Posted January 28, 2005 in
By hump day of the festival I was feeling very burned out on seeing films. After Innocence, the documentary about men who had been exonerated by DNA evidence after being wrongly convicted failed to rejuvenate me for some reason.

[John Cameron Mitchell with Miranda J.] When these men get out of the system they are given no compensation, even if they have lost 10 or 20 years from the prime of their lives. Often the crimes they didn't commit are not expunged from their record so they find it difficult to impossible to find employment, housing, etc. It was cool how former Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted the sentences of all death row inmates because of a preponderance of error, and he didn't want the blood of innocent men on his hands; however, more states need to follow suit. In this film, a D.A. in Florida, governed by dumbass Jeb, fought to disallow DNA evidence of a man wrongly imprisoned because he didn't want to set a precedent of error in the system of justice, whether the man was innocent or not. (He was, but the D.A. delayed his release for more than three years.) Maybe our "President" could rally against capital punishment from his bully pulpit. Oh wait, he likes to execute handicapped people and young teenagers and is the world‚s leading executioner.

OK, so I was not in a good mood. Fortunately I found the performance by Yo La Tengo to be very therapeutic. They were preceded by Daniel Johnston, who was better than expected during his short set. The lyrics of his newer material are even more twisted up than his early stuff, if that's possible. And he really benefits from accompanying himself on the piano and the chord organ instead of the guitar. He is the only person I have ever seen on stage who is a worse guitarist than I am. But the piano version of "True Love Will Find You In the End" and the chord organ version of "Walking the Cow" were sublime. Later he joined Yo La Tengo for a couple of rocking numbers and he really opened up and started hollering during "Speeding Motorcycle." He sang on-key and his voice was barely cracking. It was astonishing. Then he left with his octogenarian parents. Would somebody please set up dueling pianos for Brian Wilson and him?

[Daniel Johnston]

What I don't understand is why more people don't make a bigger deal about Yo La Tengo. Yo no la tengo. They are truly one of the great bands of our time. Is it because they play love songs and that's passé? Is it because they post-modernly cover any- and everything with no shame, from The Kinks to Todd Rundgren to Sun Ra to country and R&B and everything in between? On this night they even covered The Osmonds "One Bad Apple." Is it because they do it all with such facility that it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Or that cute-as-hell, married couple Ira Kaplan (guitar, voice) and Georgia Hubley (drums, voice) are too gregarious to go along with their sonic grit? Jack and Meg White, I mean Hype, my ass. YLT even have a talented, full-time, 3-part harmony providing bassist (James McNew) who wears a Popeye shirt and a Bluto body and a Sweet Pea voice. Can you tell that "I got it" when it comes to Yo La Tengo?

[Ira after the show]

This was an amazing two-hour show even before Hedwig, I mean John Cameron Mitchell, came up on stage for the final encore. He introduced the tune as a Hanukkah song as Georgia and Ira are Jewish and dedicated it to his favorite Jew (or Ju?), presumably artist/filmmaker Miranda July who was in the audience. Seeing her and Cameron Mitchell in the same room, it looked like they could be sister and brother. And the song was lovely and promoting all love in general. I believe in love again. For now.

[Ira & John Cameron Mitchell together onstage]

The late night bus ride back to my crashpad was filled with drunken Aussies, some of whom were passed out, the others were singing, much to the consternation of a few of the Prada-wearing passengers with $500 haircuts. But I could have not cared less, as my ears were still ringing with the harmonies and noise, and even Ira's filmmaker-style Q&A, of that glorious rock and roll show.

[MC Welk with Ana Gasteyer of SNL and Reefer Madness trying to convince her that he's half of Gemini's Twin or a very poor man's Will Farrell]