of the absurd: A Pollanaire Rave at Valentine’s.
Photo by Martin Benjamin.
By John Rodat
A Pollanaire Rave, the Gaven Richard Band,
the Stars of Rock
The dissemination of information these days is nearly instantaneous,
but the transmission of taste as slow as it ever has been—there
are some things technology doesn’t touch. Everyone, for example,
knows what a rock star looks like, what a rock band sounds
like and what the rewards of the rock & roll lifestyle
are. So, if you want to be a rock star, you just follow the
format MTV and E! Online provide. If you look like that, if
you sound like that, who’s to say you won’t see your own mug
plastered up there eventually? It’s rock & roll vo-tech.
Bryant & Stratton is offering pop star as a major these
days; Sally Struthers has an O-Town production company.
OK, that’s not really true, but I had started to feel that
way. I could live with the brain-numbing sameness of commercial
radio, and the fact that the outlet that most regularly exposed
me to decent songs was Volkswagen ads, but when it infiltrated
the clubs . . . Lord, I was depressed seeing well-rehearsed
20-year-olds with picture-perfect rock star moves and no distinct
character at all. And they didn’t suck, which bummed me out
further. They could play, I just couldn’t figure out why they
bothered. Where had all the weird gone? Where had the passionate
and inept, or the inspired and insane, retreated to? Nowhere.
They’re still there, and when the recording industry collapses
(in about 14 months) they’ll regain their foothold in the
decentralized music universe—and I propose we elect Kevin
Barnes their ambassador to the U.N.
Under the name A Pollanaire Rave, Of Montreal’s Barnes and
two able assistants staged a performance-art-meets-sketch-comedy-meets-pop-music
karaoke festival that no one, I say, no one could have expected.
Interspersing absurdist vignettes in which the romantic foibles
of the Greek gods were dramatized as trailer-park spats, or
a grade-school girl explained why she feels retarded—“I tried
to think of unicorns, and it makes me think of rainbows, and
rainbows make me think of love, and when I think of love I
feel retarded”—with punchier bits suitable for Saturday
Night Live (if that show were still funny), like the bit
advertising a quieter version of Stomp called Shhhh,
with breezy ’60s-psychedelic-pop revisionism reminiscent
of Robyn Hitchcock, A Pollanaire Rave just killed.
The sketches were low-budget, to say the least, with thrift-store
props and costuming; the songs were sung to prerecorded tracks
played on a CD Walkman through the house system. Nevertheless,
the whole thing worked both as theater and as rock & roll—and
in no way resembled the shlocky elements of either we’ve been
stunned into accepting as inescapable.
Opening for A Pollaire Rave, Albany’s Stars of Rock provided
a bit of theater and rock & roll as well: The band’s deadpan
banter and gracious humor provided a scaled-down version of
the former, and their loose, informal, unpretentious romp
through playful pop and indie-rock gave an ample dose of the
First up were a trio called, I think, the Gaven Richard Band.
Brent Gorton of the Stars of Rock and Matt Loiacono of the
Kamikaze Hearts provided backup for Richard (also of the Kamikaze
Hearts) for an electric run through songs from his newest
album, Live From Restaurant Island, his earlier
release, the locally prized Live From Lake Plastic,
and a couple of knockout covers culled from the repertoire
of other—now defunct—local bands. Richard’s version of the
Annabel Lee song “Anchors Aweigh” was a stellar, haunting
and slightly twisted love song that reminds me how much I
regret having missed the band when they were still playing.
Don’t doom yourself to such regret by passing up a chance
to catch Richard, whose compositions all could fit those adjectives.