Live: Guided By Voices Give A History Lesson At Central Park


Guided By Voices w/The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Cloud Nothings
Central Park
Saturday, July 7

Better than: Sobriety in the sweltering heat.

It’s hard to place a band like Cloud Nothings. A group whose recent reputation brings them somewhere between saviors of guitar rock and late ’90s emo revivalists, the Ohio band, the first band to take the stage at the CBGB Festival’s Summerstage gig, performed outside these limitations. Frontman Dylan Baldi’s earth-shattering hollers bellowed through Central Park, matched only by the forceful riffs of guitarist Joe Boyer. Playing primarily new material, Cloud Nothings shredded through the first half hour of the festival, dominating with eight-minute songs and a constructive youthful aggression that maintains their autonomy.

Saturday’s show was one of the first NYC gigs for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart since former Drums member Connor Hanwick joined (he replaced guitarist Kurt Feldman, now of the fantastic Ice Choir), and the band took to the stage with characteristic friendliness. Frontman Kip Berman was drenched in sweat within the first few minutes of his band’s set, and his effort was reciprocated instantaneously by the young crowd, who only stopped dancing to embrace. (The number of tweenage couples making out was nothing short of impressive.)

Then Guided By Voices took the stage. Of all the incredibly silly banter that occurred during their set—the band powered through more than 20 songs, guiding the audience through a brief GBV history—perhaps the most impressive line came near the end of the set, when Pollard ranted, “Benjamin Franklin said it first. He said, ‘God loves us because he gave us beer… or something.” (On more than one occasion he referred to his band as “existing in the ’90s.”)

At another point, he asked: “I’ve been told we have ten minutes left. Should we drone for a bit or play ten songs in ten minutes?” Even for the casual GBV fan, that inquiry is hysterical—it’s hard to believe the band even has the ability of playing the same song for more than five minutes. (The first ten minutes of their performance had six songs.)

Guitarist Mitch Mitchell couldn’t be seen without a cigarette in hand—the band had a cigarette vixen stand on stage and replenish the supply between songs and sometimes during. It’s hard to think of how many beers the band downed between them, but judging by the cooler positioned in front of the kick drum, it was substantial.

The success of Guided By Voices lives within the band’s incredible ability to turn out quality music with inhuman quickness while provoking extended listening and participation. Every lyric was immediately shouted back at Pollard, and that is absolutely the way he—and the audience—likes it.

Critical bias: At the first New York GBV reunion show, a very wasted Pollard kissed my head and handed me a bottle of tequila. I still refer to this story as one of the coolest moments of my life that will never happen again.

Overheard: “When he asked who here played at the original CBGB, I didn’t have the heart to tell him it’s 29.”

Random notebook dump: Fairly certain Pollard wrote three songs for the next Guided By Voices album while on stage.