30 August 2007

Name-checking bands.

Keeping on the music theme, I'm reminded of a time when my fellow English grad types sat around watching a baseball game. It was respectable back then for me to be considered a grad student, since after all I'd just completed coursework and we were all presumably working on our theses or dissertations...All of that circle, of course, had moved on by the millenium with their degrees to their "adult lives," leaving me and my wife floundering in ABD state. At that point, it's no longer pleasant to identify as a grad student.

But we were watching the Braves and whenever Chipper Jones went up to bat, the stadium PA system played Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train," which of course got us thinking what our theme clips would be for when we entered conference rooms to give papers.

I settled on Guided by Voices's "Watch Me Jumpstart."

I think it's a good choice, which is a long-round way to get to talking about Guided by Voices, perhaps the finest band that ever did play in the 1990's (and I say that as a devoted follower of Pavement, at least up to and including Wowee Zowee...). There's something glorious about watching a band of 30 somethings, who had labored in their basements on this hobby, break it big (as Indie standards go), and proceed to combine the stage theatrics and heavy riffs of the 1970's arena rockers with the 1 and a half minute songs and low-fi techniques of the punk rockers.

Really, to watch Pollard perform, microphone dangling from one hand and an open Budweiser in the other, was brilliant. He treated every stage as if it were a stadium, doing Daltrey-esque microphone swings on cramped bar stages, which sometimes got him in trouble. I watched them open up for Superchunk in State College, PA, on a Halloween night in 1994 or 1995. The bar was a converted multi-level Burger King, and the stage was crammed into a back corner and resembled more or less a triangle. Think the old 9:30 Club, but smaller. Pollard was drunk off his ass, but that didn't stop him from trying his high leg kicks and microphone swinging, and on a few occasions he careened straight into the speaker stacks, running into Tobin Sprout a few times as well.

It was not a great musical performance, but it was one of those shows that built the "mystique" of GbV and a few years later, they're headlining the new 9:30 Club and playing for so long that the club finally turned the lights on to quell their act after about the fifth encore. I swear, the band would have kept playing until the Metro re-opened in the morning if the 9:30 Club would have allowed it.

And speaking of Superchunk, it's pretty damn hard to leave the albums On the Mouth and No Pocky for Kitty off a top 50 list of 1990's albums.

1 comment:

Momentary Academic said...

I've been left behind as well. But I love the bands. Definitely.