Published Jul 01, 2004Sometimes you walk into a venue and can immediately sense from the crowd that the impending band is, or is hyped to be, the next big thing. Other times, often just as quickly, you can tell that you are simply surrounded by a litter of true fans. In this case it was definitely the latter. The anticipation was heightened by the extra excitement in the air due to the fact that it had been years since long-time college radio staple Yo La Tengo had played such a small, intimate nightclub venue when passing through Vancouver. Vancouver's own super-girl group (well, four of the five members are girls) the Gay opened the night. Perhaps because of their matching spandex skater/gymnast outfits or simply because of their catchy indie pop sound, they soon had the room nodding along, which is sometimes a difficult feat for an opening band. Unfortunately, technical difficulties meant an extra long wait before the on-stage arrival of the New Jersey YLT trio, featuring husband and wife duo Ira Kaplan (guitar/keyboards/vocals) and Georgia Hubley (drums/vocals), along with bassist James McNew. Yet the band's relaxed, unassuming talent quickly made it clear that it would be well worth the wait. On this evening, YLT showed off what they do best - effortlessly interweaving opposing moments of epic guitar jams, loud raunchy waves of Fender-created feedback, quirky keyboard melodies and hushed pregnant moments featuring quiet vocal harmonies. But far from sounding jerky or uneven, the impressively lengthy set moved along seamlessly with the layers of sound continually outnumbering the three multi-instrumentalists on stage. As the kick-off show of a three-week West coast tour in support of no particular upcoming or recently released album, the show provided a treat in that the band was neither there to test drive nor flog a particular set. In fact, as is apparently characteristic of these veteran indie rockers, who have been around for just shy of 20 years, the set featured a relaxed mélange of newer and older material from their dozen full-length releases, along with some well placed covers. As an example of his quirkiness and wit, early on Kaplan showed not only his awareness of Canada's distinctive un-American holidays but also his un-cool, unassuming charm in wishing the crowd the best Victoria Day ever. And an hour-and-half or so later, the night would end with the appropriate cover of the Kinks' "Victoria" topping things off memorably.