Yo La Tengo kicked off their annual eight-night Hanukkah run at New York’s Bowery Ballroom last night, marking the 20th anniversary of their Festival of Lights celebration. As is tradition, the show featured a surprise opening act, Amy Rigby and a comedian, David Sedaris, as well as a special mix CD, which was curated by Sharon Van Etten. The evening’s guests were fitting: both Rigby and Sedaris took part in Yo La Tengo’s 2020 Hanukkah Livestream, which did not have an audience due to the pandemic. 

Last night’s Yo La Tengo set opened with a cover of “New York Groove,” (written by Russ Ballard and popularized by KISS) which the trio performed, as is also tradition, with the lyrics “back with the New York Jews.” During the meat of YLT’s set, yMusic horn player CJ Camerieri emerged for “Shadows,” “Beanbag Chair,” Sal Elwitt’s “Eight Candles,” “Walking Away From You,” Lee Barry’s “1-2-3” and “Before We Run.” Drummer Kevin Micka also sat in on the festive “Eight Candles,” which Yo La Tengo recorded for the 2019 holiday compilation Hanukkah+. Later, Pennsylvania guitarist Steve Gunn emerged for a lengthy set-closing take on “I Heard You Looking.” 

In years past, Yo La Tengo’s encores have featured special guests and celebrated the work of Jewish songwriters, and this year’s kick-off was no different. First, Riby and Camerieri returned for a take on “At the Well,” a tune Rigby recorded in the 1980s with the Last Roundup. Then, Yo La Tengo offered three Velvet Underground tunes: “She’s My Best Friend,” “It’s All Right,” and “I Heard Her Call My Name.” Finally, WFMU’s DJ Time Traveler helped the band close the night with a cover of Heatwave’s “Always and Forever.”

Yo La Tengo’s Hanukkah run continues this evening. 

Here‘s a look at last night’s set via Jesse Jarnow’s Frank & Earthy.

Yo La Tengo
Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
Nov. 28, 2021

New York Groove (KISS) (sung “Back With the New York Jews”)
Today Is The Day (fast)
For You Too
Let’s Do It Wrong (acoustic)
Shadows (with CJ Camerieri on French horn & trumpet)
Beanbag Chair (with CJC)
Eight Candles (Sam Elwitt) (with CJC & Kevin Micka on drums)
Walking Away From You (with CJC)
1-2-3 (Len Barry) (with CJC)
Before We Run (with CJC)
Sudden Organ
Artificial Heart
I Heard You Looking (with Steve Gunn on guitar)

At the Well (Last Roundup) (with CJC & Amy Rigby on guitar/vocals)
She’s My Best Friend (Velvet Underground)
It’s All Right (The Way That You Live) (Velvet Underground)
I Heard Her Call My Name (Velvet Underground)
Always and Forever (Heatwave) (with DJ Time Traveler on vocals)