Live Last Night: Robert Pollard's Boston Spaceships

millerliteThat should last Pollard about 30 minutes. (By Kyle Gustafson)

Alternate Title: Stuff White People Like - Robert Pollard

Specifically late-30s/early-40s beer-swilling, devil-horn-throwing dudes. But that makes sense since Pollard himself, the indie rock icon who fronted lo-fi legends Guided By Voices for more than 20 years, is himself a 50-something, beer-(and tequila)-swilling, leg-kicking dude. The impossibly prolific Pollard was in town with Boston Spaceships -- his latest project, although he's probably started a new one since you've started reading this review. Forget about tracking down and buying everything he's released -- the depth of Pollard's discography is so daunting that it'd be a task just to illegally download everything with his name attached to it.

But somehow he's stayed consistent, mostly by sticking to what he knows best -- riff-heavy, two-minute, garage-pop anthems. He and the Spaceships, which include local hero Tommy Keene on guitar, charged through nearly 40 songs over more than two hours and if they were largely interchangeable, they were also mostly great. A majority of the songs from "Boston Spaceships" were accounted for (it's a fine record, not just one for the Pollard completists) but who knows where most of the other songs came from? A bunch of the devotees up front could probably tell you. Pollard/Guided By Voices is sort of the Grateful Dead equivalent for people who like Miller Lite instead of acid. Deadheads will tell you the best sets from 1972 European tour; Pollardheads (that'd be Postal Blowfish, officially) will tell you the choice cuts from each volume of the Fading Captain series.

Pollard turns 51 next month but his music doesn't feel old, if only because it has always felt old. He was already in his late-30s when Guided By Voices first emerged nationally, and it was only then that he was able to quit his job as an elementary school teacher. There was never anything vaguely young or hip about what he was doing. It was simply dudes in an Ohio basement with lots of beer and a four-track recorder trying to channel Cheap Trick, the Beatles and the Who, in their own fractured way. And on Saturday it was pretty much the same thing, except replace Ohio basement with D.C. nightclub. (There was even a Cheap Trick cover.) Those buckets of Miller Lites you see up top weren't there for show. Pollard and his boys downed them all no problem, all the while passing around and chugging from a bottle of Cuervo. "Are you allowed to smoke cigarettes here?" he slurred a little more than halfway through the show. A few people told him no, but he and Keene lit up anyway and then lit into another number. You see these young bands drinking water on stage during shows sometimes -- water!!! -- and then you see Pollard in all his glory and you can appreciate how rock-and-roll he is. Even with only a few leg kicks and no microphone twirling (at least that I can remember), he's still a singularly entertaining frontman. Put that much alcohol into most people and they'd fall down, pass out or suffer instant-cirrhosis. Meanwhile Pollard still remembers the lyrics for 40 songs and is cracking jokes about Stephen Malkmus and Lou Barlow.

Those who stuck around for the encore were treated to some GBV tunes that, not surprisingly, got the most enthusiastic response from the crowd, which numbered only 150 or so by that point. "Game of Pricks," "Cut Out Witch," "Motor Away" and "Tractor Rape Chain" are four pretty choice cuts to get from a catalog of thousands. And the diehards showed their approval in the appropriate way -- shouting along and drinking a cheap domestic.



By David Malitz |  September 29, 2008; 4:11 PM ET Live Last Night
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I can't wait for this campaign to be over so I can start going to shows again. Can't believe I skipped this show.

Posted by: Steve | September 29, 2008 11:18 PM

Actually, Disarm the Settlers rather than Postal Blowfish is where all the Pollard fans are at now, including most of who was in the front row. Also,there were a LOT of people with X's on their hands in the crowd at this show, so the idea that it's all thirty and fortysomethings is a bit skewed. Bob is one of those acts that truly draws all ages.

Posted by: Random Fan Who Was There | September 30, 2008 8:37 AM

My messageboard is better than your messageboard. NERD FIGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHTTTTTT!!!

Posted by: Random Fan Who Wasn't There | September 30, 2008 3:12 PM


Posted by: Random, er, Randy Fan | September 30, 2008 4:38 PM

nice review, wish i'd been there too.

Posted by: you-x | September 30, 2008 7:07 PM

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