Guided By Stewart

Cold hands touching my face Don’t hide – the snake can see you Old friends you might not remember Fading away from you

These faithful words emanated from a scratchy piece of vinyl, weighted down by a copper penny in its fidelity. Guided by Voices “Bee Thousand” is one of those seminal records, where one can place their exact whereabouts, setting our chronometers to the wistful days of 1994. Summer exactly; living in a dilapidated green house with four other distinguished gentlemen, it was never far from our heavy rotations.

Walking from room to room, from Kris’s wood-paneled fish tank room, to Steve’s journalistic dwelling reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson’s office, “Bee Thousand” and its sycophantic admirers could be found at every party, nestled by the stereo like thousands of children, waiting for the latest radio episode of The Green Hornet.

But it was The Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory that really hit home. If asked, we could have all recited the song verbatim, culminating in the ultimate tribute, Guided By Stewart.

Stewart, a local legend made famous by the sheer audacity of personality that resulted whenever he entered the room, had received the ultimate birthday present, namely being awarded the distinction of lead singer of a Guided by Voices Tribute Band.

The band members worked hard trying to emulate the oscillating time signature on a batch of four or five songs. To be performed at a local party of which no one can actually remember, Stewart took the “stage” (Really a shag-carpeted cleared area in the front room of Stewart’s house, with a gaudy orange Garfield clock staring down on the proceedings.)

And while some would say on the subsequent performances the band were to make in the years that followed, that Hot Freaks was their best song, replete with Bob Pollard “kicks”, I’d place my money on The Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory.

Old friends you might not remember Fading away from you

Surrounded by forty of our closest friends, we’d sway to the song, drunkenly slobbering out the chorus, while wrapping our arms around each other.

It was as if we could look though a portal into another dimension, where we’d already moved on, moved away, and settled down to a world where Guided By Stewart no longer performed. And in the sway of that chorus (the whole song is really one long chorus) we found solace in ourselves at a time when loyalty and love were strange, elevated concepts that we reserved for evenings surrounded by friends and Guided by Stewart.

Ten years later I’m singing along to Guided By Voices playing the song for one last time (on the Guided By Voices Farewell Tour) and wondering how in the hell I grew up so fast.

Engaged and in Graduate School, the song did not fail me, and I felt the rush of emotions that came from the memory of all of us dancing together to the song that brought solace to all of us at a time when we most needed it.

The Guided by Voices farewell show in Portland was a farewell to a period of my life, where music was a constant companion, and I wandered around the country in search of myself. Ten years on and all the wiser, I can’t help but think of Guided by Stewart and how, however awkward it was, represented all of us in our quest for love and personal expression.

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