Knock Out Punches For The Freaks

Guided By Voices w/ New Times Viking
Cannery Ballroom, Nashville, TN
Friday, January 14, 2011

The very first time I was introduced to
Guided By Voices, it was by a voice other than Robert Pollard's. One night after a show, a couple of friends and I ended up back at the apartment of Shazam frontman Hans Rotenberry. After spending a couple of hours drinking beer and listening to records, a guitar ended up getting passed around, and Hans played a couple of GBV tunes. It was my first exposure to the melodic genius of Robert Pollard, and a mental note was definitely made that this was a band I needed to check out.

A few weeks later (July 24, 1995 to be exact), The Shazam was opening for GBV and Chavez at the Exit/In. It was one of those concerts that alters your musical path forever. It was just song after song of brilliant pop gems in quick two minutes bursts, with little more than a song title announcement and a count off in between (and maybe a quick pause for a swig of beer). I was instantly a fan, and began the laborious process of digging through their back catalog immediately.

I've seen Uncle Bob and company several times since then, and though they always put on a great show, it never quite had the same magic. Sure the exuberance, the mic swinging, the kicks, and the cooler of beer were all still there. And they certainly released some great songs since the classic lineup went their separate ways. But towards the end, the three hour, fifty song sets started becoming an exercise in patience (though I have to admit, it was always worth it when they played "Game Of Pricks" during one of the encores). So I was looking forward to the reunion show, and though I knew it'd be good, I figured there was no way they could match the energy of their show when they were relatively young lads just pushing forty.

I'm happy to announce I was wrong. The show was amazing. Sure the hair was greyer (Pollard's) and thinner (Tobin Sprout's), but that was about the only difference between the shows. It was almost like you stepped through a time machine when you walked through the door. Mitch Mitchell was till pounding power chords with an ever present cigarette hanging from his lip. Bassist Greg Demos broke out the insane striped pants and arena rock poses. And Kevin Fennell was still largely hidden behind cymbals and oversized toms.

It was clear that the guys were enjoying the hell out of doing this again. The setlist only strayed once from the classic era catalog (Mag Earwhig!'s "Sad If I Lost It"), and it contained just about every song you could possibly have wanted them to play. In fact, of the dream setlist I had in my mind, only "The Official Ironman Rally Song" didn't make the cut. Even deep cuts like "Jane Of The Waking Universe" were included. And it was great to get to hear Tobin do a few of his songs, something that rarely happened in the old days. The sing-a-long that accompanied "A Good Flying Bird" was one of the highlights of the night.

Earlier in the night, I thought I had hit the timing jackpot when I walked in the door two minutes before Times New Viking started their set. After their third song I was starting to wish I hadn't been able to find my keys or something. Despite having read good things about them, their music came off as monotonous and, well, boring. Farfisa organs are OK when used in moderation, but they become especially annoying when all your melodies seem to follow along with one finger keyboard parts.

Guided By Voices - "Game Of Pricks (Live)" (mp3) from Jellyfish Reflector

photo courtesy of
Nashville Metromix


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