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The Louisville Courier-Journal
|Guided by the (Miller)
This doesn't quite qualify as rock 'n'
roll Armageddon, but it's pretty close: For its show tomorrow night at
Headliners Music Hall in Louisville, Guided by Voices has requested five
cases of Miller Lite.
Miller Lite. From a band once dubbed Guided by Budweiser. Only the United States of America is more closely associated with the colors red, white and blue. Somewhere, a Clydesdale with three eyes and 666 burned into its scalp has been discovered in an Anheuser-Busch barn. Up is down, down is sideways.
It's . . . just . . . wrong.
"I'm sorry," Bob Pollard said. "We can drink Bud, if you really want us to. Miller Lite is like water, basically, and you can drink a lot of it, all day long. So we were just being concerned about our health.
"We still drink Jack Daniels though. Hahaha!"
Pollard is the 43-year-old rock star who is the heart and soul of Guided by Voices. He likes his fun, a lot, and writes songs that insist you have as much as he. There is no resisting the electric buzz generated by "Big Boring Wedding," "I Am a Scientist" and "Teenage FBI." Toss in "Chasing Heather Crazy" and "The Brides Have Hit Glass" from the upcoming "Isolation Drills." Toss them all in.
They are simple songs, focused on delivering the big hook -- the guitar riff or vocal tag that you can't dig out of your head with a pickax. Pollard has been doing it for more than 20 years, starting in garages and basements around Dayton, Ohio, before graduating to clubs and concert halls. In his very late 30s, he gave up a good job teaching fourth grade (the kids called him Mr. Rocker) and decided to rock for a living.
He does, but Guided by Voices is by no means a huge band. The beauty of GbV, however, is that Pollard plays it huge; when the band performs, Headliners may as well be Madison Square Garden or Wembley Arena. The rock star moves come out in a rush of unself-conscious pre-adolescent joy -- microphone twirling, pursed lips, leg kicks, beer guzzling, cigarettes dangling -- as the crowd sings along, sharing a bit of the dream.
"It's a good job," Pollard said, laughing.
Pollard is the band's glue, the only constant in a lineup that has constantly changed. The band reached its first peak in 1993, when Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Dan Toohey and Kevin Fennell were the core group. With Jim Greer replacing Toohey, the band made 1994's "Bee Thousand," the lo-fi masterpiece that made GbV a household name (if you lived in a house full of music geeks).
A remarkable run of albums ended in 1997 with the average "Mag Earwhig!," which featured an entirely new lineup. "It wasn't Guided by Voices, quite," Pollard said. "It takes a while to find out if the chemistry is there, and it just wasn't. But now the chemistry is back."
Doug Gillard, the only holdover from the "Mag Earwhig!" days, Nate Farley, Tim Tobias and Jim MacPherson (just replaced by Jon McCann) are the lineup that has kicked off GbV's second great phase. Some fans argued that 1999's "Do the Collapse," produced by the Cars' Ric Ocasek, was too slick. They'll feel the same about "Isolation Drills," due April 13. Compared with basement recordings, yeah, they're slick, but they also contain some of Pollard's best songs.
"I hardly think anyone could accuse us of selling out," Pollard said. "We're just making bigger, better-sounding records. I'm just glad we could stay around long enough to work with producers. It's a tribute to our perseverance."
Tomorrow night's show starts at 9 o'clock, with Elf Power opening. Admission is $12 for ages 18 and over, and Headliners is at 1386 Lexington Road.
As was last year's Headliners show, it will be the band's final performance before a break, and hordes of family and friends are coming from Dayton to celebrate. Last year, a security guard tried to throw out Pollard's underage son, which he should have done, of course, and Pollard cut loose with a string of drunken invective, at one point comparing the guard to serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
"I'm gonna get my --- kicked, I know I am," Pollard said. "I hope they're not waiting to lynch me. I feel bad about that.
"They wanted me to apologize, but you know how it is after a show, when you're all drunk and belligerent. If I see the guy I'll say, 'Man I'm sorry about that last time. Let's start over, dude.' "