​Guided by Voices and Destroyer stun at the Jefferson

Alternative bands bring legendary songs to Charlottesville


Guided by Voices and Destroyer recently performed at the Jefferson.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons | Cavalier Daily

Ever since their humble beginnings in a crusty garage in Ohio, the members of Guided by Voices have strived for the grandiose. Though it took a while to gain traction among a wider audience, the music the band made was destined to soar in stark contrast to the midwestern flatlands where it was born.

This is why it made total sense when lead singer Robert Pollard promised to play 50 songs before the set was over last Friday at the Jefferson Theater. It took until 2 a.m., but he did it, and the raw energy of the performance held steady throughout. The looks of bemusement on the audience's faces reflected the lingering question of how a 58-year-old man could deliver a performance which artists half his age would struggle to match in terms of power. Performances like this are a window to the ingenuity and tenacity which shot Guided by Voices into the indie spotlight in the 90s.

Few artists have a discography as prodigious, both in size and quality, as Guided by Voices. For this reason, many fans wondered prior to the show what the band would dish out. In an almost narrative manner, Pollard ran through many highlights of his over-quarter-century long career, crafting a performance which edged past its own boundaries and became a seemingly organic entity.

From magnum opus “Alien Lanes,” which catapulted the band into the spotlight, to their newest album “Please Be Honest,” the setlist would have satisfied even the most scrutinizing fan. Though it was subtle, the audience definitely got a feel for the evolution of Guided by Voices’ style and ethos as they progressed musically.

Despite the sheer volume of material the band churned through, the caliber of their performance throughout their set was seldom diluted. Without compromising the fuzzy lo-fi sound they played such a large role in pioneering, the band remained well-concerted in their delivery. Ultimately, the performance was as fun as it was awe-inspiring. It is hard to put into words the feeling of watching such prolific and talented musicians in their element.

After all was said and done, Guided by Voices’ performance by no means eclipsed that of opener Destroyer. In fact, Guided by Voices is likely one of the few acts which would warrant listing Destroyer as a mere opening act. For almost two decades now, Destroyer’s mastermind Dan Bejar has been crafting ballads which meld and question genre boundaries and constantly surprise and satisfy. Though he performed solo, this did not keep him from giving the audience a colossal performance.

Bejar’s performance was unique with respect to his career with Destroyer. Considering Destroyer’s typically intricate and layered sound with everything from horn sections to shrieking guitar, Bejar’s show at The Jefferson was something new. He previewed unreleased, more minimalist material which showcased both his guitar chops and iconic voice. Even equipped with nothing but a guitar, Dan Bejar reminded the audience why he was in a category all his own. As the crowd dreamily spilled out of The Jefferson as the show came to an end, no one could be heard saying, “Yeah, that Destroyer guy kind of sounded like...”

Charlottesville got a real treat this past Friday with Destroyer and Guided by Voices. Both bands have wholeheartedly earned the merit they command in their scene for being as innovative as they are just plain fun to listen to. Their distinctive spirits mingled spectacularly in an unforgettable show.

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