Friday, October 15, 2010

Guided by Voices Live at First Avenue

This wasn't supposed to happen. The way the story was SUPPOSED to go was boy discovers favorite band six months after they break up. Boy spends rest of his life wishing he could have seen one of their booze fueled rock and roll shows. Boy accepts fact and loves band regardless, but still contemplates the what if. Then Guided by Voices announced they were playing Matador's birthday show in Las Vegas and I freaked out and then I almost cried a little because I knew there was no way I would even remotely be able to afford that. Then they announced the reunion tour, with the classic Propeller-Bee Thousand-Alien Lanes-Under the Bushes Under the Stars line-up and I almost died. Almost, litereally, died, because they weren't coming to Omaha or St. Louis or one of the closer big cities that bands usually stop at because I guess Lawrence and Kansas City suck or something. The closest show was eight hours away in Minneapolis at the legendary First Avenue rock club. I booked two tickets immediately.

To be fair, at $25 a pop, it wasn't a huge investment and one that would exclusively provide amazing returns if I carried out my not yet hatched plan of kidnapping my girlfriend and forcing her to go see Guided by Voices with me in Minneapolis. Somehow, everything managed to fall into place and I'm sitting in a hotel room in the Twin Cities writing about how I saw Guided by Voices. I, the boy who was never meant to see Guided by Voices, woke up with a sore throat and a raspy voice because I was shouting along with “A Salty Salute,” “Game of Pricks,” “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory,” “Smothered in Hugs,” and the like. Sure, the guys had all gone gray or bald, but someone forgot to tell the silver-haired Bob Pollard that old farts like him were supposed to get their kicks playing golf. Instead, Pollard not only gets his kicks by reuniting one of the greatest bands in the world, ever, and does LITERAL kicks on the stage because he's still limber like a gymnast. Though way old now, he still emits an ultra cool that you just can't make up. You can't even try to achieve that cool. He just has it. It pours out of him and demands the utmost respect.

"Motor Away"
The band seemed to have worn off the rust I'd been reading about in the reviews of the reunion shows prior to this one, or maybe it was just First Avenue's pretty fucking great soundsystem smoothing out the rough edges. It's kind of a perfect place to see music, even if I had a number of misgivings about the venue. The club is kind of what I imagine the void to look like, or the scene in the movie where some pseudo-saavy director depicts hell as a crowded night club where the drinks are all way to expensive for a college dwelling rock chump to get drunk. Not like that stopped me from getting obliterated, because when you're in “Fuck it, it's vacation!” mode your wallet tends to act like it has a nicked artery. I did the math, and I dare say I spent $50 on 7 drinks, and it almost made me sick. $5 for a PBR tallboy made no sense because a six pack costs $4.50 but I did it anyway because I was gonna be damned if I didn't have a proper drunk going and a beer can to raise when GBV laid into opening number “A Salty Salute.” And by the time that happened, I'd already downed a double whisky and, well, more whisky, and realized that I'd neglected to eat dinner and that paired with my six month abstinence from hard liquor made for a sloppy, wobbly, one-more-drink-and-things-are-gonna-get-real-embarassing drunk. That is to say, it was the perfect drunk for facing Guided by Voices, and the chanting twenty and thirtysomething males packed in like sardines up front by the stage thought so too.
I know they say that nothing brings people together like mutual hatred, but I'm going to revise that and say nothing brings people together like a Guided by Voices reunion show. It's maybe the one show that single dudes will go to and try to not get laid, because that would get in the way of all the singing along, the fist pumping, the high fiving, and the general bro-tastic happenings that were all around me in the sardine can. Jenny stayed by my side, (thankfully she shares a fondness for Dayton's pride and joy) but I knew she kind of wanted to go to the back with the rest of the girlfriends. GBV is a boy's game. I don't think it's a sexist notion, they just appeal to a very specific type of person, and that person is capable of growing a beard and will put off showering for as long as humanly possible. Bob Pollard is every dude's dream cool uncle.

I really can't think of what to say about the actual music and the actual show, because I'm biased and I know all that I'm going to say is going to be somewhere along the lines of “it was a life changing experience that almost brought me to tears a handful of times and drove me to buy two 12oz cans of Miller Lite for $12 when a guy brought beer into the crowed because my cup had runneth dry.” It was the kind of experience that would lead to me making poor fiscal decisions because well, what would Guided by Voices say if they saw me passing up getting booze? Well, actually, they pry would have said “Why didn't you just get drunk in your car in the parking lot?” I've heard stories of their legendary drunk performances where they slowly worked their way into incoherence, but Pollard and the boys seemed remarkably sober. Well, in their case, remarkably sober is like being pretty drunk to any normal person, but they were on it none the less. Mitch Mitchell smoked the whole time and seemed exactly like the fucking crazy dude he was in those GBV videos from the 90s I watched. Well, minus the long stringy hair. He still seemed a little crazy (he was wearing a t-shirt with a big Anarchy sign on it! Crazy!) and produced some of the weirdest, most out of character (bandwise) stage banter of the evening, in which he tried to solicit some “Minneapolis pussy.” It got a little weird until Pollard diffused the situation by cooly muttering that someone should “take that man home tonight” and quickly slurring “thisisasongfromalienlanescalled'watchmejumpstart'” and all awkwardness had been relieved. My intrepid girlfriend managed to capture this on video, and in it I can see myself. I didn't know she was filming anything and there's something about the raw and drunken joy on my face that makes me know that this was one of the most insanely brilliant evenings of my life. Also, in one of the videos someone hands Bob a baseball, which he signs and gives back to the fan mid-song. How fucking amazing is that?

The Infinite Weirdness

The Infinite Cool: "Watch Me Jumpstart"

Guided by Voices are my favorite band and I imagine they will be even when I'm a young man regaling the grandkids about the time me and grandma went to Minneapolis and saw the greatest band of all time. They'll say “Grandpa, that music sucks. It sounds like it was recorded in a garage” and I will say “That's because it WAS, and fun fact: Bee Thousand was recorded for roughly $10 minus the cost of booze!” I will always stick up for GBV when the uninitiated complain about the sound quality or Pollard's voice or the overall weirdness of their best records. They're the greatest band of all time because they set out to be the greatest band of all time even though the odds were absolutely, 99.9999999% against them. They were middleaged when they recorded Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, which are arguably two of indie rock's most important records. They got together in garages and banged out Pollard's brilliant pop songs and recorded them the best they could. It's easy to forgive the polished later GBV albums because well, Pollard would have done that with Bee Thousand if he could have, but he couldn't have made those big, clean, guitar rock records if it weren't for the tape hiss and the taped together and collage-like classics. Their coming back for a classic line-up reunion tour seems like a schill, but no one will call it that because no one should really care because honestly, all that matters is that one of the greatest live bands ever is playing more shows. And now I've seen it, and I can say that they're one of the greatest live bands I've ever seen. The rest of this will be random highlights, of which there were many far too numerous to elegantly work into paragraphs.

*Seeing Tobin Sprout sing “Doding Invisible Rays,” my favorite b-side of all time by any band ever. It was so unexpected I almost fell down, and that's when I bought the beer because I was so excited I needed to drink some more (even though I'd realized I was plenty drunk and had somehow magically achieved the thought to be non-existent First Avenue drunk). This song has a special place in my heart, and it's one of those simple but incredibly perfect songs I wish I had written. I actually forced my band mates to learn this for a Kite Tails show a couple years ago because I wanted to know what it was like to sing one of the most brilliant songs that no one has ever heard.


*Bob's microphone twirling, quite expert.

*Greg Demos looked amazing all night. He dressed like a rock star from the 70s if all the clothes had come from the Salvation Army. Purple pants. Heeled shoes. Ruffled white shirt with vest. Silver, like real silver, hair. And it would have been kind of sad if he wasn't being such a fucking rock star. It was so awesome to watch him.

*All the hits. Well, mostly all the hits. Bob knew what he was doing. He seems like the kind of guy who is really into seeing what people say about his band, knowing which songs everyone loves the most and you know what, he probably loves all those songs the most too. He's the kind of guy who thinks he's a total genius and makes no bones about it and the thing is, no one can really argue with that. Sure, he's kind of terrible at editing himself and his albums (that's what Tobin Sprout seemed to be really good at and why those middle albums are so great), but I swear when the man strikes gold it's solid fucking gold.

*Halfway through the show, one of the dudes in front of me left and his friend tried to save his spot until he realized he wasn't coming back and I proceeded to bro down with this random dude for the rest of the show. Jenny apparently pushed me forward because she thought I needed to brodown, which is why I love her. She knows me so well!

*Three encores! Two of which I kind of forgot due to being right plastered, but I know they closed with “Weedking” and I never really liked that song too much but man it was fucking AMAZING. FREEDOM CAKE! QUICK TO BAKE!

*Mitch Mitchell sang one of the songs, but I forgot which one. “Lethargy,” maybe?

*I didn't realize this until just now, but they didn't play “Don't Stop Now.” OH WAIT YES THEY DID! And I was wasted by this point (it was in one of the encores) but I am pretty sure I remember pollard doing the “Many more where we come from...NOT” line. Wait, did they play it? Shit, I can't remember. I KNOW They played “Exit Flagger” though and that was fucking awesome. Wait, did they play that? I shoulda paid more attention. Guess I was too busy having the greatest time EVER.

*Times New Viking opened and their reverence to GBV was almost kind of off putting since they're such a good band. The singer drummer dude started counting down the songs they had left til GBV, which was sweet, and though I was kind of not in the mood, a few songs in I started getting really into their set and noticed things I hadn't when I'd seen them before (their guitarist is great) when they opened for other indie rock legends Yo La Tengo and the Breeders (two separate shows, years apart). It's nice to see them being courted by the greats. I saw the guitarist and the drummer rocking out to the Clean at Garage Fest a couple weeks ago, and that endeared me to them even more.

*Despite not remembering what songs they played, I don't think it was because I was plastered. I think it was because when the show was happening (From the time that silly little recorded intro started when I was on my way to the bathroom, pissed, and then rushed back and forced my way through a bunch of people back to Jenny TO the point when the house music came on and I had to try to remember where the car was in the garage) I was in an altered state of reality. Since this actually wasn't supposed to be happening, I will maintain that it didn't really happen, and if I do remember it happening than that's nothing but a far fetched fantasy because Guided By Voices reuniting with the Classic Line-up is something that is way too cool to ever actually happen. Or did it? There is video evidence, so maybe it did! I can't, for the life of me, swear that they played “Gold Star For Robot Boy” but I remember losing my shit when it happened?


  1. So well said. I was at the Southgate House show on Friday night. Euphoric.

  2. you lost me at this point -

    GBV is a boy's game. I don't think it's a sexist notion, they just appeal to a very specific type of person, and that person is capable of growing a beard and will put off showering for as long as humanly possible.

    not even sure what to say to something like that considering i dont have a dick and have been a fan since '93. what's that line in that sloan song, it's not the band i hate, it's the fans. ya.

    anyway, wondering why ever lame blurb written on a gbv show has to include the drinking element. dude, do you actually think anyone gives a shit what the fuck you drank or how much? oh wait, we're talking about pollard worshipers. right. forgot. predictable bullshit. ugh.

    it's always nice to finally get to see your favorite band in the world play live, even if you are an asshole.