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Yo La Tengo is outshined by upstart Boston bands


With Scatterfield

and Tsunami Poets.

T.T. the Bear's Place, Sep. 6.


THE QUIRKY PUNK TRIO Yo La Tengo and Boston's own Scatterfield and Tsunami Poets played to a packed house Friday night at T.T. The Bear's. Never having heard these bands live before, I did not know what to expect from these newcomers to the music scene. What I did hear were three very different bands with three very different styles.

Tsunami Poets opened the show with a solid, well-received one-hour set. They dressed the stage with cut-out fish and an ocean-blue backdrop that helped to create a party atmosphere.

Tsunami Poets' melodic rock style is very similar to early Talking Heads material. Their tight, finely-tuned set showed that a band can still create danceable rock and roll without resorting to the sampling and drum machines popular with bands today.

By contrast, Scatterfield played very loud and very fast, with a sound reminiscent of H"usker D"u. Their singer belted out songs about personal anguish and isolation while jumping around the tiny stage. He was always either holding the microphone in a death grip or beating his tambourine as if it had insulted him personally.

Scatterfield's two guitarists played well together, creating walls of electric fuzz over the thrashing of their great rhythm section. They were by far the most energetic band I had heard in months, and I thoroughly enjoyed their performance.

The most I can say about Yo La Tengo is that it really felt great when their set ended -- it was almost 2 am early Saturday morning, and T.T.'s was crowded and hot. Having previously heard and liked some of their songs on the radio, I was very disappointed by their live sound. Gone was the playfulness their music had over the radio: they played all of their songs at the same tempo and volume, and they made little effort to change their sound from one song to the next. The metallic guitar and bass hinted at something like Sonic Youth, but never connected with each other. In the end, the band sounded like they were fighting with each other instead of playing with each other.

Perhaps I would have liked Yo La Tengo more had it not been for the great sets by the opening bands. But then again, Yo La Tengo should know better than to book opening acts that might outshine them.