I got there early, somewhere around 7:30 or so, and the line was already getting pretty long. It was a free show, and your CMJ badge earned you no special treatment, so there was a frankly inordinate amount of whining going on, from a bunch of people apparently very used to or at least expecting a lot of special treatment.
I made my way in at a few minutes past 8, and Screaming Females were already on, playing to an attentive if not capacity crowd. Having read Klingman's cover story on the band, writing about them is a bit of a challenge: singer/guitarist Marissa Paternoster seems to hate when we writers make too much of her guitar-playing, and she especially hates it when we make too much of it in the context of her being a woman, and she especially hates it when we place it in the context of her being a very small woman. It's hard to ignore all of this, though, when you notice the people around you staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed at their friends, as if to say, "Holy shit, I did not see this coming." And even harder when, between songs, idiot women all around you scream things like, "Awwwww, she is so adorable!" She's also doing things with the guitar that no one else of any gender or size is doing right now, and as a whole, the band is taking 90s-style indie-rock and mixing with just a touch of 90s-style alt-rock in a way that is rollicking, tasteful and unique.
I've pretty much ignored DOM since they first started making waves back in the beginning of the year. I don't know why, exactly, but I sort of wish I hadn't: I expected pridefully dumbed-down garage-rock along the same lines as Wavves, but what I got was surprisingly nuanced, hard-hitting guitar-pop that's alternately influenced by surf, punk, big-riff 70s rock and, most notably, The Pixies. Clearly, I need to set aside some time to listen to their recorded work. (One weird thing I noticed about DOM: A lot of the people who like them seem to have the same haircut as the singer/guitarist and bassist, both of whom have the same haircut as Shaun White.)
By the time Yo La Tengo went took the stage, the place was pretty well mobbed. I heard one guy standing next to me say that he'd waited on line for an hour and twenty minutes. What'd he get in exchange for his time? Well, he got a long, exhilarating walk through the band's enormous back catalog and, thus, a refresher course in Rock History. They do it all, from gorgeously arranged, intricate 60s pop to blistering, room-shaking noise, and they do it without skipping a beat. You can see some people in the crowd start to lose interest by the end—all that noise, all those extended freakouts just a bit more than they'd bargained for. As they make their way to the exit, it's hard to blame them: it's a Marathon, not a sprint.
Yo La Tengo
Photos by Nadia Chaudhury