October 28, 2010
While usually I plan for concerts months in advance, this Guided By Voices reunion tour show at The Riviera in Chicago sprang up on me from out of blue. I had heard of the tour and read the rave reviews from their performance at Matador 21, but didn’t plan on attending until the night before when I randomly checked the Riviera’s website and saw that more tickets had just become available for the sold-out show. I don’t claim to be the hugest GBV fan, out of their 15 studio albums I own three plus their greatest hits compilation, but I followed my gut reaction thinking “when am I going to ever get the chance to see Guided By Voices again” and hit Buy. I can definitely say that I made the right decision, the band put on one of the best rock shows I’ve seen all year.
Opening for the Guided By Voices was another Ohioan lo-fi band, Times New Viking. As I walked into the theater I overhead someone tell a friend “this band sounds like shit” and from hearing the distorted noisy mess that was coming off the stage I couldn’t help but agree. The band did grow on me slightly as their show went on, there were a couple of moments where they sounded like a less-catchy Japandroids, but I can’t say I’ll be revisiting their music any time soon. All was well though once Bob Pollard and co. took the stage, which was adorned with the iconic “This Club Is Open” neon sign and multiple coolers of beer. They immediately started plowing through their catalog of 2-3 minute lo-fi rock songs that are never short on hooks. Fortunately for me, the majority of songs that were played were from Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, the two albums I’m most familiar with (and lots of the rest I had heard on their Best Of album). In the first 15 minutes or so, they had already played “Exit Flagger”, “Cut-Out Witch”, “Gold Star for Robot Boy” and “Tractor Rape Chain” and it only got better from there.
I would have never guessed that these were guys that hadn’t played together in years by watching their performance. Pollard strutted around the stage, swinging the mic, chugging beer, and smoking cigarettes (sometimes all at once) and the rest of the band was just as energetic. It was rare to find a moment when someone wasn’t kicking the air or pulling off a classic rock pose. Pollard ate up the attention and entertained the crowd with some rather amusing anecdotes like one about recording “Hot Freaks” while guitarist Tobin Sprout was having a yard sale outside. In addition to being one of the most humorous moments of the night, the story was a stark reminder of the progression that these songs have taken, from being written during drunken garage sessions and recorded on amateur equipment to becoming cult classics and now indie rock anthems, being played in front of thousands with the lyrics being shouted out in unison by adoring fans.
I was glad to hear that the tracks preserved their lo-fi qualities live while also having a slightly harder rock edge. The simple yet ridiculously infectious guitar riffs and powerful drumming came off splendidly, while Pollard’s tuneful vocals haven’t seemed to change a bit in 15 years. Personal favorites like “My Valuable Hunting Knife”, “Echos Myron”, “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory”, “Motor Away”, “Game of Pricks”, and first set closer “I Am A Scientist” were all played to perfection. The band came back for three encores which included mostly rarities like “Ballad of Johnny Appleseed” and “Matter-Eater Lad” with a few crowd pleasers like “‘Smothered in Hugs” and the exceptionally pretty Under the Bush, Under The Stars ballad “Don’t Stop Now”. After Bob quipped that they had “drinked themselves into oblivion” and thanked the crowd for sticking around, the band closed with their ode-to-partying theme song “A Salty Salute” which had Times New Viking joining the band on stage for the “The club is open” sing-a-long, a perfect cap to a boisterously fun evening.
Follow the jump for more Guided By Voices / Times New Viking pictures. Click here to see the full set.
Times New Viking
Guided By Voices