Last night, Yo La Tengo began their annual Hanukkah celebrations at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, as is tradition. The evening was filled to the brim with music excellence, comedy, collaboration and revelry of Jewish life.

The opening evening had a cyclical feel, opening with “My Little Corner of the World,” a song that ended the eight-night celebration in 2022 and years prior. Instead of being sung with the help of Ira Kaplan’s mom, the song by Rob Hilliard & Lee Pockriss featured Mark Luecke, who whistled. They continued “Sinatra Drive Breakdown,” “Autumn Sweater,” “For You Too,” and more before the Sun Ra Arkestra horns–James Stewart (saxophone), Knoel Scott (saxophone), Cecil Brooks (trumpet), Dave Davis (trombone) and Michael Ray (trumpet)–joined on “Shaker.” The gilded sounds continued through the end of the frame.

Additional highlights include Sun Ra covers of “Deraming,” “Unmask the Batman,” and a set closing “Nuclear War,” a rendition of Rex Garvin & The Mighty Cravers’ “Emulsified,” and a boogie version of “More Stars Than There Are In Heaven.”

Aligned with tradition, the encore was devoted to songs written by Jewish songwriters while exemplifying the spirit of collaboration. The encore began with Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman’s “Suspicion,” which saw Gary Olson join on trumpet and vocals and Julia Rydholm of Ladybug Transistor on keys.

After Burt Bachrach & Hal David’s “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” which saw the same lineup, they nodded directly to the Celebration of Lights with Samuel S. Grossman & Samuel E. Goldfarb’s “I Have A Little Dreidel” with John Early joining on vocals. Finally, the first of eight nights came to a close with “Where Or When,” a song by Richard Rogers & Lorenz Hart to which Early added his skills.

Yo La Tengo will continue their celebration at the Bowery Ballroom tonight.

Yo La Tengo at Bowery Ballroom
7 December 2023
*(Hanukkah, night 1)*

opening act: Sun Ra Arkestra
comedian: John Early.
mix CD: Clay Pigeon
benefiting: Anera.

Set: My Little Corner of the World (Bob Hilliard & Lee Pockriss) (with Mark Luecke on whistling), Sinatra Drive Breakdown, Autumn Sweater, For You Too, Madeline, Lewis, Shaker, Don’t Have To Be So Sad, Dreaming (Sun Ra), Artificial Heart, Unmask the Batman (Sun Ra), Brain Capers, Emulsified (Rex Garvin & the Mighty Cravers), More Stars Than There Are In Heaven (boogie version), Nuclear War (Sun Ra)

Enc.: Suspicion (Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman) (with Gary Olson [vocals/trumpet] & Julia Rydholm [keyboards] of Ladybug Transistor), (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me (Burt Bachrach & Hal David) (with GO & JR), I Have A Little Dreidel (Samuel S. Grossman & Samuel E. Goldfarb) (with John Early on vocals), Where Or When (Richard Rogers & Lorenz Hart) (with JE)

Notes: “Shaker” through “Nuclear War” with Sun Ra Arkestra horns: James Stewart (saxophone), Knoel Scott (saxophone), Cecil Brooks (trumpet), Dave Davis (trombone), Michael Ray (trumpet)

Setlist credit via Frank & Earthy: / @bourgwick