Few bands in indie rock inspire as much drunken devotion as Guided by Voices. Led by former schoolteacher and Beatles devotee Robert Pollard, the band's expert mix of off-kilter whimsy, fist-pumping bravado and psychedelic weirdness has made it the most unlikely survivor of the '90s alt-rock boom. The Dayton, Ohio, legends have spent over two generations living out a great rock-'n'-roll fantasy, recording hundreds of songs in basements, garages, studios and dingy bars that sound great in your living room but approximately 10 times better in concert—especially after you've thrown back a few cold ones.
Since reuniting the "classic" GBV lineup in 2010, the hyperproductive Pollard has continued to write and release songs at an insane clip. In honor of the band's twin 2014 records, Cool Planet and Motivational Jumpsuit, and its upcoming swing through Portland, we've outlined rules for the definitive Guided by Voices drinking game. Grab some PBRs—or, if you want to drink like Pollard does onstage, whatever bottom-shelf liquor is available behind the bar—and get ready for the best hangover of your life.
Drink every time…
…Pollard does a high leg kick. Pollard's signature move deserves its spot in the rock pantheon alongside the Pete Townshend windmill and the Jagger rooster strut. It's amazing the 56-year-old Pollard can pull off such an impressive athletic feat without falling on his face. But then, he's probably already so wasted that eating dirt wouldn't faze him one bit.
…guitarist Mitch Mitchell tries to smoke a cigarette onstage. When Guided by Voices last played Portland at Crystal Ballroom in 2011, Mitchell spent a majority of the show making like Keith Richards, playfully posing for the crowd, windmilling his guitar and repeatedly lighting a cigarette, even though security would promptly make him put it out each time.
…there's a reference to an elf, wizard, robot, demon or UFO. No songwriter of the past 30 years has mixed the whimsical with the absurd quite like Pollard, whose lyrics often read like discarded Game of Thrones episode titles. Take two sips any time he introduces a song with a swear word.
…you recognize a track from one of the six GBV records released since 2012. Sweet relief! There's no way even the most diehard Guided by Voices nerd could recognize every song in the band's mammoth set list (recent shows have exceeded 40 songs). Though the new material doesn't quite stack up with the band's classic output, this being Pollard, there's always a few hidden gems in the mix. Recent highlights include "Vote for Me Dummy," the awesomely titled "Males of Wormwood Mars" and the bouncy, hand-clap ready "Class Clown Spots a UFO."
Pour one out for…
…former drummer Kevin Fennell. Fennell was fired from the band in October 2013 for trying to sell the drum kit used to record 1994's Bee Thousand for $55,000 on eBay. Pollard took offense at Fennell's use of the GBV name, which he owns. But the absurdity of the situation is even funnier: Bee Thousand, regarded as the best lo-fi record of all time, couldn't have cost more than $1,000 to make.
Finish your drink, either by pouring it down your throat or over your head...
…when GBV plays "Motor Away," "Game of Pricks," "Exit Flagger" or "Smothered in Hugs." Recent set lists have been split about 50-50 between new songs and old classics from the band's mid-'90s heyday, when it was briefly courted by major labels. But let's be honest: We're all here to shout along to the same jams. If you have enough room to safely execute your own leg kick, this would be the appropriate time.
SEE IT: Guided by Voices plays Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St., with Bobby Bare Jr., on Saturday, June 7. 8 pm. $35. 21+.