SAN FRANCISCO "Hello we're Emerson, Lake and Pollard,"
Guided by Voices frontman Bob Pollard said as he and the band took the
stage Thursday night at the Maritime Hall.
"We were schooled on the four P's of rock: punk, pop, prog and
He forgot to mention prolific.
In addition to promoting GBV's Do the Collapse whose single
"Teenage FBI" (RealAudio
excerpt) was no doubt responsible for some of the GBV newcomers
among the crowd of about 1,000 Pollard had a new side project to
push. Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department, recorded
with GBV guitarist Doug Gillard, is the fourth non-GBV album or EP Pollard
has released this year on Rockathon Records and he and the band
wasted no time in getting to it. (Click here to go to photo gallery of concert.)
The 42-year-old Pollard bedecked in a black long-sleeve, button-down
shirt and black jeans opened the show by leading the band into "A
Salty Salute," a brothers-in-arms anthem off Alien Lanes (1995)
that, played live, managed to encapsulate all four of Pollard's "P's."
The moment the first note struck, a neon sign, reading "The Club Is Open"
(the song's chorus), lit behind drummer Jim Macpherson, inspiring the
fans' roar of approval.
"I'm so excited!" Debbie Stewart, 25, of San Francisco yelled. "I've never
seen them before, and I've always wanted to."
The band then popped into "Tight Globes" and "Frequent Weaver Who Burns"
excerpt), both from Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire
Department, and both showcasing the tightly wrapped packets of pop
prowess that are Pollard and GBV's trademark.
Gillard and rhythm guitarist Nate Farley beefed up the staccato rhythms
laid down by Macpherson. Bassist Tim Tobias who, judging by the
way he sang along, may be the biggest GBV fan in the band provided
a solid underpinning.
GBV played five songs from the new album in the first half-hour of the
two-hour show and were obviously jazzed for the new material. Fully
comfortable in his role as showman, Pollard broke out his limber leg
kicks and Roger Daltreyesque microphone twirling in record time.
Maritime Hall, an old sailor's union hall, looks more like a high school
cafeteria than it does a club, with its 30-foot-plus ceiling and an overall
municipal ambiance. But in true San Francisco style, a psychedelic light
show complete with acid gels, courtesy of the Brotherhood of Light
(the house lighting crew) gave the hall a '60s-throwback feel.
The stage was flanked by the gel work and, on both sides of the room,
huge video screens showed live footage of the band set against spaceships
and other outlandish imagery. Pollard seemed to notice the screens for
the first time during "Things I Will Keep," from Do the Collapse,
pointing to them with both arms and giving a "Pretty cool, huh?" look to
the fans in front.
After spending an hour on mostly new material, Pollard announced, "We're
getting to the point where we're really drunk now. This is when we do
all the old tunes," though later he elaborated, "We went through five
cases of beer, a bottle of Jack Daniels and a couple bottles of cabernet.
Oh, yeah and a bottle of water!"
The crowd, which had been feeding various bandmembers beers and shots,
screamed in approval. The band then went into their stretch of earlier
material, including "The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory," "I Am
a Scientist" (RealAudio
excerpt) and "Don't Stop Now," spiked with "Circling Motorhead
Mountain," a song from another 1999 Pollard side project, the Lexo and
the Leapers EP Ask Them.
The band stumbled back onstage to do eight more songs over the course of
two encores, mainly older, "greatest-hits" selections, though they did
throw in another Do the Collapse single, the ballad "Hold on Hope."
At one point, a fan jumped onstage and Pollard handed him the mic, letting
him do his best Pollard imitation to the tune of the furious "Postal
"I've seen them eight times," Michael "Elbow" Digris, 28, of Fitchburg,
Mass., said, after the band ended the second encore with "Smothered in
Hugs," from Bee Thousand (1994). "This was the best show I've seen
since the  Alien Lanes tour."