Guided by Voices: Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix 6/15/14

Tony Ballz

There isn’t much happening in this whitebread shitkicker state that makes me want to leave my comfortable womb up here in Cowtown. Guided By Voices playing in Phoenix on a Sunday night did the trick.

Bro and I do not own vehicles so we hopped aboard the shuttle on a bright sunny Sunday afternoon, excited at the serious drinkin’ and rockin’ soon to commence. As usual, I zonked out by Munds Park and woke up around Black Canyon City. I managed not to drool on my Bill Hicks t-shirt.

We arrived at the airport and stepped into the oppressive Phoenix heat. I felt a vague urge to hibernate during the day and stay up all night on schwag speed. We took the Sky Train to the Light Rail, which was well-maintained and convenient but only because it was 7pm and our destination was literally one block from the Van Buren station.

Several of my Valley friends have waxed poetic regarding the wonders of Phoenix’s timid foray into public transportation: “I just hopped right on and it dropped me a mile from my house! Isn’t that awesome?”

No, it’s not. The Light Rail might qualify for awesome if this was 1964. For a metropolis in 2014 with 4.3 million residents, it’s pathetic. Other U.S. cities have buses and trains that take you anywhere you want, anytime. Here in good ol’ Arizonee the whole damn system shuts down from midnight til 6am. Why? Because you kids should be home asleep, that’s why. Only lowlifes are awake that late.

As the sun set, we sat on the Crescent Ballroom’s patio and consumed beers and shots and tacos while enjoying the Downtown Phoenix Aging Hipster Parade. I discovered one of Bro’s shameful secrets: he’s a beaner who hates cilantro. May God have mercy on your eternal soul, Bro.

We saw a woman with a GBV tattoo and got excited. Our vague hopes of finding two available ladies (of any age) who were rabid fans of drunk power pop performed by men in their 50s were dashed when we remembered where we were.

For the unenlightened, Guided By Voices is a rock band from Dayton, Ohio that has intermittently existed since 1983. The man behind the curtain is 56-year-old Robert Ellsworth Pollard Jr: former 4th grade English teacher and mild mannered family man by day, beer chuggin’, mike twirlin’, high kickin’, rock and roll golden god by night.

GBV’s reputation rests on their energetic sloppy alcohol-fueled marathon live shows, and the Phoenix gig sure delivered. Toward the beginning of the set, Pollard uncapped an ice cold handle of tequila, took a few gulps, and surrendered the rest to the audience. I had trouble deciding which songs to miss for a bathroom run. I would be mid-pee and hear them start a real good one and curse my weak bladder.

And holy crap, they played Motor Away and Game Of Pricks and Echos Myron and Teenage FBI and Tractor Rape Chain and A Good Flying Bird and Gold Star For Robot Boy and Exit Flagger and A Salty Salute and Wished I Was A Giant and Awful Bliss and 14 Cheerleader Coldfront and The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory and Cut-Out Witch and I Am A Scientist … about 40 tunes in all. Goddamn!

From a high like that there was nowhere to go but down, and down we went. Bro got into an argument with a bartender and they all glared as we inhaled our post-show nachos. We had to catch the earliest shuttle home since Bro worked in the morning, so back to the airport we did go. Of course it was past midnight, no train or bus, so a cab was our only option.

Sky Harbor to Crescent Ballroom via Light Rail = $4 (2 tickets)

Crescent Ballroom to Sky Harbor via taxi = $24 + tip

Fuck you, Phoenix.

Sky Harbor Airport is probably the only public spot in the Valley where two drunken lunatics like us could wander around at 2am without getting arrested. I highly recommend it. We didn’t go sliding down the luggage ramps or anything, we just had the complete run of Terminal Four without one sign of Airport Security. It kind of felt like The Langoliers.

We did manage to smoke a bowl outside in the departures area. I dimly recall yelling “GBV!” through the empty tunnel while eating leftover nachos. Somewhere in here we discovered the Starbucks was open and I got a tasty iced chai. Then we went back outside and smoked another bowl.

It was fun until the booze wore off, then it sucked. We still had hours to kill, so Bro crashed on the floor while I slumped in a chair like a sack of spuds. When 7am rolled around we found that they had overbooked the shuttle, so eleven of us crammed into a vehicle designed for eight.

Sweating and hung over, I was wide awake the whole 3 hour ride up. The Korean tourist to my right kept falling asleep on my shoulder while Bro lost his lunch in a plastic bag directly behind me. After finally disembarking, I rode my bike homeward into some of the worst gale-force winds I’d ever experienced in Flagstaff.

I got home, drank about a half-gallon of water and fell in bed. I said a quick prayer to Jah for Bro and the workday ahead of him. Luckily I was unemployed and had no such responsibilities.

Maybe I should get a car.

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