There was a period in my life where I would go to pretty much any concert as long as the band was recommended by Rob Fee, my music guru for most of the early 2000s. Rob had turned me onto The Pixies, a band that changed my outlook on indie music and sparked my short-lived obsession with the much ignored no-wave scene of the mid-80s.
In 2005, Rob recommended that we check out Yo La Tengo at Maxwell’s during the band’s run of Hanukkah shows. I never head the group before, but I knew they were often referred to as the bastard sons (and daughter) of Sonic Youth and I was psyched to see a wall of noise. The night was magical. Standing only a few feet away from Ira Kaplan, I watched as he literally destroyed his guitars during a half-hour shred fest. The band played for three hours, filling every minute with covers, originals and Christmas songs that were covered by Jewish performers.
Over the next six years, I got to see Yo La Tengo’s Hanukkah spectacular at least three more times. Sometimes the show would be sleepy as hell and the band would drone on for hours. Other years, they would play until the sun came up with a rotating cast of guest musicians on stage. In 2007, I had the awful luck of having to sit through “Nuclear War” performed in its entirety with a children’s choir backing the group. Another year, I saw Red Kross materialize out of god knows where to play a scorching warm-up set in front of a half empty room, hours before YLT was to take stage.
With every passing December, the opening acts and guest comedians got bigger and tickets became next to impossible to obtain. Finally, in 2013, the band played its final Maxwell’s set just as the club was about to shutter its doors forever (kinda). The set of photos below are from Yo La Tengo’s December 4, 2010 Hanukkah show. It was the first time I photographed the band with a digital camera and the place was packed like sardines. The few photos I managed to land are meh, but I’m stoked that I was able to salvage something before the audience swallowed me whole.