Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Live Review: Guided By Voices

Crystal Ballroom, Portland
Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Just like how pornography makes you horny, watching someone get shit-faced drunk makes you thirsty. That would be the theme this night.


The show started relatively tame, with my personal favorite "Tractor Rape Chain" being the third selection. Slowly sipping my beer in hand and with low expectations, I was starting to get into the music. Then I noticed a bottle of what appeared to be tequila in Robert Pollard's left hand, which he took pulls off between songs. Fifteen minutes later, he was noticeably drunk, and that's when the fun started.

Pollard told a story about how they used to smoke cigarettes playing gigs, lamenting about how that is no longer allowed, and how they should be grandfathered into being allowed to smoke. A fan near the stage offered Pollard a cigarette, which he didn't hesitate to light. After a couple quick drags, he stated, "I can't sing 'Hot Freaks' without a cigarette."

That was when the show started to take off. It was the "fuck you staff, I'm drunk and going to smoke a cigarette," attitude that had me enthralled with what might happen next. It wasn't like most shows, when I think, "should I go get another beer, or wait a couple songs." This was, "I need to pound this beer so I can get another one, and I should probably take a shot."

Swinging his microphone around, pounding beers between his swigs off the bottle, doing cheerleader kicks on stage, and generally freaking the fuck out, the show was picking up steam. Pollard rambled on about how much he likes the Oregon Ducks football team, before commenting his Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Ducks in the Rosebowl last year, chanting "Bucks beat the Ducks, Bucks beat the Ducks," followed by playful belligerent laughs. He also mentioned the Duck's basketball coach, who he referred to as "Lou Rawls," seeming a bit upset when a fan informed him of Ernie Kent's firing.

Another rant between songs had Pollard talking about the Matador Anniversary show they recently played in Vegas. He said there was no reason to attend other than seeing Guided By Voices, poking fun at how boring Sonic Youth is (sorry, I had to agree). His stories were completely self-indulgent, but in a non-pretentious way. It's a drunk guy trying to entertain, and that he did.

From a far, Robert Pollard looks a lot like Anthony Bordain, with his shiny gray hair. Earlier in the show, he bragged about his hair color, and dissed older musicians for dying their hair. As for the rest of the band, they put forth a very energetic set, filled with punk ditties, and a lot more bounce than you would expect from a group of elders. There were a handful of breaks when Pollard stepped aside and let the rest of the band display their skills.

One of the great things about seeing this band live is when they play a song you don't care for, it will be over in less than two minutes, and you might get another drunken story. They played roughly 35 songs in two hours, including three encores (hell yes!). While I think the concept of encores has lost its luster over the years, this crowd deserved three, and really deserved a fourth. The first was planned, the second felt the same, but the third felt genuine, and the crowd was still going nuts wanting a fourth.

I've always said, the mark of a great live band is if someone unfamiliar with their work will dig the show. Let's face it, if you see one show per year, and it's your favorite band, they can play six songs, take a dump on stage, tell the crowd to fuck off, and you'll still be talking about how awesome it was, and how they played your favorite song. GBV is a great live band, which surprised the hell out of me.

Also, thank you Mr. Pollard for getting me wasted. I did.

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