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Guided By Voices in Santa Cruz

by Stuart Thornton on June 24, 2014

Guided By Voices

Rio Theatre

Santa Cruz, Calif.

June 10

In an alternate world, Guided By Voices would be arena rock superstars. Though the long running indie rock band was playing to a relatively small crowd in Santa Cruz, it was easy to imagine them doing their show for a stadium audience even though they were performing in the mid-sized Rio Theatre. Throughout the evening, guitarist Mitch Mitchell did Pete Townshend style guitar windmills with a lit cigarette dangled from his lips. Frontman Robert Pollard swung his microphone around like Roger Daltrey between kicks into the air and swigs of Miller Lite. It also helped that the fervent crowd of a few hundred chanted “GBV” at various times throughout the band’s generous two hour and fifteen minute performance.

The show began after a large blue cooler of beer was placed on the stage in front of drummer Kevin March’s drum kit. Then, Pollard—whose body now resembles a Q-tip with his puff of white hair crowning his lanky body—shouted “yeah, hundreds of songs” as the crowd edged closer towards the band.

At one point, Pollard noted that Guided By Voices were actually touring behind three albums: this year’s Motivational Jumpsuit and Cool Planet and a 20th anniversary celebration of 1994’s Bee Thousand. The band’s set supported his statement with a heavy dose of new material—the Bowie-esque “Psychotic Crush” from Cool Planet sung by Tobin Sprout, the metallic crunch of Motivational Jumpsuit’s “Zero Elasticity”—along with classic cuts from their landmark Bee Thousand.

The crowd clearly loved the Bee Thousand material including standouts “Tractor Rape Chain,” “Echos Myron” and “Ester’s Day,” which Sprout sung as Pollard added backing vocals like a crazy ghost. The main set ended with a barrage of favorites: “Teenage FBI” from 1999’s Do the Collapse, “The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory” from Bee Thousand, “I am a Scientist” from Bee Thousand and “Game of Pricks” from 1995’s Alien Lanes.

Of course, the enthusiastic crowd drew Guided By Voices back to the stage for an encore with chants of “GBV.” After returning to the stage but before launching into more songs, Pollard took a long swig off a bottle of Crown Royal and announced that “this rock and roll shit is not what it is cracked up to be.” But his big smile and abundant enthusiasm clearly indicated otherwise.

Authors: Stuart Thornton

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