Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock
The first biography of Yo La Tengo, the massively influential band who all but defined indie music.
Yo La Tengo has lit up the indie scene for three decades, part of an underground revolution that defied corporate music conglomerates, eschewed pop radio, and found a third way. Going behind the scenes of one of the most remarkable eras in American music history, Big Day Coming traces the patient rise of husband-and-wife team Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, who—over three decades—helped forge a spandex-and-hairspray-free path to the global stage, selling millions of records along the way and influencing countless bands.
Using the continuously vital Yo La Tengo as a springboard, Big Day Coming uncovers the history of the legendary clubs, bands, zines, labels, record stores, college radio stations, fans, and pivotal figures that built the infrastructure of the now-prevalent indie rock world. Journalist and freeform radio DJ Jesse Jarnow draws on all-access interviews and archives for mesmerizing trip through contemporary music history told through one of its most creative and singular acts.
combination [might have worked]: if I was a fan, awake, or a good interviewer, or two out of three. It was pretty bad. Really bad. “I think it was early in the morning. They weren’t wearing makeup. It was in this big room in the hotel and they were just increasingly bored and perplexed as to why they were wasting their time with this comatose person who couldn’t ask questions. They just started amusing themselves by talking about their days as junkies and shooting up heroin in their eyeballs and
Music, 88, 113, 117, 138, 165, 207 “Way Some People Die, The,” 145–146 Weavers, the, 19, 99, 145 Weckerman, Dave, 112, 118, 218, 245, 278 Weinstein, Ken, 215–217 Weymouth, Tina, 82 WFMU radio station, 124–127, 166–168, 192, 210–211, 234, 236–239, 252, 281, 307–308 Who, the, 32, 65, 75, 145 Wichnewski, Stephan, 131–133, 135, 146, 150, 152, 154–157, 159, 182, 259 Wilco, 322, 324 Williams, Paul, 51 Worrying Thing, A, 98–100 Wright, Wilbo, 170, 171 Wurster, Jon, 252–253, 299, 308 Wygal,
discouraged and confused…,” Cudahy said later, sympathetically. In March, the McNew-era Christmas played their first gig, a Music for Choice benefit in Boston with Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo. James enjoyed Yo La Tengo immensely (bassist: Gene Holder) and was all the more surprised when Georgia and Ira launched into a cover of Christmas’s “Junk,” a song they’d been doing occasionally since the year before. James met them afterward and talked briefly about nothing in particular. He got a few
certainly owned a few (if not all) of the younger Guthrie’s albums. Ira’s tastes progressed with rapid logic through nearly anything he could absorb, folk-rock being an early favorite. Since the moment he’d clicked on with the Beatles, he had also displayed an uncommonly intense musical memory, each new experience slotted firmly into place. One new one came the day Abraham announced that he would take Ira and his friends to Bill Graham’s Fillmore East—a former Loews movie theater turned rock
audiences what they neither expected nor necessarily wanted. There were always reasons. They had been ignored in some capacity for so long that when success came calling for them, it found the trio sometimes elusive, often indifferent to or distrustful of the attention. If an interviewer seemed genuinely interested, it wasn’t so much of a chore, but as review copies of the new album made it out, there were more and more questions to answer. The less asked about their personal lives, the better.