Home Culture Hoboken’s Very Own Yo La Tengo Back On Tour This Month

Hoboken’s Very Own Yo La Tengo Back On Tour This Month

by Sarah Griesbach
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The Garden State is home to many members of rock n’ roll royalty, and Hoboken claims the honor of being home to indie rock trio Yo La Tengo. Now, in 2023, they’ve left their sweet Hoboken studio to tour Europe. With the band’s release of their 17th studio album, This Stupid World, the crowd pleasing trio is sure to receive a warm welcome as they play stages in Dublin, London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Prague and just about every other major European city for a packed six-month tour. Read on to learn more about this well-honed and oft-honored Hoboken musical group.

yo la tengo hoboken band square

Indie Rock Royalty


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Those who speak and write about Yo La Tengo do so with respect – respect for their skill, sound, versatility, modesty, fun outlook, and consistent variability. Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, RIFF, Spin, Metacritic, Variety, Paste, the Guardian, and just about every other music-reviewing magazine are all in agreement that the band is a critics’ favorite that fans love – but one that never seems to go totally mainstream. The band’s wide recognition as “great” by those who’ve heard them play, and weak reception by those who haven’t, could be viewed as a parallel to the way their hometown of Hoboken is perceived – loved by her residents, but uncelebrated by those who live across the Hudson and just don’t know much about her.  

Hoboken, 1984


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Yo La Tengo’s origin story starts in 1984 in the legendary Maxwell’s Club (later Maxwell’s Tavern) that began drawing music lovers to the southeast corner of Washington and 11th Streets in 1978. Maxwell’s was the musical home to drummer and vocalist Georgia Hubley and singer-songwriter guitarist Ira Kaplan before even they believed in themselves. Maxwell’s gave Yo La Tengo, which has included bassist James McNew since 1992, a place to play regularly, resulting in a deep love of the band by the avid fans who lovingly refer to them as YLT. 

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The band’s name is a subject that often comes up in interviews with the musicians. It’s actually a baseball story, “Who’s on first?” adjacent. Because baseball and Yo La Tengo both originated in Hoboken, the connection between the two is extra good. The band members named themselves after a story that is told in Mets team lore about a center fielder calling for the ball “I have it!” only to crash into a Spanish-speaking shortstop who didn’t speak English. To better communicate with his teammate, the center fielder then called for the ball in Spanish “¡Yo la tengo!” only to collide with the left fielder who didn’t speak Spanish. It’s a joke and a wink in the band’s name that belies the personalities of the band members and their music

The light, wry, clever tunes of Yo La Tengo draw in other cheeky people. Funny, talented celebrities recognize the band as masters of the musical quirk and smirk. Back in the Maxwell’s days, the trio held the stage for epic Chanukah shows — eight concerts in eight days! Those events live as legend in the hearts of the lucky participants. The band invited surprise special guest performers whose names are a fantastic who’s who of talent: Sarah Silverman, Fred Armisen, David Byrne, David Cross, Conor Oberst, Ray Davies, Ronnie Spector, Jeff Tweedy. 

Hoboken Home


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Though it’s arguable that there’s a little Hoboken in all Yo La Tengo’s tunes, only two directly name the band’s hometown love: Night Falls on Hoboken is an 18 minute instrumental ode to relaxation. Sinatra Drive Breakdown on the new This Stupid World album gets funky in an old school Velvet Underground sort of way. The general message is that Hoboken streets set a sweet scene for your musical soul.

Because they are as likely to support other artists as to promote their own work, Yo La Tengo has come to play a celebrated role in the annual fundraising for beloved radio station WFMU. Callers into the live radio show make donations and request a song to be covered by Yo La Tengo. Then, the band attempts to play it to the joy, and sometimes laughter, of the listening audience. 

A Band with a Wide Reach and Range


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Covers are actually a cherished part of Yo La Tengo’s M.O. They sometimes honor unexpected songs that you might not think the band would choose to listen to only to turn them into something fully different and unique but holding onto the lines and melody of the original. This desire to twist and tangle up the Great American Songbook turned into a full album titled Yo La Tengo is Murdering the Classics. Their takes on super well known songs like The Cure’s Friday, I’m in Love make playful banter with the established language of those fluent in music.

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As much as the band is known for spirited covers, they are cherished for their always off-kilter mix of sounds. The band is beloved for playing long live shows with each set unique, so that fans are rewarded by a totally different experience if they see them multiple times in a tour. They typically like to play one loud set and one quiet. Their fans love the mix of familiar and surprising, bouncing between exuberance, melancholy, and chill.

Because smart people love Yo La Tengo, the trio has quite a variety of unusual collaborations in their grand oeuvre. In 2013, they were brought into filmmaker Sam Green’s singular avant-garde project, “The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller,” to play the score for live documentary performances at the Kitchen in Chelsea. They’ve also contributed scores to a number of film projects and played 78 minutes of instrumental music to accompany filmmaker Jean Painlevé’s films shot underwater. But just when the project list starts to look bookish, the band takes a commission for an instrumental jingle for Coca-Cola and a surf version of the Roto-Rooter theme. Like Hoboken, Yo La Tengo will keep you on your toes.

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