Friday, September 02, 2016

Guided by Voices at Neumos, Seattle, August 26 2016

NOTE: I faced two choices with this piece: try to edit it down, or just to let it blurt. It seems appropriate just to let it blurt.... let's hope some of it is of interest. 

All photographs by Allan MacInnis

So I took my second road trip with David Ames the other day, to see Guided by Voices in Seattle. I've known David for awhile, but not well. I started getting to know him, slightly, when he was involved in putting on the Jandek show in Vancouver in late 2009 (or early 2010?). I missed it, since it came a few days after the death of my father, and I was in no state to attend. (I had seen Jandek twice before, anyhow, in Toronto and Seattle). But we went by car to see the Flesh Eaters a year or so ago, at Neumos in Seattle, and that was a good time; so on August 26th, we went south to the same venue, to see GBV.

David's an interesting traveling companion: he's a natural raconteur, and by far the most passionate music fan I know; he doesn't just weigh in, he takes action, which is to say that if he thinks a band is great, he'll promulgate them tirelessly, and if he thinks they've made a duff move, or were never that good to begin with, he'll have opinions about it (a few of which I can engage with him on, though sometimes his areas of interest and mine don't overlap: it may have been a mistake for Sparks to record with Franz Ferdinand, for instance, but I barely know the music of either band, so what can I say?). Sometimes I'm reminded of times people have looked at me in puzzlement about the things I can get passionate about, because I catch myself looking him in the same way. Get him talking about naming a live music venue the Hindenburg, or break out your Burzum records in his presence, say.... This has been the subject of some lively discussion over on Mark Prindle's FB page lately, in fact - people whose music you cannot listen to because of heinous or offensive things they've done. I've gotten a bit numb to that - GG Allin? Bring it on! - but I do wonder about people who walk around with Burzum t-shirts or tattoos or whatnot, and kind of appreciate that David doesn't take that stuff lightly (FYI folks, my record collection is completely Varg-free, with the possible exception of one Mayhem record; in case you don'\t know him, besides being a convicted murderer and church burner, Varg has been an outspoken anti-Semite and flirted with a kind of Satanic neo-Nazism, re-branded as "Heathen Pride." How people who are not neo-Nazis support his musical output I do not fully understand, but I've never actually SAID anything about it, in the spirit of live-and-let-live lazy liberalism, but I've seen David query people, and, y'know, I kind of admired it). As Homer Flynn observed, when David joined us at House of Dosas, you don't get a lot of intelligent conversation about rock music these days - it's the exception, not the rule, and David definitely is an exceptional guy...

Anyhoo, while the Flesh Eaters trip was something I was going to do one way or the other, without his promptings I wouldn't even have gone to the GBV show (and I would still think the Monks were the guys who recorded "Drugs in My Pocket"). He made it pretty easy, actually: he booked the hostel and the Bolt Bus and navigated us around the town, finding cheap eats, convenient transportation, and three pretty amazing record stores... these bear some commenting upon...

First off, in Fremont, near our hostel, was Jive Time (above, the picture before last), which had the nicest dude behind the counter, who bullshitted with us about Vancouver hippie culture and late great flea market record dealer Ty Scammell and Christian garage rock; then, closer to the venue, Everyday Music, which had a stunningly large collection of stuff, including movies. It's the must-visit in terms of size and selection, if you're in Seattle - bigger than anything we have up here, bigger even than Zulu at it's peak. Also a bit larger than Jive Time was Zion's Gate, which had a few offputting elements - they didn't even have a Guided by Voices section, as Mr. Ames also noted, though they DID have a GBV record (so no-record-no-file-card doesn't work as an excuse). Oddly enough, though, they also had the stuff I was most excited to get, particularly the Brothers of the Sonic Cloth album, which I'd reconciled myself to never owning (music publishers note that I have a fairly sizeable interview with Tad Doyle up for grabs, which so far is only seeing print in Germany). I was unable in any store to find the Young Fresh Fellows Topsy Turvy, missing from my collection for some time, or any Australian pressings of Angels LPs (always on my want list). But hey, I got to have some old-fashioned frozen custard ice cream, some pretty good tacos, and I nabbed two recent Guided by Voices albums that I haven't seen much trace of in Vancouver (The Bears for Lunch and Class Clown Spots a UFO, both wonderful names for albums, though I have not as yet made time to spin them. Alas, The Bears for Lunch is a mere CD, not vinyl). Incidentally, if any of you have an extra vinyl copy of Topsy Turvy, I want it!

Then it was time to see Guided by Voices live, something I had not as yet done. My first awareness of them was their second to last Vancouver show, I believe, which if memory serves was moved from the Commodore to Richards on Richards, around when they were touring Universal Truths and Cycles; I think they played the Red Room once after that, which remains (unless I'm wrong, this is all just stuff I've picked up casually) their last show in Vancouver. I was curious about them then, and eventually - maybe ten years ago - I got their greatest hits and one or two other albums, never really feeling the need to delve much further. Their greatest hits - Human Amusements at Hourly Rates - is probably my vote for the single best best-of CD out there, trimming away all the band's more self-indulgent moments and presenting a phenomenal collection of songs; if you don't know them, it's a pretty great place to start.

Flash forward to today and I'm hooked - buying vinyl, used CDs, even considering a t-shirt at the show... The merch table at Neumos was a bit disappointing, in fact: the only shirts that had 2XL t-shirts left were the really dumb-looking ones, read into that what you will, while two of the best shirts I saw the whole evening were on a couple who had made their own unique designs. CD/ LP offerings at the venue were disappointing, too: they only had the most recent GBV album for sale (why they wouldn't bring copies of everything I cannot fathom, with a room full of adoring, intoxicated fans they'd have cleaned up, but who knows how many of any of these things they're pressing; maybe they're being very cautious with numbers, as befits a band returning to a cottage-industry level of operations). In fact, after getting my wrist stamp and perusing the merch, all I wanted to do was go back out again and explore for awhile, rather than hang around in the somewhat stifling room. That's how I missed the first song or two of the opening band. We were distracted by a couple of punk bands playing for free at a taco shop up the street, one fronted by a guy in underwear who came pretty much as close as I ever want to get to the GG Allin experience (no poo was flung, never saw his penis, and no one got raped or beaten up, but his ass crack was sticking out his underwear and I got to contemplate his pale, flabby flesh -- not too dissimilar from my own, unless you count the clothes I had on over it). They weren't bad - noisy, punky, but fun, and GG wouldn't have minded them at all, though I never caught their name. I asked a few people.

Eventually, though, we made it to Neumos. The first band was a Pixies-ish pop band called Broncho, who were totally enjoyable, with a lot of echoey-reverby stuff and elements of surf and shoegaze in their music, but who did nothing so exciting or original as to overcome my general reluctance to make room in my life for yet another new band, because, fuck it, new enthusiasms start to get exhausting when you're my age, you barely have room, time, money or energy enough for the old ones. The female bassist's one-piece skirt made me think of Kim Gordon, and she'd probably like my having said that, though she looked a bit more like Mary Jo from the Modernettes, I guess (their music sounded like neither band, really).

Then Guided by Voices took the stage, walking on without much fanfare before a crowd that was already hot and sweaty, and launched into what was at least a two hour fifteen minute long set (maybe longer, since they came on sometime before ten, and finished at 12:15). I'm not up for a minute by minute review. Pollard swung his mike, made a few kicks, and sang with full commitment, when not visiting the beer by the drum riser or the whiskey to stage right. I only know Doug Gillard of the other band members, and am not so invested in lineups when it comes to GBV that his being there meant that much to me, truth be known, though maybe someday I will care; I know it was a big deal. "Everyone else played fine, too," is about all I have to say for the rest of the guys, hope you make it as far as the next album.

The setlist is not online for the Seattle show, but it was not too too different from what they played in Portland the next night, kicking off with "The Quickers Arrive," from Please Be Honest, their most recent album, on which everything was apparently played by Robert Pollard. The set was dotted with Pollard side-project stuff, including songs by Ricked Wicky, Boston Spaceships, and a couple of songs off Waved Out, a 1998 Robert Pollard solo album that I really want, based on  "Make Use" and "Subspace Biographies," both of which got played, Pollard doing a vocal part ("baahmp-baahmp-baah") where there are synths on the latter. David had taunted me a little with the lyric about there being "nothing worse than an undetermined person" back when I was prevaricating about whether to go to the show, but regardless, I've fallen in love with that song.

As for "Make Use," it is one of those rare GBV songs where I think I almost understand what Pollard is singing about:

A bold night for my new rock shirt
Expected a burn-hole
Expected the worst
Such shots in the dark I should not risk
I command you to speak to us
And be humble to our works

We have suffered the change again
And guess what they've been spreading
So very upsetting
But we're not forgetting
Pull up and lighten your load

Make use of the bold proposition
Make use the vast (back? mad?) fashions
The passion is soon to burn out
Make use of the boring young heroes
Their effort's not wasted
Reward them for what they turn out

Of this we are proud

In spurts of majestical will power
Impractical thinkers design the dream
These beast-like invincible machines
100 jacks in the road
Do you casually second the exit?
Are you into the easy way out?

A simple gut reaction is not to be found here
Don't come around here

Have a look
Its the freeway

Make use of the bold proposition
Make use the vast fashions
The passion is soon to burn out
Make use of the boring young heroes
Their efforts not wasted
Reward them for what they turn out
The pleasures of great GBV are all present here, despite the solo setting: there's an infectious, arresting melody; and Pollard's voice manages to be passionate yet soothing at the same time, inviting a certain dreamlike drift... While I don't get all of it - what freeway? what jacks in the road? - there seems in at least some lines to be a clarion call to things I approve of, an ideological position not dissimilar to that taken on "Kid on a Ladder," I think, though equally abstracted and poetic in its formulation. Who could argue with the idea of making use of the bold proposition, whatever exactly that implies, or refusing to second the exit, or at least not doing so casually...? (Why do I think of Elizabeth Fischer, there?). I would like to be one of those impractical thinkers, I think, though I'm maybe a smidge more practical than Uncle Bob, here, so I doubt I merit his praises... I mean, he gave up teaching to pursue a career in music; I haven't exactly done THAT, have I...? I'm not actually sure if it's "vast" fashions or "back" fashions that he sings, but using all resources at ones disposal before the passion burns out - ever a concern - seems like a good idea. And if sometimes young heroes CAN be "boring," there's almost a teacherly, protective attitude to the song, to encouraging and supporting folks, rewarding them for "what they turn out," presuming they're at least trying...

I can get behind all of that, and go to a pretty specific place with it, in fact. Devoted followers (do I have any?) know that I made quite a bit of space in my Westender IPO piece (linked in the previous post) for a young retro pop band called the Top Boost, playing tomorrow night. The truth is, I don't really have much interest in listening to the Top Boost's EP, you know? It's okay, that EP - I did listen to it, at least in part - but what I really like about it is the fact that a bunch of 18 to 21 year olds are making music like this. That alone is kinda touching, and I'm prepared to reward it on principle (may the Gods protect them from too much success, mind you; they're pretty enough that there could be danger that a-way). Making any sort of mark in the music world is not easy to do, and takes bravery and commitment and effort and all sorts of things that really should be admired (even if the music itself is only so-so).

This is just a subjective bias, no doubt, but some lines of the song actually make me think Pollard might be singing to music journos, in "Make Use," commanding us to be humble to their works. It's a ballsy thing to demand, regardless of who it is addressed to, but I like it. And if that's where I apply it, it's a good thing. How better can you read the phrase "boring young heroes" than by applying it to an idealistic, youthful rock band? How can you NOT want to protect and encourage them, regardless of your boredom? One of Todd Serious' greatest accomplishments, for a guy so passionate and intense, is that he was NEVER boring, at least not that I saw - but - what was that (God forgive me) Billy Joel lyric about the angry young man with his "fist in the air and his head in the sand," or "heart in his hand," or...

Anyhow, whether or not I'm equal to it, there's a magnificence to Guided by Voices for all their self-indulgence ("let's record EVERYTHING") that is very easy to be sentimental about, very easy to wax ecstatic about, very easy to see as something pure, precious, rare and endangered. They sure beat the living snot out of the Pixies.  Did you all know that Pollard was a teacher before he became a singer? I only found out recently. Or didja know that one of his favourite films is (saith Wikipedia) John Cassavetes' Husbands? He is, surely, one of the good guys.  I would walk over the Pixies, phsyically STEP on them, en route to shaking Robert Pollard's hand.

But I digress. 

Almost all of Please Be Honest - another great title, and also of application to journos, tho' being honest sometimes must be tempered with that humility Pollard speaks of - made the setlist on the 26th, spaced out with plenty of popular favourites. I really like that album, find some of its quietier, noisier moments ("I Think a Telescope") quite moving, actually, and some of its more anthemic moments ("Glittering Parliaments") hearken back to some of Pollard's catchiest songwriting. It's definitely a throwback to a rawer, purer, more off-the-cuff GBV, and I'm glad I got to know these songs a bit before heading down. There wasn't a false move or a troubling gesture in the whole evening... Pollard didn't seem to be the problem drinker I kinda worried he might be; and he was really, really warm to the audience as the evening drew to the end, clasping hands with the people in the front and grinning and obviously participating in a very, very special relationship with his fans, full of trust and love, which was heartwarming to observe and obviously totally sincere, going both ways...

All the same, it was clear that, much as I enjoyed myself, I was, by far, not the biggest Guided by Voices fan in the room. I got at excited as anyone for "Back to the Lake," "Game of Pricks," "I Am a Scientist," "Glad Girls" and so forth (and mourned the non-inclusion of "The Best of Jill Hives" and "Bulldog Skin," two favourites of mine). I did sort of sit out a couple of songs ("Jargon of Clones," "Cut Out Witch") because it was so bloody hot in the venue I had to take a break, hydrate, and air myself out by the exit. But there were a lot of songs I didn't recognize, which my audience mates were enthusiastically cheering and singing along with; and, while they're the band I've been listening to most these days, truth is, I felt a bit like an outsider at observing JUST HOW MUCH some people love them. While I may be on my way in that direction, myself, I've had a few reservations about them since I began listening to them, which still linger just a little in my mind; much as I'm falling in love with this band (I think I am), there are a few things that I haven't totally reconciled myself with.

The first is basic, obvious, almost so much so as to not need saying: they're too damn prolific, too damn willing to release EVERYTHING they do. It's part of their gestalt that you can get to like, maybe, but - and I say this buried in the midst of the most indulgent, rambling thing I've allowed myself to write in some time, wherein lies some irony - it isn't exactly considerate to their fans. There's a hubris to it, sort of. And I just don't have that much space in my apartment or my life for new music; in fact, I have records in storage, big chunks of which I've been selling lately, to be able to pay my bills, and I really don't need someone in my life who, as Pollard told us near the end of the night, has recorded 100 LPs over his career (really, Bob, one HUNDRED?). I'm intimidated and a bit resentful of anyone putting out THAT much music, particularly since it sure doesn't seem to me like every song on every album is a total winner. I'm no big fan of minute long, unfinished toss offs, and there frequently are songs that feel just like that, even on GBV records I like. Plus I haven't quite gotten the hang of Tobin Sprout yet, the other main GBV songwriter, absent from the present lineup; none of the GBV songs that have stuck with me have been his, though that might change.

...I mean, it was a bit of a struggle for me even buying one of the, what, SEVEN albums they've released since there 2012 reunion...? I mean, I've been wishing the fucking Meat Puppets would slow down ("But I'm not READY for a new Meat Puppets album yet!") and they've only put out four albums since the Kirkwoods got back together in 2007. GBV are going wayyy beyond that, and Pollard announced they're working on a new double album right now, so...  Standing there at Audiopile, making the decision - having just SOLD twenty albums there the week before - to get Motivational Jumpsuit - was kind of a big deal. "If I buy this, I may like it. If I like it, I may want to buy more. What if I end up wanting to own them all?" (since that decision, last month, I've bought three other new ones and downloaded one more).  How dare you disturb the universe so, Robert Pollard! How dare you eat SO MANY PEACHES!.I sense that liking this band could be exhausting, a full-time commitment, like if you let them get their hooks in deep enough, you're fucked, you'll be walking down the street singing about being too scared to run from the tiger, too dumb to hide in the bushes, and no one will know what you're referencing at all... hell, I do that already...

Then there's an aesthetic reservation. As compelling as some of Pollard's wordcraft is, I'm more of a populist than a poet, and like writing that is easily unpacked and obviously meaningful. I have no idea what a tractor rape chain or a cut-out witch or a man called aerodynamics might BE, and so it goes with many of their songs. When they sing a song I feel like I understand, I tend to latch on to it (like "Littlest League Possible," off Motivational Jumpsuit, which appears, without much ambiguity, to be about being a big fish in a small pond and enjoying it, while still making a bit of fun of yourself for your minor-league beaming pride). But more often than not, with their catalogue, you're left humming snatches of phrases that  have more mystery than meaning, that have resonance somewhere in there but are very hard to pin down and drag to the surface. That's not entirely a bad thing - it makes it harder to wear a song out, compared to something simpler; I mean,  even Gerry Hannah himself told me he sometimes felt a bit tired of performing "Fuck You," back when the Subhumans were still playing, plus as songs go, it's just not appropriate to all occasions. And there are other great bands (Pere Ubu comes to mind, or, um, Captain Beefheart) who also have fantastic songs where I have no idea what they mean, never had and probably never will. There's something slightly authoritarian in such gestures, though, and the tendency to be enigmatic lessens the listener's ability to identify with a song, to personally relate to it - especially if you know, as if often the case, that whatever interpretation you lay on the lyrics, whatever the song comes to mean to you (if indeed you lay meaning on it at all), it's only one possible interpretation and is quite possibly incorrect. How do you REALLY get to know a song, invite it into your life, and form a close emotional bond with it if you don't and can't know what the hell it's about, especially if everyone else is sleeping with it, too? It's a trick I haven't ever fully had the knack of. A song can be profound and deep and potent and still be totally coherent and applicable in many situations; I don't think there's a smidgen of mystery to Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer," certainly nothing obscurantist or hermetic going on there, but it's gotta be one of the greatest feats of lyric-writing in rock history, no?

But let me focus on one song, for example - an undeniably great tune, "Tractor Rape Chain," off GBV's breakthrough Bee Thousand. It's a song you feel, a song that insinuates itself, and it's a song I found myself surprisingly able to sing along with, when invited to do so the other night (more on that later; I did not realize that I actually had gotten to know the words!). Still, I have no idea what it is about. Someone asserts authoritatively online that the central image of parallel lines refers to the tracks of a tractor in a field of rapeseed, but even if that relatively prosaic interpretation holds, it doesn't really help much. I mean, why a tractor at all, if it really is a tractor? Why rapeseed, if it isn't really rape? And what's the image, if it applies, meant to be an image FOR? The lyrics go as follows - it starts off kinda making sense, but soon enough you're lost:
why is it every time I think about you
something that you have said or implied makes
me doubt you
then I look into your cynical eyes and I know it
as if it never meant anything to me

parallel lines on a slow decline - tractor rape chain
better yet, let's all get wet on the tractor rape chain
speed up, slow down, go all around in the end

in the first place it's probably just paranoia
but there's a ghost in my room
and he says I better run
it's a thing I know - it's a thing I believe in
won't you tell it to go away?

parallel lines on a slow decline - tractor rape chain
better yet, let's all get wet on the tractor rape chain
speed up, slow down, go all around in the end
speed up, slow down, go all around in the end...

Having read it through, I can say with confidence that I have no idea what it's about. It doesn't sound like a very happy relationship that's being described. It starts out like it has a meaning, to be sure; "parallel lines on a slow decline" seem to suggest movement through life with someone, but it's a relationship that's growing more remote or strained. That second verse could be about trusting your intuitions - maybe the ghost in the room is one of the voices that is guiding you? It seems like a kind of fraught relationship, if so - if it's something you know and believe but want to go away. But that's about as far as I can get. Certain phrases just shut down my desire to interpret it further. I don't think "as if it never meant anything to me" can be unpacked much further than your average lyric by the Minutemen, say. What's "it," for instance? Pollard might know, but unless he provides a magic decoder ring, you can't go much deeper, even if you like the turn of phrase. It gets more forbidding, too: "better yet/ let's all get wet" surely is something written entirely for the sake of the rhyme alone, with no gesture at meaning intended at all. How does a strained relationship, cynicism, questions of failed meaning or doubt have any bearing on getting wet, ferchrissake? Even if we take the image of two parallel lines in a rapeseed field as a concrete image to tie the words down to - which is kind of more appealing than any other reading of a "tractor rape chain" that I can come up with; I mean, that word "rape" is pretty potent... even if we opt for the literal tractor-track image, why are you going to get WET on it? Sex wet? Farm wet? Which wet, and why? Again, maybe there's a personal meaning at work (no decoder ring), but maybe it's just a rhyme Pollard liked?

I mean, I like this song, I do, but how much work am I going to put into reading a lyric, trying to make sense of it, when it makes moves like that? Even if I do find some part of it infectious and compelling on a level I can't quite articulate - which is kind of where GBV hits you, most often - it will ever be a relationship that's as shallow as it is profound, where I just have to let it wash over me, trust it, and not think too much about it. I'm prepared to do that - to be guided, thus - but it's a little bit factory-sealed against interpretation, a little aloof, even as it enters you and moves you.  I like the song, a lot, but I don't love it, because I can never fully trust something I don't understand in the slightest.  think that's part of what the band is about, really - trusting those things. But it's not totally me, you know?

The reason I mention this, though, is to explain the most striking moment of the night for me, the one that had other audience members marvelling at my tolerance. It involved exactly the above song, "Tractor Rape Chain." There was a guy in the audience - bearded, maybe in his late 30's, wearing a white t-shirt as I recall, who took the whole "How's My Drinking" aspect of the band perhaps a little too much to heart: because this guy was one of the most falling down drunk people I have ever seen, rivaled only by a salaryman I saw once who was riding upright on the train from Tokyo to Saitama, held up only by the strap his hand was in, basically dangling and swaying with every curve, bump, and jostle, basically just dangling there. One of the Audiopile guys had remarked that when he saw GBV at the Red Room, "everyone was drunk, on the stage and in the audience," and I suppose part of the trepidation that I felt about going in the first place to this show was the presentiment that the whole crowd and band too would be like THIS guy. I actually don't care to be around drunks that much, you know?

...But say what you will about the dude - rude, uncivilized, needs to learn to handle his alcohol, needed to be cut off earlier - he LOVED "Tractor Rape Chain," because as soon as the band started playing it, he launched forward through the audience, getting as close to the front as he could before totally falling on his ass, knocking into about half a dozen people in the process, including both David Ames and myself. I stood back a little, at first, trading bemused-but-contemptuous, whaddaya-gonna-do glances with people in the area, who did more, initially, to help him steady himself the first time he fell than I did. Within a few seconds, though, he was down on his ass again, laughing to himself, twirling his arms drunkenly, and still managing to signify that he was REALLY getting off on the song, mouthing the words, his hands like some crazy conductor. The people who had helped him up the first time were in no rush to do it again; I mean, no one is paying them to babysit, are they?

So I reached down and helped him up, and suddenly, the dude clutched onto me like I was offering to support him for the rest of the concert. He grabbed at me, tighter than anyone I've ever fucked has grabbed me, and kept time on my head, while sticking his face deep into my zone to sing - not mouth, but sing - the lyrics to the song to me, to which my only response in reach was to sing along with him (and Uncle Bob, for whom none of this, I imagine, was visible, or new). It shocked me, but it turned out I knew the words - which is impressive, because, how do you learn the words to a song that you can't understand? What had they hooked onto to lodge in my brain, thus? ...Eventually the song ended; and half an hour later, after a similar round of staggering around and falling, during another classic GBV song, I saw the young drunk being escorted from the venue, and thought about him no more. But for the minute and a half that buddy and I were singing along to "Tractor Rape Chain" together, I was about as engaged in the concert as I got (with the possible exception of "Subspace Biographies," which I also sang along with and jumped around to, unassisted by any drunks). To the people who turned to me after the drunk had staggered away to fall down in front of someone else, and said that I was a very kind and generous man, for having put up with him, I can only repeat what I said to them, at the show, that ten years from now, that drunk will be one of the only things I actually remember about the concert... just like the moment I remember most about seeing the Cramps in the early 1990's was the punk kid who grabbed my hand and started dancing with me on the UBC lawn after the show was over, singing the lyrics to "The Mad Daddy." I had spent the whole show trying to understand what was going on, and now, thirty years later, I barely remember a minute of it, except that kid, who briefly reminded me of the proper way to appreciate the band.

(Well, I remember a couple of other things about that show, actually, come to think of it - a very young Tom Anselmi asking us in the parking lot before the show if we'd seen some guy around, with silver hair I think he said; about being disturbed by Hamm's meaty thighs when Slow opened, visible through the slit in his nurse's uniform; about how Slow seemed a lot messier live than they did on record; and a song that I thought Tom announced was called "Beat the Creature," which they never recorded, to my knowledge. I also remember how one of the girls I was with, before the show, remarked on the appearance of a stranger - a fellow Goth-punk type, also attending - saying, "you're so pale, it's disgusting," without realizing what that would sound like, requiring me to intervene, as I saw the stranger's face fall, by saying that "she means she's jealous," which made everything all right again. But I barely remember anything about the Cramps that night. A flash of Ivy's sneer. How stiff Nick seemed. The crowd chanting at the encore, "strip! strip! strip!" which I at first thought was a cry of "Cramps! Cramps! Cramps!" About feeling lost and uncomfortable in the mosh pit  ("why am I doing this?"). But did Lux do or say anything but sing? I do not recall. He had a whole lot more clothes on than he did during the Urgh clip I'd seen; he certainly did not strip. But that's about all I got.

Because y'see, the trouble with me is, or maybe one of the troubles with me is, I think about music way too much. I squint at it and study it and try to make sense of it - with "surgical focus" at times - but the moments at rock concerts where I lose myself totally are actually few and far between, and surely losing yourself is kind of the POINT of rock music, isn't it? Dave and Phil Alvin doing "Marie Marie" a few months ago at the Imperial is the closest I can recall myself getting in years - I danced, I sang, I fully engaged myself in the enjoyment of the moment, without ANY question of what I was participating in. There's no question of falseness or pretension or liking a song for the wrong reasons or being sold some version of a bill of goods when it's "Marie Marie," you know? Rock music doesn't get much more straightforward or trustworthy than that. But it does get a lot more straightforward than "Tractor Rape Chain," even if I have ghosts in my room, too.

Anyhow, I was actually kind of jealous of the people who sang along with almost every song, you know? I wonder what those songs meant to them. Maybe I should have drunk more myself, until it didn't matter to me, either. Maybe if I were more the type to trust my emotions and ride on their flows, and follow them fearlessly where they led me, I'd be a better Guided by Voices fan. I'd probably be a better writer.

It was still a great show.

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