MBL don’t surf. But if catching a wave is anything like catching a band in its prime, I have been blessed with Guided by Voices. They are the only band that matters. Birthed in 1983, they took off in 1992 with Propeller. There are 21+ records (not including solo and side projects). Who else can say that? With a catalog this vast, you never really know what to expect at a show. The cooler of Miller Light, of course. A huge bottle of Cuervo Gold passed around the audience (at least to those with proper ID). High kicks, check. Yet it did not occur to me that 1994’s Bee Thousand was 20 years old, and that it would be a focus of the evening. Hell yeah! A favorite album of so many favorite albums. They played “Gold Star for Robot Boy,” “Awful Bliss,” “Goldheart Mountain Top Queen Directory,” and a crazy good version of the deeeeeeeelicious “Echoes Myron” to close out the first block of songs. “Ester’s Day,” “I am a Scientist” and “Tractor Rape Chain” were also exhumed to their full glory.
GBV “classic” lineup with Tobin Sprout on the left.
The crowd needed a little motivation, but eventually burst into action. 1995’s Alien Lanes got some love with “A Good Flying Bird” (Tobin Sprout’s tale of fools and kings), the all-mighty “Game of Pricks” (with one of the greatest GBV lines, “I’ve never asked for the truth, but you owe that to me”), and the song that would close the second encore of the two-hour showcase – “Motor Away”. “Motor Away” was preceded by the other GBV driving song, “Quality Of Armor” (from Propeller), with its first line, “Oh yeah, going to drive my car.” 1999’s Do The Collapse was represented by “Teenage FBI” and ’96’s Under the Bushes Under the Stars brought “Cut Out Witch.” There were also several songs from the brand new Cool Planet. I must admit, I haven’t picked it up yet, I’m still 3-4 records behind, but I will. Bob, I promise I will!
Bobby Bare Jr. opened the evening. Although he hails from Nashville, the set transported me to Milwaukee’s Summerfest, the largest music festival in the world, and my first experiences with music festivals, Cheap Trick and giant beers. There was a Midwest-style rock force that energized the performance with moments of Meat Puppets and ZZ Top in turn. “On bass, a god damn Gemini and on keyboard (and trumpet) a Scorpio”. The band played at least one tune from Twistable Turnable Man, a recent double LP tribute to the late great poet for kids of all ages, Shel Silverstein. It includes songs from My Morning Jacket, Dr. Dog, Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams and his dad, Bobby Bare Sr.