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January 23, 2007

Sight Unsound: Threesomes, excess, habitats and cold steel

Yo La Tengo: plays selections from its new album, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, Thursday at the Bomhard Theater. Louisville natives Antietam open the show.Asked whether there is anything to be inferred from the location of Yo La Tengo’s performance tomorrow night — at the intimate Bomhard Theater in the Kentucky Center — bassist James McNew said he doubts it. The threesome will do what they always do: play a little mellow and rock a lot. “That’s the way we think about music,” McNew said. “It’s only natural to be quiet sometimes and loud sometimes.” Yo La Tengo is joined by another threesome, Antietam, which features Louisville natives Tara Key and Tim Harris. The couple moved from here to New York in 1983 and have been playing with Yo La Tengo since some of its first gigs. “It really means a lot every time we get to play with them,” McNew said. Considering Key’s reputation as a “guitar goddess” (quoth The New York Times), Antietam is one opening act you want to be on time for. “Like I have to tell anyone from Louisville how awesome Antietam are,” McNew said. Yo La Tengo’s latest album is called I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. It captures the essence of the Yo La Tengo philosophy: Be quiet sometimes and loud others. I couldn’t have James McNew on the phone and not ask him about some specific things — such as the soundtrack Yo La Tengo composed for “Old Joy,” a highly acclaimed film co-starring Will Oldham. As seasoned film scorers, the band worked closely with director Kelly Reichardt and watched the film “endlessly,” which was a pleasure, McNew said, adding that he liked it so much he’s at a loss for words. “Will Oldham is so awesome in this movie.” The all-ages show is a benefit for WFPK-FM. Antietam starts at 7:30 p.m. Unfortunately, tickets are sold out. Contact the Kentucky Center (www.kentuckycenter.org, 584-7777) for more info. ••• The Last Saturday series kicks off 2007 with a two-day, nine-band bill to celebrate its one-year anniversary. Saturday night features Young Widows, Chicago’s Russian Circles, Wolverine Brass, Black Walls and Duckett. Young Widows played its first show last May and has been touring the states, Canada and Europe off and on ever since. You can expect the “normal, loud, noisy rock that we always play,” guitarist Evan Patterson said. Sunday’s lineup includes Municipal Waste, Coliseum, Skeleton Witch and Brain Banger. Both shows are all ages and start at 6 p.m. at the Keswick Democratic Club (1127 Logan St., 637-9639). Tickets are $6 in advance, $7 day of show and are available at ear X-tacy. ••• VRKTM plays experimental rock on Saturday at The Rudyard Kipling (422 W. Oak St., 636-1311), only to follow that up Wednesday, Jan. 31, opening for The Rapture and Under the Influence of Giants. VRKTM is gearing up to release Excess/Defect next month. Singer Darren Rappa said of the title, “Moral virtue is a mean between two extremes. All the songs are an exercise in temperance.” VRKTM undoubtedly embodies a sound that is balanced and full. Rappa insists that the collective effort put forth by each person is one thing he loves about the band. “It’s real collaborative in every sense,” he says, “and everybody is a great musician.” Tickets to the Jan. 31 all-ages show at Headliners (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) are $15. Doors open at 8 p.m. ••• Gypsy first, songwriter second: Todd SniderTodd Snider insists that he is a gypsy first and a singer-songwriter second. “When I was young, my family went completely bankrupt, and there was no money for me to go to college, and there was nothin’ I was gonna be able to do,” he said, “so I just hit the road and began my stint on what you’d call the ‘sofa circuit.’ That was long before I ever considered myself an artist of any kind.” While drifting through Texas in his late teens, Snider had an epiphany. “I happened to catch a rowdy performance by Jerry Jeff Walker, and it occurred to me then and there that, along with Walker, half of the population of Texas could apparently play the guitar and make a living at it. Naturally, I figured I probably could too, if only I had one to play,” he said. Once Snider taught himself some chords, a seemingly inexhaustible array of characters, real and imaginary, came to life through his clever wordplay and tasteful accompaniment. He’s still not a household name, but Snider has made great progress in his inadvertent career. Peers and critics applaud his creative outlook and, at times, subversive song-craft. Snider’s wanderlust tends to lead him down those interesting roads where source material is always afoot. Best of all, the man has a wicked sense of humor. See for yourself on Friday at Headliners. Cory Branan opens. Tickets are $12-$14. Showtime is 9 p.m. ••• Last Town Chorus: Megan Hickey of The Last Town Chorus.Curiosity has its risks and its rewards. In Megan Hickey’s case, her decision to pick up a friend’s lap steel culminated in the gorgeous album Wire Waltz. Hickey leads the rotating cast of musicians that make up The Last Town Chorus with her spooky, enchanting voice. “I was originally planning on singing and playing bass,” she said. “I had always thought about having a music project, but I was never excited enough by the instruments that I had. A guy came over and brought his old, pawn-shop lap steel. I played it with three delay pedals and fell in love with the sound.” Hickey produced Waltz herself, wrote all the material and worked with about a dozen New York musicians to make her vision come to life. “I wasn’t an engineer. I had never done that before,” she said. “I did know what I wanted the album to feel like.” The Last Town Chorus performs at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Phoenix Hill Tavern (644 Baxter Ave., 589-4957). Tickets for the 21-and-over show are $10. Kim Taylor opens. ••• WPFK-FM is also co-sponsoring Kate Campbell’s free concert this weekend at St. Matthews Baptist Church (3515 Grandview Ave.). Truly one of Nashville’s best-kept secrets as singer-songwriters go, Campbell is helping to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. Saturday’s concert begins at 7 p.m. Kevin Wilson and Music Editor Mat Herron contributed to this story. Contact the writers at leo@leoweekly.com