Alright, here’s a confession. Or 2.
I saw Guided By Voices on the side stage of Lollapalloza in Chicago on the Bee Thousand tour. Thats not the confession.
I was in awe and somewhat confused. I thought, “Who are these older than me guys in striped spandex rocking out like TheWho?”
Next day I ran out and bought their latest at the time album, Bee Thousand and listened to it once. Thats part of the confession.
The confession is, I was so in my own box that I listened to it once. I thought “I think these songs are good, but the production sucks”.
Now, that’s a confession. I didn’t like what came to be my favorite band because the “drum sound” wasn’t to my liking? I suck.
Later, when the production value of GBV improved to my satisfaction on Mag Earwhig, my guitar player was playing it on our way to practice and I asked “Who is this?” “New Guided By Voices was his reply. I ran out the next day and bought it and listened to nothing but Mag Earwhig for at least 3 months. At least 3 times a day all the way through. No exaggeration. Obsessed. I turned my best friend onto it and we would call each other and talk about what song we were obsessing over that afternoon. It was insane. And awesome.
They were coming through Metro on tour and we went to see them. We were so pumped to be seeing them on this tour. Couldn’t wait to hear every song that we knew by heart by now.
Then the unthinkable happened. We went to the show. 3 hours long. Probably 50 songs. All awesome. Not a single song from Mag Earwhig until the first encore. (It was “I Am A Tree”, in case you’re wondering)
You have to understand what a shock it is to hear a 3 hour show filled with the greatest songs you’ve never heard. Sensory overload.
Which became the name of the Guided By Voices game for years to come. Ran out the next day and bought literally all the GBV albums in the slot at the record store (A record store is a place where you used to be able to go and….) Alien Lanes, Under The Bushes Under The Stars, The Grand Hour, and of course Bee Thousand were all they had.
Dove in and listened to NOTHING else for the next 18 months (year and a half of complete emersion in all things GBV to the complete exclusion of any other music except the bands I was playing in at the time) I went to every GBV show I could over the next 5 years until the final show on December 31st 2004. (Jon Wurster from Superchunk and The Mountain Goats on drums for I Am A Tree)
I’ve looked back on that first show many times. It was sort of a once in a lifetime experience to see a show by a band you inherently know you are going to love to death and be completely unfamiliar with the songs. You buy the records first and then you go to the shows and sing along and celebrate. That’s how you’re supposed to do it, dummy.
Of course, all this is complete bullshit in context. I’ve discovered many great bands who I’ve seen on opening slots for Guided By Voices. (That made me laugh)
It is nothing short of amazing. I tried to review it about a dozen times here and it kept changing like great music does.
I have the unbelievable urge to run out and buy the entire back catalog of records. And like GBV, there is a huge vault that has passed me by while I was watching something else.
They’re on tour and I’m holding out. I’m going to test my GBV experience out again. I’m going in blind to the old stuff and hoping they play a couple of new ones.
Maybe I won’t be as hip as the diehards. I won’t know every word and lick and fill and riff and hook. But I’ll get the raw version for me. I’ll be the willing convert.
I’m sure there’s a lesson in here for me and you.
Be willing to get obsessed and fall into great music. It’s ok to get jaded by the shitty music you see today. It’s ok to look back on the glory days when you had your secret band (mine was Guided, yours was_____, yours) that only you and your friends knew about.
But don’t forget that other people that you don’t even know exist (thanks for existing John Darnielle and all your co conspirators in The Mountain Goats) are creating music that has something to say to you. Or maybe, they’re creating music only to entertain their friends, or to get the girl. But music is being made. And we should always keep looking for it.