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Yo La Tengo

One of my favorite bands in the world is Yo La Tengo, to whom I came relatively late with their album I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. Or at least that’s the album that put me over the edge. (The first time I remember hearing about them was when I was a freshman at Swarthmore and some of the sophomores who were way, way cooler than I was were going into Philly to hear a YLT show. I had no idea who the band was.)

Anyway, because I live in a cave of drink, I never hear about good shows coming to town, so I missed that YLT was going to be playing last week. The only way I heard about it was from my wife, who is wine director of Quince, where they were dining on one of their free nights. Naturally, I was completely envious and tried to plot a way to get into the restaurant and observe them. I couldn’t, though, because I had to work behind the bar at Cantina that night.

Michael Tusk, chef at Quince and huge Yo La Tengo fan.

But I took solace in the fact that the biggest Yo La Tengo fan I know is Michael Tusk, the chef at Quince, and that it must have been a seminal night in his life that he got to cook for them. He’s such a big fan that a couple of years ago, Yo La Tengo played five shows in town, and he bought tickets to every one of them, taking a different cook with him each night. Anyway, I did a short interview with the chef to find out how it all went:

JM: Were you nervous cooking for your favorite band?

MT: You know, it was a little nerve wracking. You never know what to expect. And it was an extremely busy night for us. But they were super chill.

JM: Do you listen to the band at the restaurant?

MT: We don’t listen to music in the kitchen. But I drive around to lots of farmers markets in the Bay Area every week and listen constantly in the car.

JM: Did they enjoy the meal?

MT: They said everything was great. There was a menu, but I sort of just cooked for them, sending out a bunch of different things. Of all of them, Georgia (Hubley, the drummer and a singer) was probably the most food savvy. She did most of the wine ordering and seemed like she was fairly knowledgeable and interested in wine and food.

JM: How did it feel to have this opportunity?

MT: It was great. I’ve been such a fan of the music for so long, it was great to get them in my little concert hall for an evening. Ira (Kaplan, guitarist and singer) asked me if they could play anything for me at the show the next night. I stumbled for a couple of seconds, thinking through hundreds of songs, and then suggested Blue Line Swinger, since it lets them all kinda do their thing. They laughed and said they don’t really do that one much anymore.

JM: Did they end up playing it?

MT: They did. And they blew it out, a really good version. I was happy.