Last Night: Built to Spill at Slim's

Categories: Last Night

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(Band photo by Chrissy Loader)

Built to Spill
Slim's
Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008
Words and koozie photos by Jennifer Maerz

Better than: Hearing "I Would Hurt a Fly" through your iPod

We are deep within the era of selective listening. For a couple years now bands have toured with album specific shows, promising fans their uninterrupted favorites front to back, alleviating the need to get yourself drunk enough to beg out a request at the top of your lungs, only to be rebuffed by a band following a invisible, predetermined set list.

Built to Spill took at turn at plugging into a bit of history last night, playing the second of two Slim's shows for its 1997 album Perfect From Now On. A couple songs in, though and I already wished I could hit the "shuffle" button to bounce between albums.

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(David and Aaron, fans of Built to Spill and beer koozies)

Fifteen years plus into his music career, Doug Martsch has a tendency to meander on stage. Not verbally, as he is a man of few words (I think the totality of his banter last night was: "Thanks." "Thanks." "Thanks." "What's the guitar player's name again?" "Thanks."), but with his army of guitars. He leads the epitome of the indie rock jam band, giving semi-succinct songs long tails, and for these ears, depleting the energy stored up in those tight sonic bursts. Perfect has plenty of tangents built into the songs as it is, and hearing the whole album last night made me want to fast forward through the B-sides.

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(Close-up of the beer koozies)

The tracks that sounded the best contained the brightest energy in the first place: "I Would Hurt a Fly," "Stop the Show," and "Made Up Dreams" kicked up a little speed in a setlist with songs like "Kick It in the Sun," which didn't even take flight live.

For its part, though, the crowd seemed into it, doing fervent head nods to the beat. Then again, they also got really stoned, which makes such head nods automatic really. The joints were lit the moment Built to Spill launched into "Randy Described Eternity" and it was a foggy night indoors from there on out.

But even the hardcore fans around me admitted that the best material came out once Perfect had run its course. Martsch's energy palpably shifted when he pulled out encore hits like 2006's "Goin' Against Your Mind," a near-9 minute epic that doesn't sacrifice momentum for length like some of the other tracks. The same was true with "Car," the 1994 oldie fans started requesting the minute Perfect's songs came to a close.

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It was songs like these extras that make you remember Built to Spill is capable of sounding fired up, even if Martsch is one of the most stoic looking frontmen in the game (16 years after he started taking the stage with this band, the guy still looks like he'd rather be standing in some recording studio than in front of a sold out room).

Critical bias: Openers Quasi have been together as long as Built to Spill, and yet they never really gelled into a compelling sound. Hearing them play last night, they sounded just as they ever have: like a gentle bar rock band that's neither annoying nor very memorable.

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