Ryan Little: How far into the GBV catalog are you, Mr. Siblo? Die-hard collector or casual fan? They have about the deepest well of any band I know…
Matt Siblo: I’m somewhere in-between. I came late to the party, have never traveled long distances to see them nor have I ever paid an exorbitant sum for a towel that once touched Robert Pollard‘s face. I do however, own most of their proper albums, have read the33 1/3 book on Bee Thousand and foster enough good will toward them to pay attention to Boston Spaceships albums. In the real world, that might make me a big fan, but tonight I’ll be severely outranked. Yourself?
RL: I mostly just love Bee Thousand, to be honest. Typically, if a band has too enormous of a catalog, I get intimidated and have trouble really delving in. Such is the case with GBV, though I recently picked up Alien Lanes and Under the Bushes Under the Stars, and I’ve watched one or two docs on them. I kinda wish they were going to play “Glad Girls” tonight, but if we get “Hot Freaks,” I’ll be happy. I’ve got a soft spot for ’90s Matador output, and I’m looking forward to seeing some high kicks. Are you counting on quality stage banter?
MS: I’m counting on Bob Pollard Inc. to lift my spirits in a way that only an AARP-member screaming the lyrics “Kicker of Elves” can do. When it comes to these reunion shows, I find that my expectations impossibly high (the promise of an incendiary ‘classic’ set list, the fact that I’ve never seen them) but I’ll settle for less (a surprise Do the Collapse set, Bob sitting on a stool ala Shane MacGowan). But GBV, the wily fellas that they are, can have it both ways in the same way Westerberg has done his entire career. If they play drunk and terribly, I’ll hail them for still having it. If they phone it in for 40 songs, they’ll be described as “all business.” Either way, they are walking into a room that is dying to love every note they play. Put it another way: They’re finally here and shit yeah it’s cool and shouldn’t it be—-or something like that.
RL: Considering how many terrible songs the band has put out (read: a lot), it’s clear they’re a band that connects to people through the spirit behind the music and not just the music itself. Don’t get me wrong, “Game of Pricks” is a golden fist-pumper, but for every “My Valuable Hunting Knife” there are a dozen dull toss-offs. They get by on drunken charm and non-sequitur swagger, which I don’t think they’ve lost (judging by recent reports and the latest Youtube videos). All that to say, I expect to have a good time, and I promised my generous photographer friend I wouldn’t get so drunk as to drop his SLR. Not that I can afford to get wasted off 9:30 Club beer…
MS: Touché. I have to imagine that the alleyways around V Street NW will be littered with some pre-party Milwaukee’s Best tomorrow morning. This is not a crowd that takes kindly to expensive hooch, unless, of course, they’ve learned how to make those Social Security checks stretch to the end of the month.
RL: I’d say that was about what I expected it would be, but I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. High kicks, mic tricks, and sloppy rock and roll. It doesn’t really get old when it’s done right, does it?
MS: It really doesn’t. As we discussed last night on the way out of the club, the show had all of the Guided by Voices hallmarks: volume, fun, and at times, meandering pacing. All in all, the band was in tip top shape, with Pollard now an absolute ringer for a post-Step by Step Patrick Duffy but looking fit and healthy (as healthy as someone who guzzles from a Jose Curevo bottle with a cigarette dangling from his mouth can look). No one looked embarrassing in their “dick pants”- their words, not mine.
Favorite Moment: The room completely erupting for “Echos Myron.”
Least Favorite: Mitch Mitchell’s aside about wanting to wrap a girl’s legs around his face. One can only imagine what lucky lady volunteered for that job.
Still on the fence about…: I know the tour’s name (The Hallway of Shatterproof Glass) is derived from the song, but the slowed down rendition of “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory” sounded like a KISS cover. I can’t decide whether that’s the ultimate compliment or insult.
RL: Oh, I’d say that’s a compliment for GBV. I definitely found that songs I might’ve dismissed on record came through live in a really great way because they just know how to make killer rock music. Pollard’s microphone-swinging chutzpah and his band’s on-stage antics just push everything to the next level. Even the “bad” parts of the show, where the songs lasted too long and made even less sense than usual, still somehow seemed appropriate. I was slightly bummed that Pollard couldn’t pass the Cuervo Gold around because it wasn’t a 21+ show, but I suppose that’s a small price to pay for having great all ages venues in town. I think the three encores at the end would’ve seemed excessive if the songs from the classic era weren’t so short. It was totally ridiculous, but the crowd that remained totally ate it up. I’m guessing there are a lot of very hung-over IT managers getting mocked by their office mates today.
MS: A quick scan of twitter hashtags tells the story, and the story reads like a shit show. Hanging by the bar at some point last night, I can attest to the fact that, much to my surprise, some serious tabs were rung up. My favorite people watching moments came from spotting all of the reluctant spouses (read: wives) desperately trying to be patient alongside their pogoing husbands, pained looks of on all of their faces.
RL: Ha. I’m sure the spousal strain got heavier when the encores started. “Wait… they’re gonna play more songs!”
MS: Car keys in hand, but still no relief. What did you think of Tobin Sprout?
RL: He certainly doesn’t have Bob Pollard’s infinite charisma, but I do think his quieter tunes really broke the set up well. It gave the crowd a chance to buy beer (while still gleefully singing along, of course) so they could resume tossing it into the air when Bob picked the mic back up. It was one of the more jovial 9:30 Clubcrowds I’ve seen, even if the median age was steadily creeping toward 40.
MS: I get the feeling this won’t be the last time we get a taste of GBV. Bring on the “Steel Wheelchairs” tour. If anyone can pull it off, it’s them.