Notes from last night’s Ohio Rock spectacular in no particular order (I feel like I drank 1,000 beers last night, so give me a little leeway, you guys):
* I’m not what most would call a believer. More times than not, religion, and the things people do in the name of religion revolt me. Yet, late in Guided by Voices marathon set, lead singer Robert Pollard made a convincing argument regarding the existence of a higher power as he recounted an experience he had as a youth when Jesus said to him, “Bobby, play rock and roll music.” I’m a believer.
* Pollard wasn’t the only one with a clever one-liner last night. When Cobra Verde’s John Petkovic took time out from his band’s opening set to explain to the crowd just how long 20 years is in terms of rock music, he calculated in how those 20 years there were approximately 843 bands named the next big thing. “Do you remember Girls Against Boys?” He asked. “I don’t,” was his answer to his own question.
* Guided by Voices are a dude band. Dudes group up with other dudes and they shout and sing and drink many watery domestics. Consequently, going into the concert, the over under on the percentage of women in attendance was 5%. Boy, was I wrong. Women made up 10, maybe even 15% of the crowd.
* It was that appetite for watery domestics, from both the band and those attendance, which made me settle for High Life as my last drink of the night. Guided by Voices drank all the Miller Lite. At least, that’s my explanation.
* Now, about that marathon set. Early on, the focus was clearly on the two albums the reunited GBV have already released in 2012 — Let’s Go Eat the Factory and Class Clown Spots a UFO. And while some of those tracks, namely “Jon the Croc” and “Unsinkable Fats Domino” are becoming crowd-pleasers with their bashing take on power-pop, it was the back catalog and songs like the pogo-perfect, “Echos Myron” and the Tobin Sprout ballad, “14 Cheerleader Cold Front” which really amped up the dude-heavy crowd.
* There were some surprises in the set, too, like the wobbly doo-wop of “If We Wait,” from the 1996 EP Sunfish Holy Breakfast.
* The three encores, each numbering four songs or so, were pulled exclusively from Guided by Voices’ peak period in the early-to-mid ’90s and the albums Propeller, Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, and Under the Bushes Under the Stars. I can recall “I Am a Scientist,” “Motor Away,” “A Salty Salute,” “Smothered in Hugs,” and “Tractor Rape Chain,” and
muscling stumbling my way to center stage to take it all in.
* I got a high-five from Bob.
* I also learned that Bob is a son of a Cleveland beer farmer. That statement from Pollard may or may not be based on fact.
* Since the careers of Cobra Verde and Guided by Voices are so intertwined — Both bands spent time on Matador Records in the ’90s; They recorded a split EP together; Members of Cobra Verde replaced members of this classic GBV lineup of Greg Demos, Kevin Fennel, Mitch Mitchell, and Sprout, for the recording of Mag Earwhig — Many wondered if there would be one of those special moments where both GBV and CV jammed together for a song or two. It didn’t happen. First, you have to know that Cobra Verde today is a much different lineup from Cobra Verde in the ’90s. Guitarist Doug Gillard, who played in both Cobra Verde and Guided by Voices, now has a gig with Nada Surf. Drummer Dave Swanson (also, both GBV and CV) was in attendance, but was there as a friend and a fan, not a performer. John Petkovic is the only remaining member from the ’90s Cobra Verde lineup. Odds were against this from the start.
* Yet, as I sort all of the hazy memories from last night, I haven’t a thing to complain about. Beer, friends, Guided by Voices, Grog Shop, does it get better on a Friday night in Cleveland? No. Throw in a couple classic jams from Cobra Verde like “Was It Good” and “Every God for Himself,” and it was a classic night of classic Ohio rock music.