Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: Guided By Voices @ McCarren Park

Guided By Voices @ McCarren Park, June 18th, 2011
Photo by Sam Kieldsen; Review by Anjelica LaFurno

Just a few hours ago I was guided by a voice to a state of musical bliss. Robert Pollard has this gift of converting a bustling, sweaty crowd to believe in a higher spirit: the sound of Guided By Voices. I’ve always been a fan of GBV and their lo-fi genius, but seeing them live has made it incredibly clear to me how great this assemblage of Dayton misfits really are. I unfortunately missed their show at Terminal 5 earlier this year in November, so you could only imagine my excitement at the opportunity of seeing GBV’s classic lineup at McCarren Park on Saturday, June 18. GBV headlined for the Northside Festival (as well as Beirut on the previous Friday) and were supported by The Babies, Surfer Blood, and the always-wavy Wavves. I’ve seen my fair share of lo-fi bands and usually this entails a live show that, well, sounds just as mediocre as the recorded audio, yet Guided By Voices somehow manage to make their low quality sound transform into something more than just lo-fi… something spiritual.

Pollard walked onto the stage as the crowd chanted “GBV! GBV!” with a bottle of Hennessy in hand and then began to explain that if is his microphone was not taped he would knock someone in the head while swinging it. The casualness of his onstage commentary throughout the show is parallel to the aesthetic of GBV’s music and image, which was greatly appreciated by the crowd. There is nothing cooler for the concertgoer than feeling a genuine connection with the musical act, breaking down the invisible barrier that usually exists between the two. The show was chock full of Pollard’s stage kicks and continuous sips of Miller Lite while the crowd moshed and sang along.

I found it interesting how each member’s style was immensely different like they all came from a separate era of rock and genre. Bassist Greg Demos leather vest and ruffles shirt specifically amused me. I mean, c’mon a leather vest, so cool and not cool all at once. But let me get back to the music--the set list consisted mostly of music from Bee Thousand (“Always Crush Me”, “Tractor Rape Chain”, “Gold Star for Robot Boy”), but also Alien Lanes, Vampire on Titus, and Propeller (the last song of the night was from this album- “Weed King”) as well. The beauty of GBV live is there is a wide range of songs that can be played, like anything is possible because they’ve recorded such a large catalogue of music over the years.

They played 40 songs over the span of three hours and this included three encores. Every song is a small burst of energy and when so many of them are played it’s like wading happily in the sludge of a colossal energy plant. Picture it if you can. On a personal note, my favorite song by Guided By Voices is “Smothered in Hugs” from Bee Thousand and I was truly anticipating that this particular song would be played, and it was during the first encore. I shouted the lyrics at the top of my lungs in a crowd that seemed to smother me in hugs, or maybe just smothered me in general. Another highlight during the show was the performance of a common crowd favorite “A Salty Salute” played during the second encore. Pollard shouted: “The club is closing up! The club is closing up!” at the beginning of the song, letting the crowd know that soon the night would sadly come to an end.

As the third and final encore came to an end, Pollard thanked the crowd, hinting that Brooklyn would be a very nice to place to live with its abundance of bars, and then left the stage. Tobin Sprout also thanked the crowd while drummer Kevin Fennel and Greg Demos smiled and bowed to the roaring sea of hipster types and devoted fans. And then Mitch Mitchell assured the crowd that we are all “fucking great motherfuckers” and took a step back while slowly saluting. In the summer that Guided By Voices came there really was something eating everyone and it was their sound. If only the club could stay open forever.

Check out the full setlist from Saturday’s show below…

Pimple Zoo
Expecting Brainchild
#2 in the Model Home Series
Watch Me Jumpstart
Melted Pat
Shocker in Gloomtown
Kicker of Elves
Buzzards and Dreadful Crows
Always Crush Me
Tractor Rape Chain
Hot Freaks
Striped White Jets
Squirmish Frontal Room
14 Cheerleader Coldfront
Dodging Invisible Rays
Gold Star for Robot Boy
Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory
Cut-Out Witch
Sad If I Lost It
Matter Eater Lad
A Good Flying Bird
Awful Bliss
Quality of Armor
Jane of the Waking Universe
Unleashed! The Large Hearted Boy
Exit Flagger
I am a Scientist
Game of Pricks

Echos Myron
Bright Paper Werewolves
Motor Away
Don't Stop Now
Smothered in Hugs

Encore 2:
A Salty Salute
My Valuable Hunting Knife
Over the Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox

Encore 3:
My Impression Now
Some Drilling Implied
Weed King

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