March 04, 2002

Noise Pop Tour Diary, Day 6

It's a shame it had to end this way.

Noise Pop 10 had some amazing moments: the Shaggs-esque rock 'n' roll abandon of kaitO, the Faint's dark and dirty synthcore orgy, John Doe and Neko Case's alt.country.punk revival meeting, and Big Star's extraordinary power-pop party.

And even tonight's festival finale started off well. Visqueen, a female-fronted poppy punk act, treated us to a nice (if not novel) set of, well, poppy punk. Then the East Bay's own Dealership, who sounded remarkably like Rainer Maria at times, played an uneven set of indiepop, pop-punk, and synth-pop, including a high-concept New Romantic-informed synth cover of "Anarchy in the U.K." that I still can't decide if it was clever or annoying.

And Preston School of Industry, current home of Spiral Stairs of Pavement fame, were a joy to behold. At times reminiscent of Love, Ween, and (duh) Pavement, SS and co. powered through a tight set of quirky, poppy rawk with no trace of Malkmusy introspection or angst. Spiral Stairs was clearly having the time of his life, and it inspired band and crowd alike. PSOI's final number, the rave-up sing-along "TOFF," reminded us how freaking fun rock 'n' roll can (and should) be.

But it only took Guided by Voices to take the stage to remind us how tedious and cynical rock 'n' roll can (and should never) be.

GBV singer/songwriter/dictator Bob Pollard is fat, old, and boring — the antithesis of rock. Sure, his band of pale, paunchy, mulleted Midwestern hired guns was supertight, and piss-drunk or not, Pollard nailed every note. But there was an underlying surliness on the part of Pollard, a mean beer drunk's bitterness, that cast a pall over the proceedings. As if somehow we, the fans, the people who paid to see his way-past-its-prime rock band, weren't worthy of it. Something in his completely unspontaneous "jumps" (Bob doesn't get much air these days) and generic between-song patter that told me he'd rather be back in the hotel room drinking (which is very likely the case). The whole thing felt phoned in and phony, and hell yes, I felt cheated. We bounced after 30 or so minutes, but it felt lots longer.

So it's too bad my last memories of Noise Pop 10 couldn't have been Big Star and meeting John Doe. Instead it's going to be of a mean old guy fronting a mediocre rock band that had long since jumped the shark. But such is life. I did see Big Star and I did meet John Doe, and I got glimpses of how good and fun and fresh and joyful rock 'n' roll can be. And all it cost me was $130, $12 in tolls, god knows how many dollars for drinks, and a week of my life. I'd say I got a hell of sweet deal.

Thanks for reading. See you here same time next year.

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