Chronicling the creative process for Pop Zeus, the forthcoming Guided By Voices/Bob Pollard tribute comic- including sketches, concepts, finished art and whatever else is in my brain at the moment.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Townshend Research Pays Off (Robert Pollard/Pearl Jam Pittsburgh Show Review)

(photos and videos courtesy of me)

There aren't enough words in the dictionary to describe how amazing the Robert Pollard/Pearl Jam show was this weekend in Pittsburgh! I had an absolute blast, in spite of the massive amount of travel and loopy logistics it took to get there. Every mile and lost minute of sleep was utterly blown away by the pure joy I felt... and still feel! And it is one concert among many that will be etched in my memory forever. But I am getting ahead of myself!

So I arrived in the motherland, my home know as the New Jersey late Wednesday night (on an unrelated tangent, David Carradine from Kill Bill was on my flight from SF to LA- between him and me, we could brutally kung fu some terrorist, if push came to shove). And I had built-in a day off on Thursday to chill out with my younger brother Dave before the big drive out to Pittsburgh. Now, Dave is the big Pearl Jam fan and I obviously am the Robert Pollard/GBV uber-fan. And his work as a high school history teacher had just wrapped for the summer. Plus, his very pregnant wife was still a ways away from her delivery timeframe, allowing my brother to bug out for a bit. So it seemed like the stars had really aligned to make this plan come together (a la the A-Team).

And the final piece in the puzzle were the tickets I procured from a very generous Settler who goes by the moniker Luke Zing. But there still was the chance that the ticket situation could get fouled up at the box office. For one, I am not Luke Zing... and they were his tickets!

Flash forward to the Mellon Arena- nicknamed "the igloo" due to its role as home for the Penguins and spherical white dome. We wait in the long will-call line and lo and behold, there is zero problem getting the tickets. And they are in the front row- nearly dead center! To top it off, the camera policy was extremely liberal. Not an eye was batted when I brought in my digital camera. I'm normally not the type who likes to take a lot of pictures at events. It really takes me out of the moment and undercuts my enjoyment. But I knew (as one of a few Bob fans present and being in the first fucking row) that it was my sworn duty to document this day!

So there we were, in the ginormous arena, the capacity 15,000 person crowd filing in behind us. Here is a clip of the pre-show stage...

I sat there nervously munching a hot dog as 7:30, the scheduled showtime, quickly approached. I am usually pretty nervous for the performers at any live show. Transference of my own stage fright, I suppose. Also had high hopes for Bob and the Ascended Masters kicking some ass in front of this possibly unfriendly mob. The two shows (Pittsburgh and Cincinnati presented a real opportunity to convert a lot of new fans into the fold.

As I waited, the venerable Rich T, tour maestro and right-hand-man put out the beer cooler and I knew showtime approacheth. Soon the lights dimmed and the fans erupted as Eddie Vedder took the stage! From what I hear, he often primes the crowd with one song before personally introducing the opening act. And this one was sweet- a cover of Hunters and Collectors' "Throw Your Arms Around Me". Here is a clip...

After the song Eddie graciously introduced Bob and the gang as I yelled out "Bob!" and "Rock!". Man, was my heart pounding- so excited to be there. The band seemed very composed, very low key and humbly playing the role of opening act, promising to get Pearl Jam up on stage as quick as possible. But hell, I was ready for some Pollard rawk!

And wow, Pollard and the Ascended Masters were super tight for their whole set. And I can't recall hearing Bob in better voice that he was that night. When I saw the band play here in San Francisco, I was in front of the left side of the stage so I had missed most of Tommy Keene's guitar work and keyboards. But in Pittsburgh, me and Dave were right between Tommy and Bob so I heard all kinds of lovely musical flourishes I didn't recall from the previous show. Perhaps some new things were added? Either way, the band sounded great and it seemed like their secret gig the night before really paid off in dividends. Maybe I should explain real quick.

The night before, Bob and the band played a rehearsal gig at Schubas in Chicago- a tiny club with only a 200 person capacity. And to keep the lid on it and not have a billion people show up, they were billed as Townshend Research! It's not the first time GBV or Bob have played a secret gig under an assumed name. But the superfans on Disarm The Settlers message board quickly figured it out (night before the first arena show, Tommy Keene opening- not too mysterious!). And from where I was sitting, the rehearsal show really fine tuned the performance to a razor sharp edge which was thrilling to behold.

Beforehand, I knew that Bob was going to perform 15 songs, 14 new ones and one classic. And I figured it would be heavy with From A Compound Eye and Normal Happiness stuff. But I didn't expect them to kick it off with Gold, the great opener to FACE which worked equally brilliantly here as a perfect slow lead into the ass-kicking to follow. Here's the video...

It was at this point that Bob bringeth the rock, slaying the crowd with the one-two punch of I Surround You Naked and Blessed In An Open Head. Then we were treated to Get A Faceful off of the forthcoming Normal Happiness. Amusingly, Bob introed the next number as a song he wrote with Carole King in 1963! And here it is...

Love this live version of Dancing Girls And Dancing Men- to my ears it has has even more pop and jump that the album version. After Dancing Girls, Bob kicked into the intensely punchy The Right Thing, another song that works even better live. Slowing things down, the band performed the concert staple Dolphins Of Color off of Circus Devils 1967 Epic Records release "Five" (at least according to Bob!). Next came one of my newest favorites Boxing About, first debuted as an instrumental track on the Bubble soundtrack and soon a fuller song on Normal Happiness. I can't wait for the fall and the release of the new solo album!

Between numbers, Bob was looking for a cigarette and being in the arena setting, there were no fans to help him out (a 10 foot gap was between us and the stage). Out of nowhere, Eddie Vedder zipped out from stage left and gave Bob a lit one! Now that's service!

Cigarette firmly in place, Bob eased into Fresh Threats Salad Shooters And Zip Guns. But then we reached the epic Conqueror of The Moon, an awesome track from FACE which completely destroys live. It starts off kinda slow but before you know it, you are on a monster rock musical journey. And was I ever happy to be along for the ride! Continuing to bring the rock, the band launched into I'm A Widow...

I Feel Gone Again (another sweet Normal Happiness track) gave us another chance to catch our breath. And then boys and girls, my little mind was blown. When Bob called "Pricks!" out I lost my shit completely and screamed like a little girl. I didn't have a clue that the classic song in the set would be Game Of Pricks. Was so expecting Don't Stop Now (the folks on DTS all had me convinced) that hearing Pricks totally floored me. And the cool thing about being up front is that I was jumping up and down, pumping my fist and yelling without a care as to what everyone was doing behind me. So from my narrow vantage point, the crowd (me and my brother) were 100% going nuts. Here is the clip (holding the camera steady while going ape-shit is hard to do!)...

The inevitable anthemic closer, Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft tied things up nicely, offering a sing-along even the uninitiated could join in on. The set went by in a flash, short but sweet. The reception by the Pearl Jam fans was polite but not terribly enthusiastic but that's totally par for the course as an opening act.

My brother had to hit the bathrooms, leaving me to happily bask in the post-performance glow. Upon returning, Dave told me that he heard mutterings from PJ fans who really enjoyed Bob and the Ascended Masters despite having no clue who they were beforehand (a sentiment borne out by recent postings on various Pearl Jam message boards). It was good to hear and I felt a lot of pride in the band that night.

Pearl Jam soon took the stage and performed a typically blistering and emotional set of classics and new material. Having only seen them once before from lawn seats in Camden, NJ, I was very impressed and quite swept away by the power and conviction of their performance. And seeing them up close was a real treat (funny though, being up close for Pollard was great- but in a way it may have been more exciting from the nosebleeds. I've seen him up close a million times in clubs and it was not readily apparent from where I sat that we were in an arena!). I managed to record for posterity my favorite PJ song Corduroy, and here it is!..

Even the newest songs sounded like potential hits. Especially moving was the audience singing the entire first verse and chorus to Better Man, Daughter segueing into With My Own Two Hands, and a wonderful cover of the Stones' Waiting On A Friend. The capper for me was the supremely empowering cover of Rockin' In The Free World, complete with a ton of smashed tambourines tossed to the crowd by Vedder.

Also of note was Eddie's tee-shirt- a Bob tour Love Really Is Stronger Than Witchcraft shirt! And Vedder was so gracious to Bob- not only introducing him as mentioned above, but honoring him with thanks at least 3 other times throughout the set. A real class act and obviously a big fan of GBV and Bob!

It was easily one of the top 5 concert experiences in my life. And it was wonderful to get to share it with Dave before he becomes a dad and disappears for the next 18 years (kidding)! A real rock and roll roadtrip for the ages.

Oh, and before I forget- the second night in Cincinnati at the US Bank Arena marked a special homecoming for Bob and the band with some unreal surprises. The setlist was changed around at Eddie Vedder's request and included the awesome Little Lines and Girls Of Wild Strawberries. And the icing on the cake was that Bob joined Pearl Jam for a cover of Baba O'Reilly! It was at that same arena (then known as the Riverfront Coliseum) that the famous 1979 riot that killed 11 Who fans occurred- and Robert Pollard was there that very night (escaping injury)! So it was only fitting that Bob's triumphant return included an amazing tribute to GBV's biggest inspiration. First time I saw this, I got some major goosebumps- wow! Here is the clip, courtesy of someone on YouTube...

Take care everyone and keep on rockin' in the free world!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bobby O'Reilly (or Phil Gets His Shit Together)

Just a quick post to let you know that I am still working on all my photos and videos for the forthcoming disgustingly gushing Robert Pollard/Pearl Jam show review! I figured that if I took the video I shot and married it to both the official Pearl Jam and unofficial Bob bootleg audio, I would have something really special. So I took advantage of a rare abundance of free time at work today and learned how to use iMovie.

So far I have fixed the Pearl Jam "Corduroy" clip, adding the new audio available for the first time today. And tomorrow I hope to get my hands on some of the Pollard audio for those videos. Plus I will clean up my pics in Photoshop and get those up. I know, I know- I am being a perfectionist. But its what I am, I've learned to accept it... sorta. And on top of it, its fun to learn how to use iMovie. So be patient, more stuff on the way.

As a follow up to an earlier post, the Ebay auction of Pollard's original collage for the cover of Mag Earwhig ended a few days ago while I was away. And not a single bid was placed! Granted, the opening bid was set at 5,000 big ones minimum. But I was still quite surprised that no one ponied up the dough. A piece of original art such as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, far rarer than an original Propeller... or anything else I can think of, for that matter.

Off the record, I am very happy the art is still in Bob's possession with no signs of it being put back up for auction. In my ever humble opinion, these pieces belong either on Bob's walls or in a museum, period. As a symbol of his music, these one of a kind amazing art works are priceless and irreplaceable. And in the future, we all may regret any of them falling into public hands even if said person were a superfan. In fact if I were a wealthier man, I would have bought the collage myself and just given it back to Bob, no joke.

So there you have it. I'm off to start writing my show review so I will talk to you all soon!

(photos from the Cincinnati show courtesy of

Monday, June 26, 2006

Robert Pollard Live In Pittsburgh Videos

Hello everybody! I am back in San Francisco after an exciting whirlwind weekend. Feels good to return not only to my adopted home, but to the written word here on the blog. Speaking on an answering machine (or on the phone in general) has never been my forte, as you can now guess! I was also profoundly tired most of the weekend- all the driving coupled with jet lag made it a real marathon.

Had a million emails to catch up with this morning but I did manage to upload all of the aforementioned videos on my camera to YouTube. And I have some pretty great photos to share which I will tweak in Photoshop shortly.

A full review of the Pearl Jam/Robert Pollard show in Pittsbugh with videos and photos will be forthcoming. But in the meantime, I want to post some of these videos to give you all a taste of what I saw, as promised. The sound is quite awful and not synched up exactly (an unfortunate function of YouTube)- hopefully I will get some better audio to put with my video sometime soon (the PJ clips will soon have pro audio thanks to their downloadable bootlegs). But the clips are still pretty neat...

Along with the Bob show review, other diversions during my vacation are worthy blog fodder. Upon returning to New Jersey on Saturday evening, me and my brother Dave went to see the Fab Faux at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank. The Fab Faux are a unparalleled Beatles cover band comprised of many talented musicians. And the show was great. Plus I finished Chuck Klosterman's third book Killing Yourself To Live on the flight to JFK. So more posts are a brewin'. Until then!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Morning After Audio Post (or Uh, Um, Awesome)

this is an audio post - click to play

Friday, June 23, 2006

After The Robert Pollard Set Audio Post

this is an audio post - click to play

Front Row At The Mellon Arena Audio Post

this is an audio post - click to play

First Audio Post From Pittsburgh

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rock And/Or Roll Roadtrip

Hey kids! Transmitting from my brother's house somewhere in the weird state of New Jersey. Need to hit the hay soon cause tomorrow is the big day of the Pearl Jam/Robert Pollard show- very excited! We are heading out to Pittsburgh at the crack of dawn in Dave's Saturn- not exactly On The Road but it's still gonna be big fun. Check back tomorrow for more surprises and posts as I continue my quest for the rawk.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bee Thousand 33 1/3rd Book Excerpt

I am just about ready for my big trip home tomorrow. The Pearl Jam/Robert Pollard show in Pittsburgh is gonna be so cool! I will do my best to take pics and video for you all- reminds me that I should check the arena's camera policy (not that it will stop me, heh). So no updates on the blog for a little while as I travel- might be able to get some stuff up from my brother's computer back in Jersey. I will keep you posted...

It was revealed on Disarm The Settlers yesterday that the 33 1/3rd book series on Guided By Voices' classic album Disarm The Settlers yesterday that the Bee Thousand is nearing completion and will be published in September/October!

If you haven't checked out books from this series and you love the rock music, you are really missing out. The series covers a single classic album per book from pretty much any rock era or genre. And the writing is super in depth and scholarly, breaking down each track into the tiniest minutiae- a rock geek's dream come true! So far I have read only the R.E.M.'s Murmur book (pretty good) and the Elvis Costello's Armed Forces book (most excellent) but there are a ton of great albums to explore in book form through this series.

And the Bee Thousand book should prove to be no exception. Here is a fascinating bit about the album's title from the book...
But however many instances of inspiration by or homage to the larger musical culture that precedes it Bee Thousand contains, there is a more local series of memories — what we could call personal memories — which attach to these two unexpectedly twinned words that become the title of Guided By Voices “breakthrough” record. There’s the memory of Jim Pollard, the brother of the “band’s” main songwriter, noticing a mile-marker on the side of an Ohio road that reads, or looks like it might read, “Z1000.” There’s the memory of Robert Pollard noticing a movie marquee advertising the 1992 St. Bernard dog-based Hollywood comedy Beethoven, a letter “u” pressed into service instead of the required letter ‘v’ so that the film name mutates from Beethoven to Beethouen. And there’s the more slippery memory of a Dayton, Ohio nightspot once called The Thousand and One (though it had a different name — Walnut Hills — by the time the Pollards had a regular table there at the dawn of Guided By Voices’ celebrity) where the guys spent evenings talking and drinking with writer Jim Greer (who would go on to author Hunting Accidents: A Brief History of Guided By Voices). The former 1001 club, a place that makes the myth of a musical “scene” in Dayton possible — a myth that gained currency, in part, because of the power of the record called Bee Thousand — is a place kept alive, however unconsciously, in that title.

Great stuff! If you want to read more from the Bee Thousand book, go check out the 33 1/3rd blog. Lots of links and info on the series too, including announcements for rock albums covered in upcoming books. And as soon as I get my mits on the book, I will definitely review it for the blog.

(images courtesy of

Monday, June 19, 2006

Old Battery Karaoke Video

If you've scoped out the Guided By Voices videos on YouTube, you know I had to post this one sooner or later! Despite of the hipster hairdo and ironic tee-shirt (what, no Von Dutch trucker hat?), this dude is fairly rocking out on the obscure but awesome GBV tune Old Battery from 1987's Devil Between My Toes. Too groggy to post anything else today but I'll have more goodness for ya before my flight to New Jersey on Wednesday. 'Til then!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The History Book Has Lost Its Binding

Just wanted to quickly let you all know that I am having a much better Saturday than the last few. No headache, plenty of energy, went to kung fu class- it was a good day. Not sure what the difference was between today and any other Saturday.

I did have a thought though- I managed to avoid an allergy attack today. My allergies have really been going haywire the last couple weeks. Funny thing is that I don't really have allergy problems normally. But I do live right next to a giant unmowed field here in the Presidio (living in the woods doesn't help matters). And it was a really wet spring in the Bay Area and since then it's been sunny and dry. I also noticed my reaction was especially bad when I was walking my dog or in the car. So I've been avoid trudging through the fields around my building. And I took my car to the car wash and wiped out and vacuumed the interior- it was coated in pollen which was blowing in my face when I put on the vent.

Anyway, after class I went to my favorite cafe and got some serious editing work done on The Secret Origin of Guided By Voices section of Pop Zeus. Have collected a bunch of great new quotes in the last few weeks and the chapter is really shaping up nicely.

The plan is still for a history of the band told only in their own words- much like the Beatles Anthology book. I also decided to not use previous GBV bio pieces Watch Me Jumpstart or Hunting Accidents as reference- I really want my history to stand apart.

It not only will the text be unique but it will also only feature the period before they hit the big time in 1994, from Bob's childhood to the 1993 New Music Seminar. I want to focus on the redemptive arc of the story- the rise, fall then rebirth of Guided By Voices.

And lastly, the chosen quotes will tell the more visually interesting tales. So I have been whittling down the voluminous material (25 pages and climbing!) to lose the dates and facts stuff (which anyone can find out on their own) and concentrate on the funny or interesting stories as told by Bob and the gang- the ones that conjure images as I read them. And boy, there is some hilarious (and mostly forgotten) stuff that I can't wait to draw!

Sorry if I am retreading with all this. I've talked about this section before. But as the writing nears completion, it's turning out really great and I'm getting really excited about it!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, my friends. Have some more stuff to add to the band history, so off I go...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Black Sabbath - War Pigs Live Video

It's Friday- let's rock! Here's a concert clip of Birmingham's own Black Sabbath in their younger years, slaying the crowd with War Pigs. Credited with kickstarting the entire heavy metal genre, Sabbath's musical power continues to influence and amaze. And I can't think of a more appropriate song for the dark age we live in today.

Speaking of influences, Sabbath's 1970 album Paranoid (home of War Pigs) is on the list of road cassettes Robert Pollard compiled for Guided By Voices' tour. Although not one of the oft mentioned 4 "P's" of GBV (Pop, Prog, Punk and Psychedelic), there is more than a little metal in the music, in my humble opinion. Oh, and it's been announced that War Pigs will be a part of Guitar Hero 2! Looking forward to rocking out on this riff heavy classic my-own-self.

Enjoy your weekend good peoples around the world! It will be my last before heading out to the Pearl Jam/Pollard show in Pittsburgh so I plan to make the most of it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pop Zeus MVPs Revealed! #4- Doug Gillard

Some may think I am crazy having two axe-men in my dream Guided By Voices lineup. But when you got yr Tobin Sprout and yr Doug Gillard, why choose when you can have both! And like Tobey, Doug is not only a brilliant lead guitarist but he is also a staggeringly talented songwriter, collaborator and producer.

There aren't enough hours in the day to explain how much Doug Gillard's inclusion in the GBV jambalaya contributed to the band. Doug made his GBV debut on slowed-down guitar for 1995's Mice Feel Nice (a tape he sent Bob, if I remember right), but he didn't officially join the band until 1997 as a member of the stripped down, revamped "Guided By Cobra Verde". And right out of the box, Doug brought along the Gem (previous band with Tim and Todd Tobias) tune I Am A Tree that the band reworked and recorded as an instant classic for 1997's Mag Earwhig. The song is breathtaking- 3 unreal face-melting guitar hooks in the same songs, more than some bands have in their entire output. And that was just the beginning of a stellar run as lead guitarist for GBV, from 1997 to the very last show on New Year's Eve 2004.

And along the way, Doug collaborated with Bob on several amazing side projects. The first was the pop rock classic Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department, home of the song Pop Zeus (not to be confused with some funny book of the same name). Bob wrote the songs, Doug played everything and produced it. The album was so good, Bob has gone on record saying he regrets not releasing it as a proper GBV record. And the second collaboration was 2003's Lifeguards record "Mist King Urth"- equally great but quite a lot stranger. It contains the kick ass prog rock stylings of Starts At The River, Society Dome and Surgeon Is Complete to name a few.

And since the demise of Guided By Voices, Doug has cranked out a fucking awesome solo record called Salamander. Doug's power as a musician and songwriter seems to know no bounds. And Salamander is the proof. Go check out Doug's website for more info on his post and pre GBV musical life including his recent tour supporting Richard Buckner.

I am proud to include Doug Gillard into the Pop Zeus MVP pantheon. It is difficult to think of anyone more worthy. Rock on, Doug!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Original Robert Pollard "Mag Earwhig" Art On Ebay!

Apart from being the genius singer-songwriter behind Guided By Voices, Robert Pollard has also created most of the bands brilliant album cover collages. And not too long ago, Bob decided to put some of the pieces up for sale- an unprecedented move in the history of rock, dubbed "The Dazzling Year End Soul Sale". And the venerable Rich T has finally put the first piece up for grabs on eBay and it's a doozy!

The piece is called The Astral City Slickers but it is better known as the cover to 1997's awesome Mag Earwhig! The collage is a mere 5 1/8" X 5 1/8". But it is one of Bob's favorites and one of mine too (featured in my GBV mega-collage for Pop Zeus). It was displayed in the Rock And/Or Roll Hall Of Fame for a time and would look lovely on the Phil Szostak Wall Of Fame, heh.

Anyway, the auction is open to all right here. Five big ones is the opening bid (gentlemen, start your aholinrakes). I may be too broke for this amazing art but perhaps some lucky and spendy fan will get their claws on this!

(Mag Earwhig cover courtesy of

I Am A Scientist Video

I was gonna post something different today, but my laptop went haywire last night and the post is stuck in a Word document at home. If I can get the computer up and running again, I will upload that post later tonight.

Barring that, here is another Guided By Voices video to enjoy! Some generous soul has posted more GBV music videos on and I Am A Scientist is one of the best of the bunch.

The song is a stone cold classic without a doubt. And this video version has a different audio mix than any album version, with a cool guitar that kicks in over the chorus. I Am A Scientist was my first long-running favorite GBV song (can't really say which one is my favorite now- Subspace Biographies?). Still love the lyrical conceit of being a scientist on yourself, a journalist to tell someone and a pharmacist to get wrecked!

I Am A Scientist was also the very first GBV video I saw, most likely on 120 Minutes back in 1995. Cool things to look for in the video include: young Bob playing guitar (rare indeed) and kicking at the same time, various GBV locations around Dayton, appearances by Tobe, Mitch, Greg, Kevin, the only video appearance of Jim, Bob's younger brother, and everyone shooting some hoops. Sweet...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This Is What We're Tired Of

Still thrashing through the design phase of Pop Zeus. Unfortunately drawing usually requires a lot more energy for me than writing. And that really doesn't make a whole lot of sense when I think about it. My problem is that I have a lot higher expectations and am much more judgmental in the art process than in the writing process. I tend to get discouraged rather easily when the drawings aren't coming out right. It's obviously something I am aware of, which is a good first step. So I am trying to take the pressure off so that the design phase moves forward as smoothly as the writing phase.

Speaking of pressure, adding tremendously to the problem and delay of late has been my ever present work burn-out. 3 years of relentless hard labor at the animation studio with few and insubstantial breaks have left me a shell of my former self. And the last few weeks have been especially brutal. I needed the entirety of Saturday the last two weekends to recover from the week. And by recovering, I mean spending most of the day in bed, groggy and out of it (caught up on my Battlestar Galactica, I suppose). It's totally cut into my kung fu training, which is very frustrating. Also, I woke up with splitting headaches both days- very unusual for me.

The thought that I've been suffering through some sort of depression did occur to me. I realized that I'm really not much busier than usual- why would I be so tired. Plus I am creeping up on a long-dreaded anniversary which I mentioned in the blog a ways back.

But this past Sunday, I woke up and felt better, a lot better. And I went to kung fu and felt really good in spite of a tough class. And then I went and hung out with my friend Alvin in Berkeley (home of the anniversary-dreaded girl) and it was alright (unlike last time when I was gripped with fear just being there- ug).

So I've pretty much concluded that I'm just tired. The greatest gift anyone could give me would be a long, relaxing vacation. God willing, that will happen some day. Until then, I will keep doing what I can to get some kind of balance in my life. But between the continuous pressures of work, feeling like I'm being replaced at work, job searching, dating (sort of), bad financial pressures, working on Pop Zeus, working toward my black belt, and updating this blog, it's a constant struggle.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

R.E.M.- Wolves Lower Video

As promised in an earlier post, let's trip in the way back machine to the video for Wolves Lower, R.E.M.'s very first video off of 1982's Chronic Town EP. Early R.E.M. had a massive influence on an entire generation of musicians and artists, myself included. I jumped on board pretty late in the game, around the Green/Out Of Time era. But I proceeded to devour every bit of the bands music and remain a superfan to this day.

R.E.M. was also a huge influence on Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices. This was most apparent on 1986's Forever Since Breakfast EP and 1987's Devil Between My Toes but still in evidence up to the newest releases. I just realized that GBV started with an EP just like R.E.M.'s Chronic Town! And speaking of Chronic Town, it was listed in a 2004 Spin magazine article on the records that changed Robert Pollard's life. Here is the quote...

"The thing that turns me on is when I've never really heard it before. Michael Stipe's voice was so different. It reminded me of Peter Gabriel's, and I was intrigued by this whole 'mystery of the South' and all that shit. There have been a few bands where I've totally absorbed myself into their world, and R.E.M. was one of them. I see Peter Buck occasionally, and I'm always blowing smoke up his ass about how much they meant to me."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Breadcrumbs For The Whale

Another shout-out to a generous member of the Disarm The Settlers message board family. Whale, as he is known, went way above and beyond the call of duty. He sent along a boatload of live CD bootlegs in exchange for the 30 Songs rarities compilation I sent him a while back. 9 live shows in total, many with multiple discs! The package included several shows from the Electrifying Conclusion tour in 2004, a few shows from the Do The Collapse/Isolation Drills era and one from Boulder, Colorado way back in 1995. Sweet! Thanks a ton Whale, I owe you one.

Also wanted to thank the mighty Rich T, Bob Pollard manager/webmaster supreme and king of Rockathon Records. He gave a few lucky fans the opportunity to order one of the dapper U.S. Mustard Company work shirts normally only available on the current tour. Mine showed up in the mail the other day and it is super cool. It's a standard navy blue work shirt and on the back it reads in big yellow lettering "U.S. Mustard Company: Dayton, Ohio". The name patch on front reads "Contain Yourself", a clever touch. Check out the picture above of Bob sporting the shirt on the spring tour. And look for this shirt on sale on the Pearl Jam tour dates as well as the not-quite-yet-official fall tour. It should also be available before too long at your home for Robert Pollard goodness, Rockathon Records. As always, you rock Rich!

(photo courtesy of and Chris Castaneda)

My GBV Mixes #4- "Mix For Dave (aka Newbie Mix)"

(top photo courtesy of

Hey kids! Sorry for the lack of posts again. Blogger has been acting up all week, either down or not working properly. Plus things generally have been weird. I normally do 90% of my blogging at work, reserving my precious free time at home to important things like napping, eating cereal, walking my dog in the woods, watching Battlestar Gallactica (great show, btw) or perhaps working on Pop Zeus maybe. But starting Monday, our new Production Assistant started. She is either my assistant or replacement depending on how you look at it. And I've been followed and scrutinized by said person every day since. It is not only kinda unnerving but I can't goof off and blog or surf the internet like I usually do. Luckily today I had the morning off from reviewing dailies in the edit suite so I was at my desk and free to do as I please. Porn and email!

As you know from my earlier post, me and my bro Dave are heading out to Pittsburgh in a few short weeks to see Bob Pollard and the Ascended Masters open up for Pearl Jam! And we decided to trade mixes so I could get more familiar with PJ (only sort of know their singles, that's it) and Dave could get more familiar with Bob. I've made quite a few Guided By Voices/Bob Pollard mixes over the years for people who were completely new to the music. And each time, I tried to tailor the mix to the individuals involved with varying success.

Knowing Dave as well as I do, I figured a mix of the more mellow and melodic pop music side of Bob would be the way to go. Didn't want to overload the mix with too many songs either- nothing kills a potential fan conversion worse that too much crap to sift through. Avoided the super lo-fi stuff too, a great potential turn off. Also wanted to include From A Compound Eye stuff that may not be as catchy, but would likely be played. It always sucks to go see a band and not know any of the songs, especially in this case where Bob will be limited to 15 songs only.

I am often frustrated and puzzled beyond belief that Bob isn't a billionaire, critically worshiped, platinum selling rock god (he is in my mind!). So, converting as many GBV fans as possible is one of my life's ambitions. And the good news is that Dave really digs the mix! Spoke to him yesterday and he mentioned liking Lonely Town most of all. But he really enjoyed all of the first 8 songs (except track 1, heh). He could especially hear the R.E.M. influence in Bob's stuff (check back soon for a related video post).

Enough jibber jabber! Here it is...

Denied (likely to be the song they kick off the set with in Pittsburgh, so Denied seemed a logical lead off. I warned Dave that the first song was pretty loud and weird and to keep listening and thankfully he did. Part of me likes putting a weird one in the pole position anyway!)
Gonna Never Have to Die (a song that kicks ass and is melodic, with a super catchy hook- a no brainer for track two. Also the first of many from Half Smiles Of The Decomposed on the mix)
Lonely Town (in spite of its low fidelity, Lonely Town is so simple and lovely with a great guitar hook. Another no brainer)
Dancing Girls And Dancing Men (as a part of front loading this mix with goodness, I had to put Dancing Girls in there. Its so bouncy and fun, and surprisingly deep after a few listens)
Window of My World (now way was I missing this one! In fact, it has the "best song on the mix" position and was slated as such)
Death of the Party (this track off of the Keene Brothers record is so incredible and sad that it begged inclusion)
Fresh Threats, Salad Shooters And Zip Guns (not a favorite, but it might be played and I needed an acoustic slow number in this slot)
Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft (another showcase song for the mix that will definitely be on the set list. Dave said he liked this one too)
Choking Tara (I chose to include the Bug House acoustic radio performance of Choking Tara on the mix. It is a great performance and high fidelity, so I knew he would dig it.)
Supersonic Love Funky Love Gun (weird and wonderful- put in for shits and giggles)
Girls of Wild Strawberries (seemed like a natural follow up to the quiet SLFLG- a blast of melodic power pop)
U.S. Mustard Company
I'm A Widow (aka I'm A Weirdo- straight out rocker that should make the setlist)
Breadcrumbs For The Whales (put this rare and weird track in there to break things up a bit and cause it reminds me of Peter Gabriel, whom Dave and I are both fans of)
Conqueror Of The Moon (Another new one that Bob should play at the show. Its a tough one to "get", but once you do, you are a fan for life)
Fairly Blacking Out (kick ass Takeovers rocker slotted in to break up the Compound Eye stuff)
I Surround You Naked (First of 3 Compound Eye songs in a row- none of which I'm a huge fan of, but all of which might be played)
I'm A Strong Lion
Hammer In Your Eyes
Sea Of Dead (my current favorite track on Fiction Man and a great slow song before the "electrifying conclusion" of the mix)
Be It Not For The Serpentine Rain Dodger (this song melts my head, it's so good. Need some awesome rockin' shit at the end and this was perfect)
A Crick Uphill (a little bit country, a little bit rock and/or roll and a nice upbeat and offbeat conclusion to the mix)

More posts coming soon!..

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pittsburgh Or Bust!

June salutes you! Sorry for the absence, my crappy laptop at home randomly decided to stop connecting to the internet until late last night. Gotta love computers...

Alas, it is confirmed! On June 23rd, I will be seeing Robert Pollard and the Ascended Masters open for the all-powerful Pearl Jam at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh! Arena rock in an actual arena! The everlasting big kick on the big stage! Woo-hoo!

Thanks to the most awesome fellow fan ever, Luke Zing on Disarm The Settlers, I have 2 tickets to the show. And the seats should be right up front, which is the only way to see an arena concert if you ask me. If I wanted to watch TV, I could just stay home if you know what I'm saying.

So I am flying back to the Motherland (New Jersey) a couple days before. Then me and my younger brother Dave are road tripping out in his car to the Mellon Arena for the show (hear that it is a craptastic 70's hockey arena- ah well). Should be big fun!

Dave and his wife Jenn are expecting the first baby Szostak of our generation a mere month from the show (He's The Uncle, meaning me. If I ever have a kid, my bro will be Uncle Dave, heh). Hopefully, he wont have to race back home before the concert starts- you never know when the kid will decide that enough is enough. The cool thing is that I will be a part of his last hoorah, the last dig at freedom before 18 plus years of servitude to the bald and chubby one (that sounds icky).

And it's perfect. Dave is an old school Pearl Jam fan. And I, of course, am an even older school Bob/GBV fan. He is done with school just before the show (high school teacher). I need a summer break from my job (missing 3 days... it's something). And if it were even a weekend later, it would've been too close to the baby's due date. So the whole thing seems fated to be!

Rumor has it from DTS that Bob and the boys will be playing 15 songs- 14 new and 1 old GBV tune, prolly Don't Stop Now. Some brand new stuff from Normal Happiness should be in the mix as well. Sweet! A show report will definitely follow at this very spot- same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. Should I try to sneak in my camera, maybe take some video? Hmmm...

(Bob photo courtesy of Tim Bugbee and

Friday, June 02, 2006

Cut-Out Witch Live Video

Let's cleanse the video palate with yet another cool live GBV clip. This one's a spirited performance of Cut-Out Witch from 2001's Isolation Drills Tour. Not a huge fan of hearing the song live- seems to always bring out the pushing and shoving in the crowd. And it's a track off of Under The Bushes, Under The Stars that hasn't aged well for me. Maybe I've just heard it too many times. The video is fun though- its taken from somewhere off stage, a unique viewpoint. Amusing to see Nate and Tim bonk heads as they exit toward the end of the clip too!

Have a great weekend everyone! Should be getting some design work done in between kung fu class and Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Castro theater on Saturday. Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip!