Guided by Voices at First Avenue, 10/12/10
October 12, 2010
First Avenue, Minneapolis
How do you live up to your legend? Is there a proper way to do it or do you just do what feels right and have at it? More importantly, how do you quantify a show like this in any capacity? This recap may not be as neutral as you may like and for that I apologize, but there is no other way for me to approach this. Guided By Voices has been a favorite band of mine for years and this show only solidified the admiration. You've been warned.
There was an extended, far too long (or was it?) intro to GBV's set, featuring instructions on how to begin speaking a foreign language--take your pick, French, Spanish, Dutch, etc.--mixed in with what seemed to be a excerpt from a long lost vanity pressing that went on and on, with an occasional "Guided By Voices" dropped in here and there as the music gave way to a symphony burst, and suddenly a neon sign on stage flashed: THE CLUB IS OPEN. Guided By Voices took the stage."That used to be 25 minutes long," lead singer Bob Pollard mused, referring to the intro, "we cut you a break." and with that, GBV cracked into their formidable set.
There isn't really a song you can refer to as a GBV "hit." "A Salty Salute," "Tractor Rape Chain," "My Valuable Hunting Knife," "Cut-Out Witch": these are songs that Guided By Voices fans (and their fans are hardcore) know by heart, know every word, every note, but none have charted, you hardly ever hear them on the radio, even in this city. But it's part of their mystique, their reputation--their final record.
This was the "classic" lineup, Greg Demos on bass, Mitch Mitchell (who chain smoked through the entire set) on guitar, the rest on the rest, the band that GBV fans fell in love with, and looking out into the crowd--a crowd that inexplicably burst into a mosh pit at one point late in the set, a crowd whose median age was north of 30--that had the passion and intensity of a horny teenager on prom night. Are GBV going somewhere? Nowhere? Everywhere? Does it matter? This was (and is), for many people in attendance, the band. The band that all others are measured against--the yard stick--and GBV poured every ounce of everything they had into the nearly two hour set. 30+ songs. Two encores. Who does this?
Well, Uncle Bob and his band of degenerate ingrates do this and do this well--and nobody else. There was something else that happened--well, more accurately didn't happen--tonight as well: Pollard used to bag on bands relative to whatever town he might be in. Every time GBV came through he had things to say about Husker Du, The 'Mats, hell, one time even Prince. Bu there was none of that tonight. No negativity, no "I'm better than so-and-so," because maybe Pollard knows. Knows that he and his crew aren't better than everyone, but better than enough people and that that is what we take as the point. Guided By Voices sound like a Who record that was recorded for $6 and some pocket change, but the fans see that as an asset and not a liability. Bob Pollard is a folk hero and he finally, at long last, has begun to act like one.
Critic's Bias: I listen to a Guided By Voices album about once a week.
The Crowd: Aging hipsters.
Overheard In The Crowd: Martin Devaney singing along to every single word.
Random Notebook Dump: "Did this just happen? Seriously?"
For More Photos: See our complete slideshow by Stacy Schwartz.