On Sunday night I saw the Guided By Voices “Classic Lineup” show down in Oberlin. I was really apprehensive about going (I always get nervous before “big” shows), but ended up having an amazing time. The band was tight and they played a near-perfect set. Every single song was a song that I wanted to hear — though I was especially stoked on all the Tobin Sprout songs that were played (“A Good Flying Bird”!!!) All in all, it was totally worth the $30 ticket price.
I think that when bands reunite, it becomes even easier to view them as being commodities and/or potentially disingenuous in their performance. (Though the “genuine” nature of performance is, of course, negligible to begin with.) But I think it’s especially interesting to consider the question of performance as a commodity in conjunction with a band like Guided By Voices. Throughout the show, Pollard frequently reminded people that the band members were from Ohio, that Ohio has a superior drinking culture, and that Guided By Voices is a drinking band. There’s definitely an element of performance to GBV’s drinking but that performance plays a critical role in the way that the band constructs community within their fan base (example: last night Pollard passed a bottle of tequila from the stage into the crowd and encouraged fans to pass it around amongst themselves.)
Last night’s show definitely drew a varied crowd — it wasn’t difficult to differentiate GBV veterans from people who just really liked Bee Thousand from people who had friends that caught them earlier in the day and said, “Hey, are you doing anything tonight? Because if you’re not…” The great thing about a show like last night’s was that it welcomed people at all levels of interest in/experience with Guided By Voices. Of course, as someone who enjoys (but is not obsessed with) GBV, it may have been easier for me to have a good time. I know my Aunt (who first saw GBV in 1991 and spent the better part of the following 15-ish years attending any show they played within reasonable distance), struggled a little more with the crowd and construction of community than I did. On the way home, she brought up the “feel” of the show and mentioned how disheartening it was that last night’s show didn’t have the same sense of community as past Guided By Voices shows.
I really wish that I could have been at this show with friends. It had been such a long time since I was at a big show where the crowd didn’t make me feel freaked out or uncomfortable. I mean, there were some displays of aggression at the show, but they were (for the most part) comfortable and enthusiastic. It would have been awesome if Jami or Brittany could have been there (on our first Columbus Dream Date, Jami and I were able to realize our dream of driving around in a car with Brittany and Alana singing along with Bee Thousand. Best day!)
The rash of recent indie rock and pop reunions (Pavement, GBV, Unrest, Go Sailor, etc.) also has me thinking about the expectations that people have for bands they grew up with (but have maybe never seen live) and how those expectations play into the experience they have when they attend a reunion show. I know Drew felt let down after we saw Pavement and he felt the same way about GBV last night. But I was thrilled with both shows (ok, so the crowd at Pavement left something to be desired, but the band was great.) I missed the Go Sailor reunion shows (San Francisco, CA and Athens, GA), but I feel like my coming of age was knit so tightly to their music that I’m almost uncomfortable with the idea of seeing them play — it would just be too much. I’m honestly not sure what you’re supposed to expect from a band that’s recently reunited. I mean, I expected to see old dudes playing songs that I loved & that’s what I got & I thought it was awesome. Maybe other people were expecting something different?
The only real disappointment last night was the $5 pizza Drew bought from the pizza truck waiting outside the venue. NOT A GOOD PIZZA!
Remaining tour dates for the Hallway of Shatterproof Glass Tour can be found here
Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Guided By Voices can be found here
Guided By Voices is working on making out of print releases available via download here