Their discography evokes the impressionistic, gritty squalor of the Gem City that no other band could ever capture, before or since. They make the city cool. GBV is truly under-appreciated in their hometown for the treasures they are – and they probably like it that way. Their music is reserved for those who will truly listen – the hooks and melodies are buried deep beneath the wail of electric guitars and the whine of primitive recording techniques. GBV’s songs are deliberately under-produced and often never reach the 3-minute mark. Over the course of 16 albums, they never sold out – nor burnt out. GBV’s giant repertoire of lo-fi jams remains relevant today – despite the band’s constant break ups, reunions, and incarnations.
Notorious for boozy, languid live shows, Guided By Voices is a band with only one eternal member; Dayton’s poet laureate – the one and only Robert Pollard – whose unmistakable hoarse croon sliced through the downtown traffic of Dayton’s Oregon District on Wednesday night.
The venue, the Dublin Pub, set up a giant white tent for the show, and all one could hear when the music stopped was the classic chant from the fans – “GBV GBV GBV.” Guided By Voices’ iconic neon sign – “The Club Is Open,” – hangs eternally above the stage at all their concerts. No other band is as loud and has as much energy as Guided By Voices does when they play live. Ears ring for days after one of their concerts. They can drink so much liquor and smoke so many cigarettes, yet still play flawlessly and stay in perfect tune. Or in their case -perfect de-tune.
Pollard was true to form, high-kicking and tequila-swilling amidst the din of the crowd and the clang from the dueling guitars of Tobin Sprout and Mitch Mitchell. With Kevin Fennel on Drums and Greg Demos on bass, the low-end throbbed with brain-rattling intensity and the classic lineup was complete.
The true star and center of the band is and always has been Pollard, who looks the part now of the holy bard – his hair is totally white. Yet at the age of 53 he holds such a commanding presence over his loyal disciples that his melodies can still spur them into a fervor of drunken moshing and hysterical sing-along unrivaled in rock music today. The gravity of the show was akin to a religious experience. The white background of the tent, along with Pollard’s silver locks and triumphant gestures – conjured the image of a saint in heaven’s clouds.
The mood of the audience was so groovy and the music was so powerful that the band played 3 encores and eventually Bob even parted with his nearly-empty fifth of Cuervo. After Bob gave away his tequila to a tall bespectacled hipster in a bright jacket, he signaled the audience to pass it around for everyone to share. A hipster in a black leather jacket and a Reds hat lifted the bottle straight in the air and it was forever lost in the abyss of skinny-jeaned Daytonians.
GBV finally ended the set with a heartfelt rendition of their classic – “Don’t Stop Now.” The crowd still lingered for a bit, hoping for one more encore. Their show was just like one of their songs – a glorious snippet of fleeting beauty that fades into oblivion and always leaves you yearning for more, more, more. Any hopes for more music were dashed as the roadies began to clear out the equipment and the band-members started to mingle with the crowd. The show ended, but GBV lives on forever.
Written by Benjamin Dale
Photos by Tyler Lukacs