Hold On Hope: Fort Wayne Celebrates The Music of Guided By Voices

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by E.A. Poorman

So way back at the beginning of September Fort Wayne was all buzzing about the then just-released news that Guided By Voices was going to be donning the stage at C2G Music Hall. After years and years of heavy GBV fans in the Fort thinking there wouldn’t be a snowball’s chance in Hell the Ohio indie rock Godfathers would ever play the River City, our good friend and vinyl pusherman Morrison Agen of Neat Neat Neat Records had done the impossible. Well, it turns out it wasn’t all that impossible at all. He just asked Bob Pollard what it would take to get Guided By Voices to the Fort to play a show. That was pretty much it, really.

Not more than two weeks after the date had been set, days had been taken off of work, and dreams had been made the news broke that Guided By Voices were no more. All existing concert dates were cancelled. Hopes and dreams dashed. Then Morrison had an idea: instead of Guided By Voices performing their own songs, some of Fort Wayne’s best and brightest would perform them instead and they’d slap “tribute show” on the marquee instead. Lemons into lemonade.

Before this music crisis was averted, I wondered how Morrison got Bob Pollard’s phone number in the first place. “Bob’s been in my store a couple times”, said Morrison as we discussed the show over the phone. “Actually, the first time he came up I was on vacation, and he told me that, He drove all the way up to come see me and I wasn’t here.”

A year later Morrison said Pollard returned to Neat Neat Neat Records in search of Beatles records and he said he played it a little too cool when the GBV mastermind arrived. “So when he came in I recognized him immediately”, said Agen, “and then proceeded to promptly play it a little too cool. Like not talk to him at all and just absolutely give him his space and not even say a word, even though I’m pretty sure he knew who I was since I have a section in my store that says ‘Bob Pollard and Associated Projects.”

Back in the spring of 2014 Bob Pollard returned once again to Morrison’s shop and they got to spend a few hours just talking music. Agen said that since then him and Pollard have corresponded both by phone and email. Agen has even talked to Pollard’s wife. He has a real rapport with Pollard. On the day before Record Store Day when Bob visited the NNN Records Morrison brought up the idea of GBV playing Fort Wayne. “One of the conversations we had before Record Store Day was what’s it gonna take to bring GBV to town?” Morrison said. “He(Bob Pollard) said ‘you know I don’t think we’ve ever played Fort Wayne’.” After some prices were thrown around and logistics were discussed Morrison received a call a few months later. “So six months later I get an email from his(Bob Pollard’s) manager. We made it happen and signed the deal and started marketing, selling tickets, and all that other stuff. And then a week after we started selling tickets Bob decided that Guided By Voices was no more.”

At this point most folks would just curl up into a ball and cry themselves to sleep for about a week and then move on. Maybe occasionally look to the past and tear up thinking about what could’ve been. But you don’t know Morrison Agen. Morrison was driving around that afternoon the news broke of Guided By Voices’ demise running errands when he got a phone call about the show getting cancelled.”So later that day I was outside my apartment trying not to freak out a little bit. I live next door to Jon Ross and I saw him walking out to his car when I said ‘Hey come here for a minute,’ and told him about everything when the idea popped into my head to just say f**k it, let’s just have a party and just do a tribute show. Jon was like ‘Yes. Absolutely.'”

With C2G Music Hall having an opening on October 25th, the venue was already set for the Guided By Voices tribute show. Now all that was left was who was going to be playing? Here’s how Morrison put it, “We can get the best and brightest of Fort Wayne together and have them learn a bunch of Guided By Voices songs and we’ll just make a party of it.” That party will open with Morrison and his daughter Addison performing Guided By Voices’ “Hold On Hope”. Exterminate All Rational Thought will be hitting the stage next with Morrison helping out on vocal duties as they hit the later-era GBV material. Streetlamps For Spotlights will be up next performing songs off of Univeral Truths And Cycles, Mag Earwig, and Do The Collapse. Then supergroup Hardcore UFOs, which consists of Derek Mauger, Zach Smith, Morrison Agen, and Ryan Holquist, will be hitting the stage running through tracks from Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand. And finally, closing out the night will be Thunderhawk performing songs from Isolation Drills. As an added bonus you can snag the brand new album by Thunderhawk exclusively at this show. So get on that.

So here’s what you need to know: C2G Music Hall, October 25th, $10 at the door, and this show is all ages, folks. Come out, bring the kids, get your GBV on with Fort Wayne’s best and brightest. Oh, and don’t worry dad. You can still have a beer as there will be beer and wine available. And the rumor is that possibly Bob Pollard might actually be at this show, watching his influence and inspiration take the form of Fort Wayne bands lovingly covering his songs. But like I said, it’s just a rumor. For $10, I think it’s worth it. Do you want to be the guy at the office Monday morning that wasn’t there to see Bob Pollard drinking a Miller Lite in the crowd at C2G? While Thunderhawk is playing “The Brides Have Hit Glass”? I didn’t think so.

I thought I would end this with a few of the folks performing sharing with us what their favorite Guided By Voices albums are and why:

Morrison Agen: “You know, I don’t know if I have a favorite album but I have favorite songs that when I put on that album they make me go crazy. “Everywhere With Helicopters” is a brilliant, brilliant song. I think “Game Of Pricks” is a really, really amazing song. I think “Surgical Focus” is an amazing love song. “Game Of Pricks” is an amazing break up,’f**k you song.”

Derek Mauger: “Its a tie; Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand. And I’m super lucky those are the two albums our group is doing. Every song on those records are ear worms. GBV doesn’t waste time on verses. The songs on them are all anthemic hooks.”

Josh Hall: “If you ask any musician or hardcore music fan, they all have an album that saved them. I don’t mean that in any literal sense. They have an album that left a permanent mark. An album that consumed a year of your life. It changed the way you walked, talked, dressed; it changed the way you heard other bands. You remember what shitty beer you drank and how cheap it was, how bad your apartment smelled, that friend you used to have, that girl you thought you’d still be with today. For me that album is Isolation Drills, which is what we’ll be playing songs from.

To actually answer your question. 1- Isolation Drills is probably the closest to how GBV sounds live. It’s a straight up rock album; just two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. There’s very few overdubs/effects and zero guitar solos despite having one of the best rock guitarists at the time. Isolation Drills is my favorite album but definitely not their best. Most of the hardcore fans love the lo fi stuff. There’s an irreplaceable charm about a school teacher trying to make an arena rock album on a 4 track in his basement on the weekends, and actually succeeding.

2- it’s the only GBV album where Bob reveals anything about himself and his life. Most of the time he’s singing about robots and spaceships. I love that stuff too and I’m sure there’s all kinds of coded messages in there. I’ve been to more GBV shows than I can count on my fingers and toes and the crowd would always light up when they played something off isolation drills. Hopefully we can get out there and not butcher it too bad.”

Zach Smith: “Live From Austin, TX (Austin City Limits). It perfectly encapsulates what I love about the band. It is brilliant yet sloppy, high energy yet clearly beer-fueled, and acts as a best-of compilation that also updates some of the setlist’s more primitively recorded origins.”

Jason Davis: “What a tough request! To pick a favorite album by GBV is like choosing your favorite Kurt Vonnegut book. To name your favorite song is like deciding on the perfect James Baldwin quote. Robert Pollard and GBV are prolific. Everyone knows this. Every album is littered with true pop gems, whether they be lo-fi, noise collage, folk, pump your fist in the air arena rock, new wave, heartfelt ballad, or drunken serenade. Favorite album? I would have to point to four records that define an era. Mag Earwig, Do the Collapse, Isolation Drills, and Universal Truths and Cycles. Are these the Hi-Fi years? Yes. They are also the years in which GBV had bigger budgets, recorded in nice studios, and enlisted outside help. Was it the Ric Ocasek or Rob Schnapf productions or the fact GBV had been working toward that big sound all along. It does not matter. “Bulldog Skin”, “Teenage FBI”, “Hold on Hope”, “Chasing Heather Crazy”, “Glad Girls”, “Everywhere is Helicopter”, and many more. Great songs, great sounds, great records!”

Ryan Holquist: “Do the Collapse. Ric Ocasek reigns in people who sometimes need it, and can usually do no wrong.”

And finally, although he’s not playing that night I had to ask Mark Hutchins because he’s the guy that made me listen to Alien Lanes and love it. Plus, if you’ve ever heard his New Pale Swimmers you’d realize what a true fan of GBV he really is. “Alien Lanes. Why? It was my first GBV album. I bought it when it came out, knowing these guys were from Dayton and becoming kind of a big deal (I had to choose between Alien Lanes or a Brainiac record. Go figure). The short songs and basement sensibility hooked me right away. I had just come out of a big, loud band and was doing a lot of 4-track recording… You can imagine what a find this was. Plus, some of this stuff sounded like uncovered bootlegs of the Beatles jamming with Pete Townshend and Sid Barrett. I didn’t see GBV live until 2000, but even the most rickety songs on Alien Lanes transcended their wobbly cassette recordings; you knew these songs were huge. The arena-ready sound came to pass, but it’s no accident that a bunch of Alien Lanes tunes showed up in GBV’s (and solo Pollard’s) sets for the last 20 years. ‘And then the time will come when you motor away’.”

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