Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard Gets Straight Up Avuncular on the Warfield's Ass

Categories: Last Night
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Pollard with smoke and beverage in hand.
Guided by Voices
Times New Viking
October 5, 2010
@ the Warfield

Better than: 1,039 smoothed out slappy hours 
 
For the record, Robert Pollard still has hops. 

The Guided by Voices frontman and creative "Hot Freak" in fact has most of the moves that made him the indie rock superman of the stage in the mid-alternative-'90s, when he wasn't in Clark Kent mode and was writing songs like he was being paid by the track. Yep, the shoulder-high karate kick is still in working order, as is the microphone yo-yo around the world trick, the smoke-two-joints-before-he-smokes-two-joints pot parade, and the steadfast onstage boozing. Hey, something's gotta get the Ohio indie legends -- reunited with the classic lineup from 1994-96 years -- through 30-plus songs sans Viagra (we think/hope).

Pollard may have grayed a bit, but we imagine him as the cool dad who calls his nephews pussies for turning down a doobie at the family barbecue. At one point, Pollard admittedly called himself "avuncular," wholeheartedly embracing it and going on about something or other (he also called himself an indie James Dean Dean Martin, referring to his pack of joints). For indie rock royalty OR a drunken uncle, you nod and oblige and put your drink in the air.

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A bunch of Hot Freaks
GBV was received like a band that might not have another go-around in them (and they say they don't). Multiple crowd surfers time-traveled to the mid-'90s and virtually every recognizable song was met with a sing-along or dubiously timed fist-raising. Clearly this show was one for the fans, a revisiting of seminal albums Propeller, Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, records that beckoned the cult following in the first place. 

It's almost eerie how well everything holds up in 2010, under the not-always-flattering light of time. For we ADD-afflicted members of the 30-second music video generation, the one-to-two minute-long song is as palatable as ever, and sometimes even preferred. Call them pioneers, clairvoyant rockers, or musicians who are just highly aware of when a song has met its end, but the members of GBV might have left more of an impression on modern rock than anyone ever suspected.

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The rubbery hooks came quickly and seemingly without end last night, with the band sorting through "Pimple Zoo," "Hardcore UFOs," and "My Valuable Hunting Knife" in the early throes, and racing next toward "Hot Freaks" and "Lethargy" before Pollard called a "halftime." Pollard's flankmen took turns receiving their alms from the crowd, most notably Tobin Sprout, during his lead vocals on "Gleemer." Sprout wasn't quite as spry as chain-smoking guitarist Mitch Mitchell, who spun circles around himself and his anarchy-symbol T-shirt. The rest of the band seems well-adjusted to middle age, entirely comfortable without the makeup or outfits that make The Cure and Kiss a sad thing to watch these days. 

The classics kept coming -- "Hot Freaks," "Awful Bliss," "Gold Star For Robot Boy," just about every gripping 40 seconds of music the band produced in the mid-'90s -- and then we remembered: oh wait, GBV could play for a fortnight and never play the same song twice. So the band's four encores seemed to scale. If you prefer your GBV ballad-y and sweet, encore No. 4's "Johnny Appleseed" might have been the night's most sublime moment. The band's muddled, lo-fi, bootleg sound has a way of making moments of clarity all the more clear, and this was one fine example. And if you like 'em hot and freakish, well, you too were in luck. 

Critic's Notebook

Overseen in the crowd: Four fans wearing Guided By Voices T-Shirts from this 2010 reunion tour. Was this a cool thing to do in 1994? Can't remember... 

Show intro: Not sure what GBV was trying to do with its introduction, but a distorted recording of a Rosetta Stone-esque learn-a-second-language book on tape was played over the PA, followed by another narrator talking about some fairy tale, Disney-fied land. Little was audible because -- maybe we haven't figured this out yet -- people talk until there are people onstage. 

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Opener Times New Viking
Buckeye Estate: Fellow Ohio outfit Times New Viking has built a steady buzz with a more brash kind of lo-fi sound. Their sound is as garage as it gets these days, save L.A.'s No Age. The band puts out considerable sound for just a three-piece, and drummer/vocalist Adam Elliott has a certain charisma that will be cool to follow down the road.

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