Concert review: Guided By Voices

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive


The neon sign above the Outland stage Saturday announced the return of Guided by Voices. For the uninitiated, that's a quote from "A Salty Salute," one of the streams of surrealist bar-band nuggets GBV trotted out.

Founded in 1983 by Dayton schoolteacher Robert Pollard and his pals, the band toiled in obscurity for a decade, then spent the next as underground stars before hanging it up in 2004.

Having reformed the "classic" 1993-96 lineup for Matador Records' 21st anniversary earlier this month, they're now reviving the rock 'n' roll spectacle that made them an indie rock household name and arguably Ohio's greatest band.

That display involves Pollard and company acting like drunken uncles at a wedding reception - pounding beers, striking rock star poses (flying kick!) and making creepy old man jokes between songs.

GBV wouldn't have graduated past Pollard's basement were it not for his compelling way with melodies, chord changes and off-kilter lyrical imagery ("Two titans without care will read them/ We conjure ghosts and then we feed them.") The best GBV songs were like The Who and Beatles hits bashed out by a punk band too impatient to finish and too inebriated to remember the words but just industrious enough to make it work.

It wasn't just that Pollard wrote great songs; it was that he wrote so many of them. And while eventually his lack of self-editing diluted the GBV catalog to an extent, the four-year period represented at Saturday's concert is a nearly unimpeachable run.

That made for a setlist that never faltered. Fans cheered as Pollard announced each song title, and they sung along with every word, even three encores deep. Despite complaints about an overzealous security presence, nothing could keep this from feeling like some strange family reunion.

While the band's cult stretches nationwide, Columbus is a particularly devoted parish. In the years leading up to GBV's big break, they were regulars at High Street clubs like Stache's and Apollo's, and as their legend increased, their concerts became holidays of a sort.

Thus, near the end of "Tractor Rape Chain," Pollard offered a heartfelt appreciation: "It's good to be home."

Check the Sensory Overload blog at for videos fr om the Guided by Voices concert .