Robert Pollard promised fans three hours of Guided by Voices tunes at the 9:30 club on Saturday. Then he delivered. The Dayton, Ohio-based band just launched "The Electrifying Conclusion Tour." And Pollard, the singer, songwriter and one constant in its two-decade history, says this will be the final tour. The group's following, as obsessive as any in rock, hasn't taken the news well, so Pollard doesn't want anyone feeling cheated: He put 50 song titles on the set list for the sold-out 9:30 show.
"We're getting paid $10,000 to play for you," Pollard announced. "That's $200 a song. So, clap!"
Guided by Voices has been in the public eye too long -- and has been too productive -- for every fan at every gig to know all the songs. Material from different eras elicits roars from different cliques. Older males thrust devil's horns toward the stage during the power dirge "The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory." The younger and female portion of the audience screamed loudest for "Girls of Wild Strawberries," a tune from the latest Guided by Voices disc, "Half Smiles of the Decomposed." But plenty of numbers -- the jangly "My Impression Now" and the headbanger "I Am a Tree" among them -- had everybody hopping together.
The band, in a party mood, gave away as many beers to fans as it chugged. Fans threw drinks on each other and the performers. Two women crashed the stage to dance with Pollard on "Cut-Out Witch," and club security didn't bounce them. Bassist Chris Slusarenko stopped the set twice to use the bathroom, and Pollard got the whole club chanting "bladder boy!"
For an encore, opening act Tommy Keene came onstage and took Pollard's place singing lead on a hilariously sloppy trio of Guided by Voices classics: "Motor Away," "Teenage FBI" and "Glad Girls." Pollard took back the microphone for a show-closing one-two of "Echoes Myron" and "I Am a Scientist."
When the house lights went on, fans stopped screaming and began asking each other if the show -- and their relationship with one of the most fun bands of its time -- was really over.
-- Dave McKenna