Kelp Chofs Takes GbV on The Road Less Traveled
By Kelp Chofs
Sweat. Grime. Arms. Legs. Face. Had the air-conditioning even been working in John’s ’80’s-something Toyota it may not have done much good on that sweltering day in the Summer of ‘97. John and I were bandmates (and still are) driving out of St. Louis toward a show in Iowa City.
Were we on tour? Well, technically not. We had left our hometown of Milwaukee the day before to catch a show in St. Louis. Another band’s show. A Guided By Voices show. My first. The plan was to catch GbV (as the hip refer to them) then motor away toward Iowa City to dish out our own brand of rock and roll. The rest of our band would catch up with us there.
For me, the soundtrack for that weekend was GbV’s Mag Earwhig! It was the latest addition to their already stunning catalog. That made it a top-pick among their other releases and bootlegs littering the car floor among the remnants of our fast-food sins.
After settling into a particularly, um, quaint St. Louis Motel 6, we headed over to the club early for lack of anything better to do. Arriving early did serve a purpose — we had to buy tickets. Well, I did. John had gotten his online before we left. Yup, I was the last-minute addition to his plan.
We walked back to the club to find the box office still closed. But John did spot Pete Jameson. Pete was GbV’s right-hand man. Surely if we struck up a conversation with him, explaining how we’d driven 400 miles to the show, he’d make sure I got a ticket. As it turned out, the show was nowhere near sold-out. But as we were to find out, that was a good thing.
St. Louis’ The Galaxy club was much smaller than I imagined it. But that was also to be a good thing. After tolerating the unusually pedestrian opening act, GbV began to set up. Who were they? Who played what? Is that Pete Jameson putting an ice-filled cooler of Rolling Rocks on the drum riser?
The show started, guitars and cigarettes blazing. Never before had I been treated to such an intimate and powerful rock ‘n’ roll show. This was it. This was the real thing. The intensity. Right in front of me. I could touch it. I could barely contain myself. Wicked voodoo indeed. “Two Rolling Rocks, please.” “Two Rolling Rocks, please.” “Two Rolling Rocks, please…”
John and I made several jokes on the trip down about his training me for this show – making sure I was familiar with most of the songs GbV might be performing. And a fine job he did. The revolving door of musicians that is GbV recorded many great songs known for their unbelievably intuitive melodies but lo-fi sound quality and uneven performances. Sonically raising the bar for GbV as a band, I was seeing the crack group of guys that recorded and performed Mag Earwhig!
To this day I still keep the memory of that show close to me. Other shows are secretly compared to it, as are the performances of my own band. But that’s a good thing. I remain inspired…