The hubbub surrounding GBV comes as an awfully swell shock to the system of the very thirtysomething Pollard, who has toiled in complete anonymity (except for the kind regard of such connoiseurs as Byron Coley) for more years than even this magazine has been around. Besieged now with offers to tour with such indie heavyweights as Pavement, Pollard must juggle a nascent musical career with his duties as a fourth- grade teacher in Dayton. Which means, probably, a heavy summer touring schedule, then back to work. Kind of gives a different slant to Alice Cooper's "School's Out."
Guided By Voices' prominence has had the not-unforeseeable effect of focusing a certain amount of attention on the "scene" in Dayton, which is somewhat ironic considering the reason I wanted to write about the town in the first palce was its archetypal facelessness. Things have progressed to the point where even the Dayton Daily News music hack, notorious among local bands for ignoring their efforts in favor of, like, the Bad Company reunion, has taken up the hometown banner, appearing on local alt-rock radio powerhouse 97X as an authority on the Dayton scene, and even accompanying GBV to New York for the CMJ Music Marathon.
None of that's important tonight, of course, and in fact a plug in the News is probably responsible for much of the crowd. (webmaster's note, yeah right.)Pollard and company take the tiny stage after a noisy set by Candyass, a local band which has yet to find its musical feet. There's scarcely enough room to fit the two guitarists, bass player, and drummer, to say nothing of Pollard, whose usual Iggy Pop-Roger Daltry flying kicks and microphone twirls have to be toned down so as not to injure his bandmates. GBV launches into its first song and almost immediately is transformed (webmaster's note, typo here in mag.) from a bunch of middle-aged geeks into the greatest band in the world. Pollard's late 60's freak-beat (psychedelic British pop) obsession runs hard up against the low-fi splendor of Sebadoh or Pavement, with a hefty dollop of Cheap Trick (Pollard's time spent playing in Cheap Trick cover bands has obviously paid off) for good measure. The songs are meticulously structured, played with a careless, joyful abandon at a volume so excessive you can't really hear the vocals at all. As with all truly great music, it doesn't matter.
But, you know, that's not even what makes GBV so awe-inspiring. No, not even the fact that the band has dicovered the secret behind every perfect song ever written (keep it really short) makes Guided By Voices anything other than merely splendid. What lifts this band to unexplored heights is the intoxicated fervor of Pollard's performance, and I mean that very literally. He grasps the microphone in one hand and a beer bottle in the other, slugging down brew after brew in a desperate attempt to quell his performance anxiety ( in the studio, Pollard plays guitar, but live he knows he'll get too drunk to be able to play). His interactions with the audience are limited to a few slurred syllables between songs, presumably announcing the title, then a shouted "1-2-3-4" to the band, almost before they've finished the previous song. The miracle isn't so much that they keep up, as that they match Pollard's drunken abandon note for staggered note.