Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Guided By Voices at the Cat's Cradle - 11/12/2016

Guided By Voices
Cat's Cradle
11/12/2016

It was nearly twenty years ago that I saw Guided By Voices for the first time in this same club, standing only a couple of feet to the left from where I stood on this night.  "Under the Bushes, Under the Stars" tour if I'm not mistaken - June of 44 opened.  It was a damn good time.  These days, Robert Pollard might do a few less high kicks and drink a few less beers during the performance, but not much else has changed.  The band has nearly always rotated members, and of course this time was no different  - frequent collaborator Doug Gillard made up one-half of the guitar corp, and the other half was a real treat - Bobby Bare Jr, an alt-country star with a long solo career who I guess decided it might be fun to learn 50 or 60 short pop songs.  GBV didn't play any of his songs or anything, but he was still a nice addition to the performance. 

The band had the set down to a science - play a couple of new songs, then a classic song, a couple more new ones, back to a classic or two, etc.  In this case "classic" means songs from what most people consider their golden era - tracks like "Motor Away," "Game of Pricks," "Teenage FBI," "Tractor Rape Chain," etc; and "new" songs are not only tracks from the more recent GBV releases from the last half-decade, but they also mixed in plenty from Pollard's various other bands - Boston Spaceships, ESP Ohio, Circus Devils, Ricked Wicky, etc.  I'm of course only speaking for myself here about new or classic - the more knowledgeable fans all around me seemed to know every track regardless of era or band.  Of particular note was the annoying middle aged man next to me, who spent the entire performance not only singing along to every song, but pointing at Robert Pollard aggressively from start to finish.  I was also entertained when he decided to put earplugs in around an hour and a half into the set.  I'm sure that will make everything better, fella.  Anyways, they played at least two hours with three encores; it's impossible to leave a Guided By Voices show and not feel you got your money's worth.

Ted Leo / Outer Spaces at the Pinhook - 11/10/2016

Ted Leo
With Outer Spaces
The Pinhook
11/10/2016

Until I saw the listing in the Pinhook calendar, I hadn't thought of Ted Leo in ages.  I knew he had a band with Aimee Mann that played occasionally, but otherwise he had sort of disappeared, at least from my radar.  I decided why not go see him perform and find out what the hell he's up to these days?  It was a solo gig, no Pharmacists in sight - just him, his electric guitar, and a super fancy microphone running through a very elaborate amp set-up.  I'm assuming the mic was fancy based on how good his vocals sounded - that is, exactly like the record.  If the songs weren't slightly different, you'd almost think he was lip-syncing they sounded so much like the records.  He would talk to the crowd a bit, play a classic song or two, talk to the crowd some more, play a new (or newish) song or two, more talking...you get the idea.  Any time he played one of those classic songs the crowd treated it like a singalong, and even though that often annoys me I might have been guilty of it myself in this case.  What can I say, the dude has written a lot of damn catchy songs!  He even played a Chisel song that someone in the crowd "requested" aka yelled out ("The Town Crusher" if I remember correctly)  - if it had been a while since I had thought about Ted's solo work, I really REALLY hadn't though about Chisel in a long time.  Probably the funniest moment of the evening is when a clearly over-eager fan standing right in front of the stage yelled out what gauge strings he was using - this both confused and amused Leo, who after answering the question went own to plead for a sponsorship from D'Addario, because he's tired of buying his own strings after all the years.  Whether I knew the songs or not, the man is a very engaging & capable performer.   

The opener tonight was Baltimore's Outer Spaces, a trio that I was nearly as excited for as the headliner Ted Leo.  Their full-length debut "A Shedding Snake" is excellent (as is the EP the preceded it), and they were great the last time I saw them a year or two ago at Nice Price Books in Raleigh.  I struggle to find a comparison for this band - it's mid-tempo pop with a nineties tinge, a lot of piano (which takes the typical spot of the bass in this trio), and fantastic vocals by bandleader Cara Beth Satalino.  They played a number of tracks from that record as well as a couple of new ones - it was a fairly subdued performance and reception, as I'm not sure this crowd of mostly Ted Leo superfans really knew anything about them prior to this gig.  Hopefully they won over some new fans though, as more people should treat themselves to this great, underrated act.