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The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller: Talking soundtracks and ephemera with director Sam Green and Yo La Tengo

Sam Green, narrating The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller live (Photo by Ed-Dittenhoefer for The Ithaca Times)
Sam Green, narrating The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller live (Photo by Ed Dittenhoefer for The Ithaca Times)

For 15 years now, NYC and San Francisco-based director Sam Green has been making documentary films, enlightening audiences about domestic radicals, exile, language, and more. For his latest project, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, he explores the life and work of Buckminster Fuller, with a little help from indie rock vets Yo La Tengo, who accompany his live narration with an original score.

Since debuting in 2012, the project has hit 10 cities, and will journey to Philly’s FringeArts this Friday. In advance of the show, I rang up Green and YLT’s Ira Kaplan—to talk songwriting, ephemera, and why Buckminster Fuller.

“His philosophy is in the air these days,” says Green, with a laugh, of Fuller. “He was pretty obscure for a while, but he’s back, as they say.” A mid-twentieth century philosopher who advocated sustainability, efficiency, and using design to solve real-world problems, Fuller is perhaps best known for inventing the geodesic dome, although his contributions to math, science, and urban studies are varied and great.

“He was a Batman character, a larger-than-life character, a very rich persona,” continues Green. “He was wildly optimistic, and a visionary. I put myself in that group as well.”

Green first encountered Fuller’s ideas while working on a project for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art—“they were running an exhibit about Fuller, and asked me to do a documentary,” he says. As he dug deeper into Fuller’s life, he became intrigued.

Green’s previous work, Utopia in Four Movements (a multi-episode oeuvre tackling China’s largest shopping mall, the rise of Esperanto, and more), used a live documentary format, in which Green narrated video clips and was accompanied by a live band. He decided to use the same format for Fuller.

“I was thinking: who would I love to do music for this? Who has the right sound?” He continues. “I’ve been a big Yo La Tengo fan for many years, and I had seen them do a similar show, where they played live music to movies, once before. So I got in touch with them, and they were up for it.”

“Sam came very highly recommended,” says Kaplan with a laugh, who was introduced to Green through a mutual friend. “I wasn’t too familiar with Fuller’s philosophies beforehand, but it’s far from required that you know about him to enjoy the show. This is not a dry academic performance.”

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Indie-rock royalty Yo La Tengo will perform a live score to The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller at FringeArts

Yo La Tengo | Photo by John Vettese
Yo La Tengo | Photo by John Vettese

Renowned local arts organization FringeArts just announced an exciting addition to its Spring calendar: the “live-documentary” The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, which will be performed at its Waterfront stage, with narration from Oscar-nominated director Sam Green and a score performed by indie rock legends Yo La Tengo.

The film follows the career of the 20th century designer and architect (and inventor of the geodisic dome) from whom the title borrows its name, and uses his story to explore issues of sustainability and conservation. Fuller himself lived in Philadelphia from 1972 until his death in 1983.

Diverting from the more traditional approach to documentary, director Sam Green will narrate each “screening” of R. Buckminster in person while cuing images and video from a laptop, with ever-eclectic indie rock royalty Yo La Tengo providing a live score to the proceedings (watch a 15-second clip of a 2013 performance here).

FringeArts will host two showings on Friday, April 4 at 7 and 9 p.m.; tickets for the general public go on sale March 1, more information can be found here. Watch the video for Yo La Tengo’s “I’ll be Around” off of the 2013 album Fade below.

 

 

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A magical night with Belle & Sebastian and Yo La Tengo (review, photos, setlist)

Belle and Sebastian | Photo by John Vettese
Belle and Sebastian | Photo by John Vettese

It’s hard to describe a Belle & Sebastian show without first describing—or attempting to describe—what exactly Belle & Sebastian mean to us. What makes Belle & Sebastian so special?

There are plenty of reasons to like a band. They might write catchy melodies, or great lyrics, or boast a really great stage show. None of these are the reason we love Belle & Sebastian, although all of these are certainly true about Belle & Sebastian. No, our love for Belle & Sebastian goes deeper. It’s the way they just seem to get us—the smart, the quirky, the maybe a little dorky, the cynical, the wandering, the artists. It’s the way they seem to effortlessly capture every emotion we’ve ever felt, from gleeful zest to detached nostalgia, while still providing something we can nod along to. They’ve been there for us since we were much younger, and as time has passed and other bands have faded to obscurity, they’ve grown with us, moving from tunes about awkward adolescence and life in the suburbs to the ennui of the workweek and the slow acceptance of always being broke. And last night at the Mann Center, they proved they’ll be sticking around quite a bit longer.

The first thing you notice when Belle & Sebastian take the stage is: there’s a lot of them. Continue reading →

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Yo La Tengo share new video for “Ohm” (playing the Mann Center tonight)

ylt

Yo La Tengo have shared a new animated video for their song “Ohm” off of this year’s Fade LP.  The clip presents a self-aware approach to music videos, starting off with the question “what is Yo La Tengo?” and proceeding to follow a cigar-smoking baby on a journey through technicolor dream lands, mystical underwater worlds and a “brick in the wall”-esque factory.  All the while a dapper-looking professor is untangling a complicated mathematical formula to find the essence of the trio, which apparently includes bits of Jack Black and Macy Gray.  Yo La Tengo heads out to the Mann Center tonight for a show with Belle & Sebastian; tickets and information can be found here.  Watch the new video for “Ohm” below and revisit the band’s Free at Noon appearance here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Belle and Sebastain and Yo La Tengo at The Mann Center, Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys at Sands Bethlehem and Many Free Concerts

First up tonight is the incredible double header of Belle and Sebastian and Yo La Tengo.  The Glasgow band Belle and Sebastian have been making beautiful indie pop since the 90s and they’re releasing an album of rarities and B-sides this August.  But before they do that, they’re going on a huge tour, including a stop at The Mann Center.  And joining them is another legendary group Yo La Tengo.  Bouncing from genre to genre and covering numerous songs along the way, Yo La Tengo have been making music their way since the 80s and just released an incredible new album, Fade, in January.  Tonight you can catch both groups at The Mann Center.


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Just Announced: Belle and Sebastian and Yo La Tengo playing the Skyline Stage at The Mann on 7/10

Belle and Sebastian and Yo La Tengo are playing the Skyline Stage at The Mann on July 10th. Yo La recently played a Free At Noon and were on World Cafe with David Dye. Listen to the Cafe session here. Ticket info coming soon. Below, watch the Pitchfork TV special about the making of Belle and Sebastian’s classic album, If You’re Feeling Sinister.

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The Week So Far: 12 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Roots Picnic, ONUINU and #LetBonnerShoot)

Photo by Pete Troshak | flickr.com/photos/petryfrompa/sets | twitter.com/shak74

The lineup for the 6th Annual Roots Picnic includes Gary Clark Jr., Lushlife and more [link]

Dave Hartley‘s Top of the Key returns to tell you why the NBA should #LetBonnerShoot [link]

Folk-inspired Philly songwriter Gretchen Lohse records a stunning Key Studio Session [link]

The latest album from Joe D’Amico gets the Unlocked treatment [link]

Portland dance-rock artist ONUINU chats about his upcoming show at Kung Fu Necktie [link]

Get your vote on in The Deli and Tri-State Indie‘s year-in-review polls [link]

Pitchfork gave Bleeding Rainbow‘s new LP a bad review, then premiered it anyway [link]

UK pop singer Jessie Ware played Union Transfer, reminisced about World Cafe [link]

Listen to Simian Mobie Disco recorded live on Making Time RADio [link]

Elder grunge statesmen Soundgarden brought their reunion tour to The Tower Theater [link]

Listen to Yo La Tengo cover The Spinners’ classic “I’ll Be There” from Free at Noon [link]

Ohio singer-songwriter Dolfish is spotlighted in this week’s Folkadelphia session [link]

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Listen to Yo La Tengo cover The Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” live on XPN

Photo by Laura Jane Brubaker
When they were in town for our midday concert on January 11, Hoboken indie rock heroes Yo La Tengo - well known for their imaginative rock and pop cover songs – put their spin on “I’ll Be Around” by 70s Detroit soul combo The Spinners. Listen to their version below, and compare it against the original.

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Yo La Tengo previews its new Fade for Free at Noon (photos, audio, setlist)

Hoboken indie rock heroes Yo La Tengo performed at today’s Free at Noon concert, giving the sold-out crowd at World Cafe Live a taste of their dynamic new album Fade, which is released on Tuesday. “Ohm” galloped out the gate into a boisterous midtempo noise jam, while the drum-free “Cornelia and Jane” highlighted Georgia Hubley’s husky lead vocals, and “I’ll Be Around” brought the pace down to pin-drop quiet levels. The band wrapped the set up with another “I’ll Be Around” – a delightful, off-the-cuff rendition of the Detroit soul classic by The Spinners. Check out a photo gallery of the performance above, read the setlist below, and listen to the concert in its entirety here (via the WXPN media player).

Setlist
Ohm
Cornelia and Jane
I’ll Be Around
Is That Enough
Before We Run
I’ll Be Around (The Spinners cover)

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Stream Yo La Tengo’s new Fade via Pitchfork (playing WXPN’s Free at Noon on Friday)

Yo La Tengo illustration by Keith Greiman

We’re excited to have Yo La Tengo join us for WXPN’s sold-out Free at Noon double-header this Friday with Bat for Lashes. While you’re getting psyched to see the performance at World Cafe Live (or hear it on the WXPN airwaves), get a taste of the sublime new material the Hoboken eclectic rock trio has in store. Fade is a great set of songs with expressive arrangements and low-key guitar tones reminiscent of the band’s 2003 album Summer Sun. It’s also streaming on Pitchfork until it’s January 15 release date. Listen to it here.