost the exact same basic setup for every track, minimal overdubs. Our live sound engineer has used a combination of mic/ direct techniques for the upright, he won’t even tell me. I’ve been playing it through a Fender Super Reverb onstage, but only for monitoring purposes.

Jack: Have you kept up on independent comic scene? What’s been some titles/writers you’ve enjoyed in the past few years?

James: I haven’t kept up too closely. I have mostly followed the careers of a handful of the same artists for a long time, and their work has just gotten stronger over time, particularly Jim Woodring and Adrian Tomine.

Jack: What have you been up to the past few days? Any good/bad site seeing? (London, Paris, Berlin)

James: Lots of walking, searching for coffee, stamps. I’m a huge fan of pharmacies and grocery stores when overseas. I like to get out and see the city whenever I can, and try to blend in somehow.

Jack: Have you had any special (or not so special) guests join you on stage for this tour besides Dave Schramm?

James: In Brooklyn, we played “Walk Away Renee” and “Rollers Show” with Nick Lowe. In London, we played “Rings Around The World” with Gruff Rhys.

Jack: Any plans to visit the Portland tree featured on Fade’s album cover? (in Overlook park) while you’re in Portland?

James: No plans, but it could happen, especially if it starts serving coffee.







last week I subbed for an art class. it was the Monday after Halloween weekend. I showed them Edvard Munch’s the Scream and then this comic I had drawn.


I asked them to make up their own stories about why the person in the painting was screaming.

Here are some of their work (2/3 graders and middle schoolers)

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There was extra time in the class so I had them draw their favorite candy. This one was of course awesome “KING SIZE”:


Editors note: I’ve made some edits from the original, but basically kept it, as is.

Okay,  just got home from the YLT/Feelies show at Town Hall, Tim I know you were at the show the night before… let’s compare notes!

   The Feelies were basically perfect, completely intense and committed, I’d never seen them before (tho I have every album) and it was everything I’d want from a Feelies show.  If you haven’t seen them, do it!!!!
The YLT set – also (ALMOST) perfect… strangely NO songs from Electropura (?!?!?!) and (thankfully) NO songs from Summer Sun, and I think even NO songs from their most recent album (Fade) (also sorta thankfully, since it’s one of their “boring Yo La Tengo” album for the most part).   Opener was one of the only two songs I really liked on the recent “Popular Songs” album, I forget the title, it’s on side 3 I think (of the vinyl).  Totally enjoyable as an opening song, with James & Ira both on guitar.   Second song was Moby Octopad – awesome – with Ira on keyboard!  Sounded utterly perfect in this arrangement.  At this point I was officially in YLT ecstasy.  Unfortunately our seats (me & my drummer Heather, and my friend Rachel) were second row, waaaaaay on the James side of the biiiiig,  wiiiiiide stage, so we could barely even see/hear Ira for much of the set (our view of him was blocked by the big bulky old keyboard in front of James…).  We heard way more out of James’ big  amps than  from Ira’s amps far on the other side. Anyway…  third song – Upside-Down, from May I Sing With Me (most under-rated YLT album)!  Love this album, love this song, saw them play it once long ago.  Then I think was “Our Way to Fall” (that songs that goes “we try and try… cuz we’re on our way to falling in love…”) from Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.  I’m usually mostly bored by that album, but in the right context the songs are quite nice, and I do like this song, and it was well-placed in the set.  Note that at this point  they had been doing one song each from a wide range of albums, a set-building strategy which I LOVE.  And it went on like this, each song from a different album.  Onwards to “Mr. Tough” from the I Am Not Afraid of You album, not my favorite song on that album, but still I like it, and it was well-placed in the set, and continued the now-established game of each-song-from-a-different-album.  Then upping the ante into awesomeness ( tho I might be forgetting the exact order) was “Sudden Organ” from Painful, and this just might be my top favorite YLT song, I did see them do it once in the past.  Added bonus was that Ira had to cross over to James’ side of the stage to play the  keyboard for this, so we got him over close to us.  And the drummer and percussionist from the Feelies got onstage to add percussion to it (saving Ira from having to play the maracas with one hand as in the past, tho it was cooler when he used to do that).  THeir old guitarist from the early days Dave Schramm got onstage and they did…  “The Cone of Silence”, first song from their first album (Ride the Tiger), I love this song and I’ve never seen them play it live.  It was great.  SUrprisingly Dave (not Ira) played the rippin’ guitar solo, and apparently Dave is the one who played the solo on the album version too.  Then they followed this with another song from Ride the Tiger, the one with the trombone solo in it, great song but I forget the title, is it The River of Water?  Or The Pain of Pain?  SOmething like that?  This old dude got on stage in the middle of it and blew a crazy trombone solo at the right time, then got offstage. Apparently it was a guy from the old band The Scene Is Now.  Then they got him to come back on stage to  do a The Scene Is Now song, which we all know is…   Yellow Sarong!  (from Fakebook)  Again, I think I’ve never seen them do this one live, and it sure brought back the memories, what a great song.  Are you with me so far?!  Dig it!  At that point they had played stuff from like almost every single album!!  Glen Mercer of the Feelies got on stage on guitar to augment a great version of “Barnaby, Hardly Working” – which, although it is also on Fakebook, is on the “President Yo La Tengo” album, so at THIS point in the set I think the only albums NOT represented are Fade, Electropura, Summer Sun and New Wave Hot Dogs.  And that’s the way it stayed.  I thought it was odd that they ended up playing FOUR songs from Painful and nothing from Electropura, but I guess they are sort of touring to promote the new expanded edition reissue of Painful.  Let’s see, what else…  I forget.  Oh yeah, a nice version of From a Motel 6, with Glen Mercer on guitar.  What else… For the encore they started with a nice acoustic version of  Big Day Coming, no drums, Georgia taking center stage to sing, while Ira played acoustic.  They brought ALL 5 of the Feelies back on stage for a song that I didn’t recognize, partially I couldn’t barely hear it because from my side of the waaaaay left of the stage I could only hear mostly the Feelies guys and could barely hear Ira, I think it might have been a Neil Young song that I don’t know, or something else.  It was the only song of the entire set that I didn’t know, I’m proud to say!  Then the final song was, apparently the final song of their first ever gig, 30 years and two days previously,  at Maxwell’s… which Glen Mercer also joined them onstage for, way back when…   they announced that it was the final song of their earliest show, and started playing it, it took me a few seconds of trying to  figure out what it was, but then I realized it was the Psychedelic Furs “Pretty in Pink”, kind of nice and cool, not mind-blowing, but a nice way to end.   THeir tour manager Joe remembered me from when my band had toured with Los Campesinos, when he was tour managing them, and he gave me and my companions  backstage all-access passes!  SO we went backstage and had a beer among the crowd in the little greenroom, didn’t talk to ira or Georgia or James, but chatted with Emily Hubley and her son  and her husband, and also with  tour manager Joe, and with guitar tech Dutch (whom I met when I was on tour with Super Furry Animals and he was their guitar tech).  So it was a  really nice night, and I’m pleased to feel like YLT are still basically the perfect indie rock band.  They have no competition.
   Tim, what was the show on Wed like?  I assume that’s when all the Electropura tunes happened!  Tom Courtenay?  False Alarm?  Blue Line Swinger?  Red Buckets?
Good night!!
Wait, I mixed it up… the song early in the set from Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out was “Tears Are in Your Eyes”, and the FINAL song of the set was “Our Way to Fall” – but my comments hold true regardless!
PPS – when I recognized Pretty in Pink it was BEFORE the chorus happened (just to make sure I get full credit for recognizing the song)
PPPS – wait, they DID do a song from “Fade”, that song “Is That Enough”…  But anyway… NO songs from Electropura.
Tim’s notes:
i’ve still been contemplating the Painful reissue. it was playing in my room the first time Allison and i ever kissed, so it’s got some heavy sentimental value.
here’s me review that i dumbly only sent to Jeff, the show was a bday gift from my brother Pete:
Antietam:seen’em open for them a couple times back in the 90s. They were good. Ira joined them for a number, on keyboard, though i could barely hear it.

Yo La: When they took the stage it was just the three of them, and it almost felt like a stage play. like they had no plans to electrify that evening. I immediately began adjusting my expectations, despite the massive amps looming behind them. Georgia was at the mic, and James and Ira just two feet to either side of her. And she started…”Come, along with me…”
It was a good start. nice and quiet. and kind of felt like they were relaxed and showing their age without embarassment. They were always a trio who were playing for each other first and foremost.
But Story of Yo La Tango was next! Sure it’s just retreading Electr-O-Pura greatness but i love it all the same. I recognized it within a few seconds even though it was only him setting up noise loops at that point. For a 2nd number it made a nice counterpoint, from a quiet acoustic to a noisey “we are who we are” mantra.
Also, 7 or 8 minutes into it really Ira cut loose, was doing his drunk marionette thing, just leaning over and then looking like he got tugged up two feet into the air, as the guitar flailed around him. he changed guitarrs mid-song on that one and one other i think.But i mean really! really. he moves like a marionette!
After that they killed time because Georgia’s mic was dead. Ira chatted “that’s an advantage of 30yrs doing this. If this had happened our 2nd night it’d be OH MY GOD OUR CAREERS ARE OVER THIS IS HORRIBLE! now it’s, psssshh.”
they went into Stockholm Syndrome, then Lewis (had to look it up), off New Wave Hotdogs, and album i unbelievably never owned.
Then Ira sat down at the stage left electric piano and didn’t know how to change the octave. He fumbled for a minute, then called James over, who looked at it for 2 seconds, hit a button, ‘bloop, done. Ira looked at us sheepishly. James got cheers.
Ira commented on the protests outside  and how there’s no good time to bring up a thing like how its a dark day for our country, but sometimes it helps to be around friends…
Then they went in to Weakest Part from “Kick your Ass”, which always sounded like it came form a Rankin Bass Christmas special to me, but i like it.
Then Ira started noodling around and my brother poked me in the arm as he spit out the first few notes of Blue Line Swinger. no dice, though, they went into
Season of the Shark instead.
I can’t remember if it was the earlier song or this next one (stupid Things) but
whatsisname came out and joined them on guitar. old producer. agh it’s killing me. forgot. lost it over the weekend.
After that Ira announced that they had a brand new 21 year old record for sale outside, and then wen tinto the ONLY Painful song of the evening. I mean, i love that one and Electro the most, so i was def hoping for Big Day Coming or Hotel 6 or Sudden Organ, but we got a pretty flawless Nowhere Near instead, so i won’t complan. At the end Ira commented about how so much time has passed but certain moments still feel so close to him, like how he still remembers the very first time Georgia played it for them in their practice space. Funny, i always just kinda presumed they played all their songs for each other, then brought James in later.
Two more from Fakebook followed, Can’t Forget and Tried So Hard. They were joined by another  couple friends, one on upright bass, and im once again blanking on their names.agh!!!
I think it was at this point Ira apologized for the downtempo-ness and promised
the noise was coming. then they did 2 from Fade, I’ll Be Around and
Before We Run.
Then they introduced Roger Moutenot (won’t forget THAT name!). And he took out some bongos. YEssssssss. Autumn Sweater!!! Nothing to Hide off FAce followed, and then JULIE CHRISTYYYYY the rumours are TRUE! Tom Courtenay!!!!
When Blue Line Swinger (!) finally started, my brother an i grinned. They were playing it at a slow, deliberate tempo. a relaxed tempo. AS if to say “we earned it”. it wasn’t as satisifying or driving as the past performances, of course, but i was still holding out hope as it built and built. and about 6 minutes Bam! they snapped. tempo shot up and they were ON and they rode that song out like it was a glorious flaming sunset the stretched on nearly forever, and said good night.
cheers cheers cheers
The encore started, and Ira introduces the guy who played bass for them at their first show at Maxwell'[s on Allison’s birthday in 1984 (i always knew there was a reason they became “our” band!). And they start in with an intstrumental number i didn’t recognize, pogo-ing and pounding guitar line, and people FLOOD in from both sides of the stage, all scrambling to find somehwere to plug in. literally 20-30 people on stage! WALL….of….SOUNNNNNNNDDD. i took a few secs of ivdeo but it doesnt do it justice. then they did “Prisoners of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Neil Young. ended, left the stage. my brother and i started to head out, sure there was no way they’d go on. i went out ,nabbed a t-shirt, the one with the cartoon animals, and a couple Crossword puzzles. headed back, and boom. they’re back. just the three of them, just like they began, and ended the night with Did I Tell You off Fakebook.
The only thing that could’ve made this set better if it was followed by me and my bro having to drive all night to wherever we’d be sleeping.
Jeff responds:
I didn’t even keep my copy of Fade… I gave it to Jack.

I don’t know the Penny Arkade album, and I have not read that Matreya Kali article, but I’ve been curious for a while about hearing those MK records, once in a while I check Amazon to see if anybody has made them buyable as a download yet.  It’s one of those things where even the reissues are expensive.  (Best weird/psych/exotica/rare album I’ve discovered lately is “Eden’s Island”, 1960, Eden Ahbez.  Great album, and findable as cheap Amazon download.  Pretty much everybody will like this one.)
I had another Yo La Tengo run-in at the Beggars Group record label holiday party on Thursday night!  Okay, so after the Town Hall show last week I had lovingly griped to their tour-manager Joe that it was a great set but nothing from Electropura!  And I had said the same joke-complaint comment to Sonya, the Beggars Group publicist (she is basically my only friend at the whole American Rough Trade/Beggars office, since Steve Knutson [isn’t there any more], I don’t know anybody else in the operation any more).  Anyway, two days ago I walk into the bar/restaurant/lounge place on East 31st St where the Beggars Group/Rough Trade/Matador/4AD 10pm holiday party/open-bar is happening, and immediately there’s Ira and Georgia standing right in the foyer!  We’re all, like, getting our coats off and waiting to hand them to the coat-check.  So I say hi, and as usual they obviously have no memory of the 20 times meeting me before, and I reintroduce myself and I tell Ira “I played that show the other week with Peter Stampfel and Jad Fair, and chatted to you a little afterwards” and then Ira was like, “oh yeah, of course, of course, hi.”  Then I said “that was a really great show on Thursday night at Town Hall!”  And HE said “Well, that’s not what I heard… I heard YOU had some complaints!!!”
Ha!!!!!!!!   Really gotta watch what you say to whom in this biz!!!!   Word gets around!!!    Pretty funny.
(Then I proceeded to get a little too tipsy, make an ass of myself to Beggars-boss Martin Mills, and oversleep/hungover the next morning resulting in a parking ticket cuz I totally forgot I had to move the car at 9am.  Oh yeah, then my bassist cancelled our only rehearsal because her cat was looking depressed and she didn’t want to leave him alone in the house.)

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30 + shipping)

Old Art

20150224_161636Old comic rip off

Sauvie Island





RBI baseball1

Sher-ba-kuf-um was my name for RBI Baseball sidearm legend Brett Saberhagen. His last name had to be abbreviated for the game. I can’t find a screen shot of what it was exactly. Something like Sbrhgen. I always called him Scherbakufum. He was probably the best pitcher in the game with a deadly sidearm release.

Brett saberhagen

There were probably numerous ways to cheat and win at this game, but I always used a method where I would get a player to steal a base or get caught in a run down, if I made the opposing team throw the ball back and forth a few times they would inevitably commit a throwing error and throw the ball into the outfield and I would score. This brought me much joy as a child.

For this painting I chose a different matchup.

RBI painting


For some reason all the players in the game are shown to be Caucasian including Gooden.


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