Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Last Weeks of Maxwell's, Part 1: Condo F*cks / Yo La Tengo, 6/15/13

This Is Where I Belong

"This band does not exist without this club." That was Ira Kaplan / Kid Condo in the final moments of a double bill that saw both Yo La Tengo's final performance at Maxwell's as well as the realization of The Condo Fucks' career-long dream to headline the back room. A last minute edition to the bill following a cancellation by the Pastels, Yo La Tengo took advantage of probably their first opening slot at Maxwell's in decades to focus on the quieter, more melancholy portions of their catalog. The Condo Fucks provided a contrast, making the most of their first and only Maxwell's headlining set by turning in an ear-splitting performance of garage rock covers.

WFMU's Gaylord acted as the evening's emcee and made reference to Yo La Tengo's long history as Maxwell's de facto house band, recalling an early performance by their pre-YLT incarnation as A Worrying Thing. Guitarist Ira Kaplan pointed out that the band's first performance at the club as Yo La Tengo took place in 1984. Then, armed with the acoustic guitar he would use for the entire set, Kaplan, along with drummer Georgia Hubley and bassist James McNew, opened with "Big Day Coming" from 1993's Painful.

The band acknowledged Maxwell's co-owner Todd Abramson several times, at one point noting that he may be the only show promoter in America still calling himself a "booker" instead of a "curator." Yo La Tengo, said Kaplan, had moved with the times. No more would they use a "set list." Instead, they'd work from a "libretto."

The night's libretto pulled songs from the entirety of Yo La Tengo's discography, including what will likely be James McNew's only performance of "3 Blocks from Grove Street" from 1987's New Wave Hot Dogs, "Speeding Motorcycle," and the acoustic, Georgia Hubley-sung version of "Tom Courtenay." The songs from this year's Fade, an album that deals with aging and the passage of time, -- "The Point of It," "I'll Be Around," and set-closer "Ohm" -- took on a subtle power given the context of the evening.

At the end of the set, the band climbed down from the stage and made that walk, as Yo La Tengo, through the Maxwell's crowd for the final time.

At about 8:15, The Condo Fucks -- guitarist Kid Condo, drummer Georgia Condo, and bassist James McNew -- took their positions on stage. Gaylord returned and provided a bit of the band's history, noting their rise from the streets of New London, CT to the headlining slot at the New Jersey rock institution.

"1! 2! 3! 4!" counted off Kid Condo, and the squall of his electric guitar sent a few folks to the bar, buck in hand, to grab some ear plugs. The set, comprised totally of covers, included selections from the band's 2009 Fuckbook (don't  Google that one) along with searing renditions of obscure cuts run through the filter of garage and psych-rock. James McNew took lead vocals on Fuckbook cuts like The Electric Eels' "Accident" and Slade's "Gudbuy T'Jane." Georgia Condo managed most of the lyrics to the Troggs' "With a Girl Like You," but missing a few words just added to The Condo Fucks' overall wonderfully ragged feel.

The Connecticut trio left it all on the stage, but managed to come out for one more song. Ira / Kid Condo picked up the acoustic one last time, and the band delivered a cover of The Kinks' "This is Where I Belong" that set more than a few eyes watering.

There are six weeks worth of shows left on the Maxwell's schedule. Many of those will be truly great and just as emotional as last night. But a big Maxwell's chapter closed last night. Yo La Tengo will never play there again. At least The Condo Fucks finally got their big shot.

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