Guided by Voices - live in Boston (Cover Artwork)

Guided by Voices

live in Boston (2010)

live show

Guided by Voices is back together. If you're reading this review, you probably knew that already, and you were probably stoked. But here's the thing: As stoked-worthy as that news is, there remains the prescient fact that these dudes are in their mid-50s and haven't been together in somewhere between 13 and 16 years depending on how you define "these dudes." Would shit be weak-sauce, or would they turn the switch for rock and roll time? The question presumably dogged many fans of indie rock and just good pop songwriting in general.

First, let's backtrack. If, for some reason, this review piqued your interest, yet you haven't heard of Guided by Voices, let me give as brief and vulgar a summation of this band as I can allow myself to write. These gentlemen started more as a group of friends who got REALLY drunk and played/sometimes recorded songs in various basements and garages throughout Dayton, Ohio. Initially out of necessity, they developed a lo-fi aesthetic, leading an air of warmness and "well, gee, I can do something like that" to their records. In 1994, the guys got their shit together in a more serious way and released a record called Bee Thousand that would shoot them into the closest thing indie rock has to a stratosphere, and they became legends. This is the lineup from Bee Thousand and the equally classic Alien Lanes. And if you want a sonic point of reference, try and imagine...hell, I guess a bunch of dudes who liked the Beatles a whole lot, but also grew up on punk.

Anyway, fuck. These guys also played a show this past weekend.

So this show that I keep sort of vaguely alluding to took place at Boston's Paradise Rock Club. While I wouldn't describe this particular venue as small, its 600-person capacity was about five times smaller than, for instance, the location of NYC's show, Terminal 5. It sold out in literally seconds. The result was a much more intimate setting than would have reasonably been expected for a band that has claimed made the best indie rock record of all time.

So the show itself, huh? A band from Portland, Ore., called Blitzen Trapper had been tapped to support on the East Coast leg of the tour. There were six of them on stage. They played a pleasant but tame blend of country, classic rock and folk music with strong hints of Bob Dylan. The tunes were fine, if unmemorable, and the stage presence was fucking snoresville. However, they knew what was up, and spent basically exactly 30 minutes on stage before graciously thanking the crowd, and the band we were all there to see.

Have I mentioned that that band was Guided by Voices? Because that's who that band was. GBV guitarist Mitch Mitchell came on stage to check on his amps while the venue set up for the main event, and the crowd went fucking nutso for him. And that was just to set up. When the five dudes comprising the "classic lineup" of Guided by Voices (the aforementioned Mitch Mitchell on guitar, Greg Demos on bass, Kevin Fennell on drums, Tobin Sprout on other guitar and occasional lead vocals, and Robert "Uncle Bob" Pollard himself on lead vocals/huge bottle of Cuervo gold) took the stage, shit went OFF.

And I mean off. This included laws basically being suspended as half the band had cigarettes in their mouths for the whole time, which is against the law in Massachusetts. In similar fashion, I'd say between the four of them who are still not of the clean or sober persuasion at least two cases of Miller Lite got drank on the stage.

And Bob's 53-year-old ass can still rock. He was mic-swinging and leg-kicking like Roger Daltrey when the Who were good. He was matched by Mitch Mitchell who was up to his old tricks of windmills and jumps and such. The band looked a solid 30 years younger, which is funny because the songs they were playing were only 18 years old, tops.

Which brings up a good point: the songs. Oh god were they good. So goddamned good. They played half of their 1992 breakout record Propeller. They also played half of the aforementioned Bee Thousand. Also included in the set were some of the standouts from Alien Lanes and 1996's underrated classic Under the Bushes Under the Stars. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how frequently they visited their EPs from the era. A set list follows, so I won't get into details, but standout tracks included "Quality of Armor," "Echos Myron" and grand finale "Weedking."

The songs were played with all the energy and urgency a fan would want. No one could possibly walk away unhappy. I guess unless you're a fan of the bands Bob talked shit on (the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, all the shoegaze bands, basically everyone at Matador 21 [though one can assume it was in jest]). Oh, and if you don't like hearing a guy with full-sleeve tattoos (Mitch) shouting "tits and wieners, motherfuckers" basically constantly.

Basically, they were in rare, drunken form. They played all the songs you could reasonably expect and then some. And they did it with as much drunken-- just to the good side of sloppy--energy you could imagine.

It looks like more shows are being planned, so keep an eye out and try and get to one, because the club is open.

Set list:

  1. Striped White Jets
  2. Echos Myron
  3. Exit Flagger
  4. Pimple Zoo
  5. My Impression Now
  6. Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory
  7. Hot Freaks
  8. Shocker in Gloomtown
  9. A Good Flying Bird
  10. My Valuable Hunting Knife
  11. Cut-Out Witch
  12. Watch Me Jumpstart
  13. Awful Bliss
  14. 14 Cheerleader Coldfront
  15. Closer You Are
  16. Lethargy
  17. Queen of Cans and Jars
  18. Break Even
  19. Matter Eater Lad
  20. Tractor Rape Chain
  21. Buzzards and Dreadful Crows
  22. Bright Paper Werewolves
  23. My Son Cool
  24. Gleemer (The Deeds of Fertile Jim)
  25. Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy
  26. Gold Star for Robot Boy
  27. I Am a Scientist
  28. Game of Pricks
  29. Smothered in Hugs
  30. A Salty Salute
    Encore #1:
  31. Postal Blowfish
  32. Hey Aardvark
  33. Quality of Armor
  34. Motor Away
    Encore #2:
  35. Dodging Invisible Rays
  36. Don't Stop Now
  37. Some Drilling Implied
    Encore #3:
  38. Johnny Appleseed
  39. Weedking