Outside of his native Ohio area (as well as Chicago and NYC), ROBERT POLLARD has had an unmatched (and mutual) attraction to the city of Boston. GUIDED BY VOICES played a rare early ‘90s show @ the long-defunct Penalty Box, close friend/manager RICH TURIEL went to school here (Emerson), the final GBV tour was kicked off here, and now he’s gone and used Beantown’s proper name in his latest project, BOSTON SPACESHIPS (also featuring long-time collaborators and post-GBV bandmates TOMMY KEENE, JASON NARDUCY, CHRIS SLUSARENKO and newcomer JOHN MOEN who usually occupies the drum seat for THE DECEMBERISTS). During the show, Bob admitted that he’s prone to dreams where he plays this town to an audience of four of five people, who are busy chatting with each at the back of the bar. He needn’t worry about his draw here; every time I’ve seen him play (this was number eight), the room is more than amply filled, and a very good turnout for a Tuesday night greeted his first appearance in a two and a half years (and in that span, in one form or another he’s released another six or so full-lengths and a brace of EPs). The last Boston show (_Normal Happiness_ tour) was cancelled when Bob incurred a torn calf muscle, but his high kicks on stage demonstrated no lingering concern in that department.
One of the mixed blessings of being a Pollard fan is his dizzying
release rate of material; like an invasive exotic it threatens to crowd out all other music from your collection and listening time (Bob relayed a comment from his ex-wife to the effect of “just what the world needs, another solo Robert Pollard album”), and to top that off he usually pulls out a few as-of-yet unreleased songs on tour. This would be no different, as new three minute pop gem “The Butler Stands For All Of Us” was the newcomer, nestled in amongst the heavy presence of Brown Submarines and Off To Business songs. As I wasn’t very familiar with the material, it wasn’t as immediately engaging as his best 1-2 punch to the sternum/brain/liver songs can be. A post-gig listen to OTB and BS shows that reports of his songwriting muse demise are premature. “The Blondes” and “No One But I” are capsulated vocal masterpieces, boasting melodies as strong as anything I can recall from recent memory. Well-versed fans were enthusiastically showing their support for the bouncy “Two Girl Area,” which could have been written by ROBIN ZANDER and ALEX CHILTON while trapped in a closet with only toothpick, a pack of dental floss and a bottle of hair conditioner. “Rat Trap” (not the Sir Geldof version) was another selection which got the initiates bouncing, dancing, fist-pumping and beer-pounding. As the thirty-odd song setlist wore on (how many other bands can you think of that need gaffer’s tape to hold sheets together for a setlist?), it was inevitable that a few slivers of the true cross (aka GBV songs) would be tossed our way, but “Sensational Gravity Boy” and “Crutch Came Slinking” wasn’t what I expected at all! First encore closer of “Game of Pricks” was more like it, and the second encore (which I actually missed, since the house lights were turned on and music put on the PA so I headed out, thinking the show was over) consisted of a quartet of well-chosen tunes from the meat of the order (_Bee Thousand_ and Alien Lanes). Bottom line – if you are a GBV/Pollard fan, acquaint yourself with the new records and bring beer money before heading out to the show touching down in your locale.
The celestial theme for the evening kicked off in grand fashion by BIG DIPPER, whose earlier reunion shows were a cause for great celebration. As big fans of all things Pollard, I’m sure they were chuffed when they were added to this bill. Though original bass player STEVE MICHENER was back in Washington busy crushing grapes, latter-era bassist TOM BREWIIT and the rest of the band sounded tight and played another great set. If you have a passing interest in guitar rock and don’t have the superb Supercluster compilation, rectify that immediately. The slashing, back and forth shadow-boxing of BILL GOFFRIER and GARY WALIEK’s guitars on “Faith Healer” is a fitting testament to how great this band was (is? The new song “Joke Outfit” gives me hope for more). Drummer JEFF OLIPHANT led the ultra-hooky “Edith” through its paces, and Gary took over the mic for an intense reading of “Loch Ness Monster”; a murky metaphor of a legendary creature/love interest. The non-front row audience could get a set list glimpse normally reserved for people pressed against the stage, as Bill’s shirt was customized to not only include the songs they were to play, but also the date of the show (on his collar), the band members’ names with directional vectors, and a friendly alien on the back. As they neared the end of their alloted time and left the stage, Pollard enthusiastically urged them back on stage for an encore of “Younger Bums.” I can’t recall an opening band ever getting an encore, but this was well deserved. Here’s hoping there is more Dipper action coming at us soon.
The celebratory activities actually started before the club doors opened, as in the adjoining Paradise Lounge, author of the 33 and 1/3rd book Bee Thousand MARC WOODWARD was stirring up some pre-gig merriment via trivia questions, anagram puzzles, live Pollard recordings, cut-up readings from his book, and other assorted entertainment options. Clearly Pollard has a rabid fan base for a reason, and this was just one embodiment of it.