[ATTENDED: October 2, 2015] Built to Spill
As I mentioned, I was supposed to see Built to Spill back in 2001 (11 days after 9/11). I didn’t feel like going into the city or listening to live music so I didn’t go. I recently learned that they did play that night. And I’ve seen their set list. And I think I’m probably happy I didn’t go. I preferred going to this show with only the preconceived notion that my friend Jay has seen them about a dozen times (and met Doug Martsch) after a show) since I introduced him to them just a couple of years ago. So I was pretty psyched.
But I was not as psyched as the two guys who run up next to me (I could touch the stage) just giddy with excitement that “the legend” was going to be just five feet away from them. It sounded like they might have had a present for him (but who knows what that meant). They talked about the set list they were sure he would play. And they nearly melted when he came out on stage. I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite that much adoration at a show. It seemed almost teeny bopperish to me, which I find especially amusing since Martsch is an old balding guy with a big beard who barely looks like he ever smiles.
But then there he was, indeed just a few feet from me. And that was pretty awesome.
And then I noticed that the singer/guitarist from Helvetia was now on bass and that the other guitarist (sans hat) was on guitar next to Doug. The only new face was Brett Netson (and his beat up noisy amp) who was kind of in front of me.
I had been listening to BtS records a lot recently and I knew I had my few dozen songs that I hoped they’d play. And they opened up with–totally surprising to me–a song I had been just jamming to: “Goin Againist Your Mind” (the two guys next to me freaked out!), the nine minute opener from the album You in Reverse.
It starts with lot of guitar and it was amazing to watch Martsch playing. But I was also surprised to realize that he wasn’t the only one soloing. Netson did some solos and Rice did some solos too. I noticed that Netson’s guitar seemed louder than Martsch (it was more feedbacky too). And that was a little disappointing. But the disaster came when Martsch started singing. I genuinely couldn’t hear him. That’s when I realized the scary fact that if you stand at the stage at Union Transfer (where you can get amazing photographs) you can’t hear the music that’s coming from the giant speakers up in the air. “Mind” has a quieter middle section where Martsch sang and I could still hear him, but as soon as the song picked up again, his voice was gone. So I waited till the end of the song and moved about fifteen feet back and all was well. I wish I was bit more in the middle (as Netson’s guitar was louder than Roth’s from where I was) but it was still outstanding (and I could see more than just Doug as well).
And then I was thrilled by the rest of the set list. They went all the way back to There’s Nothing Wrong with Love for my favorite song on that album “Distopian Dream Girl” (with the hilarious David Bowie lyric). Then they moved to the newest album and played…track 9? The song “So” has a great section about midway through where it changes from a mid tempo rocker to a wild rocking out song. And it was amazing live.
And then they surprised me more by going back to their debut album and playing “Three Years Ago Today” (which has a great noisy riff). This is the first song where I noticed that Martsch was doing the main riff while Roth or Netson were doing the more soloish riffs. They went back to You in Reverse for the mellow “The Wait.” And then they totally made my night by playing “You Were Right” easily one of my favorite BtS songs, and one that I never imagined they’d play. It was a lot of fun to sing along to that one.
Then yet another so from You in Reverse, with the amazing “Mess with Time” which has a great middle easternish riff to open, has massive staccato rhythms and then morphs into a super fast rocker by the end.
They returned to the new album (ostensibly the reason they were touring, but realizing that they didn’t need to sell anyone on the album) with the incredibly poppy “Never Be the Same” (which could totally be a hit).
And then out of left field, Martsch starting playing a chord that sounded like The Smiths. When Roth didn’t play the high note, Martsch smiled and they re-started “How Soon is Now?” over again. I have always loved this song, and their take on it was great–faithful and yet explicitly BtS at the same time, with all three guitarist playing the Jonny Marr parts. Perhaps the most shocking moment for me came at the end where the guy behind me said to his friend, No, that was a song by the Smiths. What? Who did not know that?
“Center of the Universe,” another song from Keep It like a Secret (the first BtS album I ever bought) was a real surprise. And then they played the fast rocker “Pat” (the first song of the night from There is No Enemy). The guys up front immediately started slam dancing to this fast heavy song (which was louder and faster than on record). We all stepped back a bit to let them get that out of their system, and since the song is only two and a half minutes, it was short lived. Then they played my favorite song from Perfect from Now On, “I Would Hurt a Fly.” It was amazing.
They returned to There is No Enemy with the long and mellow “Done.” I love the album version of this because of the long echoing guitar solo. In the live setting they stretched it out for a long time with Doug playing the main guitar part (the repeating picked notes) while Roth did the echoing riff (the part I really like) while Netson did the full solo. I loved realizing that it took three people to play what Doug had put on record.
When they came back for the encore, they played my favorite song from Untethered Moon “Living Zoo” even doing the tiger roar at the end. And then, as Jay had prepped me, they played an amazing version of “Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else).” It went on for about ten minutes and was mesmerizing.
Jay said to me that the only bad thing about Built to Spill shows is that with the encore they only play for about 90 minutes. Which was true (it seemed especially short after the incredibly long sets from Modest Mouse and My Morning Jacket I saw this summer). But I was pretty wiped and knew I had a long drive ahead of me, so the 90 minutes was fulling satisfying.
And yes I would absolutely see them again, especially since I see how much they mix up their shows–it could be an entirely different set next time.
It was fourteen years in the making to see Built to Spill, but it totally worth The Wait:
Yeah, you wait
You wait, you wait
And she says patience, darling
Patience, patience, it will come