Just a few years ago, it seemed like iconic indie outfit Guided By Voices‘ prolific and improbable reunion had flamed out for good, and our chances of seeing them once more in Music City looked slim. To our pleasant surprise, however, it wasn’t long before frontman Robert Pollard once again willed the band back into existence, recruiting a fantastic new lineup, which has released an impressive four new full-lengths since 2016, and has been touring relentlessly, with several stops in Nashville since their return. The group are back once more tonight, May 19, this time at The Basement East in support of excellent recent effort Space Gun. Known for their epically long sets and Pollard’s legendary presence and rock pedigree, no two GBV shows are the same, and whether you’re a longtime fan or newcomer, you’re bound to have a blast. Tickets are available here, though they might not last, and since no opener is listed (though local support might be added), we’d suggest being punctual!
GUIDED BY VOICES
It’s been weird, long run for seminal Ohio indie rockers Guided By Voices. Formed in the early ’80s, the band always has always been anchored by, and is, in effect, a full extension of frontman Robert Pollard. The group’s lo-fi, early years were characterized by a stream of self-financed, experimental releases, resonating within their hometown, but not really poised for serious career ambitions. After the college rock explosion of the early ’90s boosted attention for the indie and alternative scene, GBV, largely a studio project at the time, began to play out, winning over audiences with their energetic, engaging live show and eventually landing a deal with Matador Records. A stream of strong, breakthrough albums would follow in the mid-’90s, amassing praise from the music press and earning a loyal following, while the group’s revolving lineup briefly settled on a semi-permanent “classic” incarnation. Continued scene cred and a prolific, fantastic stream of releases would briefly earn GBV a major label deal, though, by the time of their 2004 split, they had returned to Matador, and crafted what Pollard believed to be a fitting final album, Half Smiles of the Decomposed.
After their initial split, Robert continued making music under his own name, something he had done concurrent to GBV since the ’90s, and, though it didn’t carry the title, it quickly became apparent that there’s no real distinction between the two (he is the only constant and the band’s primary driving force, after all). Going back on forth on the prospects of a reunion, the group did eventually reconvene with their “classic” era lineup for a Matador anniversary party in 2010, subsequently taking on a successful reunion tour which would persuade Pollard to start releasing albums under the GBV mantle once more. Largely sticking to their lineup, the group released an astounding six albums between 2012 and 2014, abruptly calling it quits just before a fall tour. If GBV history has taught us anything though, they’re only gone until they’re not, and Pollard loves to change his mind.
After a bit of a breather, Guided By Voices just their 22nd album, Please Be Honest, in 2016, featuring Pollard on every instrument. He then tapped former drummer Kevin March and former guitarist Doug Gillard to return to touring, rounding out the lineup with newcomers Mark Shue on bass, and Nashville’s own Bobby Bare Jr. on guitar. While it’s not “classic” GBV, this new iteration of the band, quickly received warmly by fans for their electrifying live show, have gone on to participate in the recording of three new LPs over the last year, the most recent, Space Gun, a strong and inspired effort that feels worthy of the GBV mantle. And, really, anything with Robert Pollard is good enough for us, and to get to see him play these songs, a criminally underrated fixture in the indie scene with decades of immeasurable influence, with so much spark and vigor this many years in, makes the never dull saga of Guided By Voices worth following, and essential to take in live any chance we can.
Guided By Voices will perform tonight, May 19 at The Basement East. The show is 18+, begins at 9 p.m. (doors at 8 p.m.), and tickets are available to purchase for $25.