“The Will Rogers of rock”: At the Lawrence, KS,
venue Granada Theater on Sept. 28,
Uncle Robert Pollard and his motley band of merry men kicked out the jams,
brothers and sisters.
Photos/text by Danny R.
Outside of The Granada
sits a man holding a cardboard sign that read, “Spaceship Crashed. Need money for parts.” That was just a hint of what my night would
become. Upon witnessing the loaded
majesty that is Rob Pollard and his rock brothers in Guided by Voices, a
realization thrust itself upon me: Mick Jagger, with all his struttin’ and duck
facin’ ain’t got shit on our favorite drunk uncle Robert.
All Jagger’s actions
seem thought out and contrived; Pollard’s high kicks, alcohol fueled
storytelling and the super-human ability to remember the lyrics to at least 45
tunes with a fifth of whiskey under his belt by show’s end, is without a doubt,
who Rob is. It is not an image, there is
no pretense, it is he and he is rock n roll.
On this early autumn night, The Granada was a meeting place for a couple
generations thanks to the reformed “Classic ’93-96” lineup (originally getting
back together to play Matador Records’ 21st Anniversary show in
2010); on hand for tonight’s show were a strong showing from the old guard college rock fans re-claiming a
small fraction of their misspent youth.
There were thirty-somethings wondering what all the fuss was about and
twenty-ish hipsters squeezed into impossibly skinny jeans, showing up to soak
in the music and drink in the presence of this legendary party ready band.
Outside before the
show’s start, I people watched. Everyone
seemed anxious, one guy sporting a handle bar mustache and cardigan sweater,
smoked a pipe and discussed a “rocking” Regina Spektor show with anyone who
would listen, other milled around sharing their GBV memories and their
cigarettes. I talked with two guys that
traveled from Vegas and one dude from Denver
that came all this way because GBV are a band that, “even when they fuck up
it’s amazing.” This, my friends, is a
ringing endorsement if ever I heard one.
It is clear with the
opening chords of “Ex-supermodel” that GBV, this lineup in particular, made up
of Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos and Kevin Fennell, have a strong
and dedicated following. From the
opening note to the last feedback drenched chord of the third encore, people
sang along, danced their asses off and most never took their eyes from the
insane action on the stage.
Most of the songs that
built the nights’ set were newer material culled from either A Class Clown Spots a UFO or Let’s Go Eat the Factory; this fact did
not seem to make any difference to the packed house. No matter what they played, be it a new tune
or a gem like “Teenage FBI” or the audience favorite “My Valuable Hunting
Knife”, the crowd pulsated, heaved and gyrated for the duration. It was a show with a sense of completeness, a
show to celebrate, a show that welcomed all to hang around, have a beer and
hear “Echos Myron,” “The Unsinkable Fats Domino,” “Chocolate Boy,” “Her
Psychology Today” or any of the many, many, many others played that night.
As my friend and fellow
rock band eviscerator Steve Wilson said, “Pollard is the J.S. Bach of pop
melody,” I agree but I will go one-step further. Pollard is the Will Rogers of Rock, a
raconteur that spreads out stories like a quilt before you and does so as
cleverly as anyone who has ever picked up a pen. Guided by Voices played like a locked in yet
loose unit and they may be dinosaurs in some people’s eyes but judging by the
way they jammed tonight, they’ve got at least 50 records left in them. With the way Pollard cranks out songs, they
could have that done by New Years. Let’s
see One Direction pull that off.