Show Review: Built To Spill at Slim’s, 7/15/2010

by Christopher Rogers on July 18, 2010

Frontguy and basketball enthusiast Doug Martsch at work.

Had Built To Spill been resting on their laurels?

The two previous albums before the current There Is No Enemy LP displayed what could be construed as the gentle complacency of an aging NBA star on a team going into the rebuilding process: a few gems here-and-there to remind us what they were capable of, but a general sense of the motivation just not being there.

Doug Martsch‘s band had released several albums and tracks widely regarded as classics: the Perfect From Now On LP; songs like “Car,” “You Were Right,” and the gorgeous, haunting “Randy Described Eternity.” He’d spearheaded and mastered his own brand of good-natured wide-striding heavily-layered swirling guitar-heroics-based indie rock. Now what?

What would it look like if Boise’s second-favorite export had something to prove?

San Francisco got the answer when Built To Spill took the stage at Slim’s.

For a man whose usual stage presence could generally be described as “placid,” the Doug of this evening was astonishingly hot-blooded. There was unforeseen ferocity. He gesticulated his guitar neck wildly into the songs’ rhythms. Martsch shook his open mouth all around the microphone as he bleated out the lyrics, the effort spraying sweat off the two shocks of hair on either side of his head.

This was a level of intensity unexpected from Built To Spill.

Accordingly, the already-anthemic songs became even more anthemic, even more urgent.

Could Martsch make over the idly romping track “In The Morning” into a roiling rock-out? S’right, he did.

If you were to guess that this photograph was during an eight minute song, you’d likely be correct. Pictured along with Martsch are Brett Nelson to the left on bass and Scott Plouf to the right on drums.

The extra oomph’s impact on the music was akin to being surprised to find that your kindly uncle just started going to the gym a couple days a week and liftin’ heavy. Songs as comfortable and lived-in as the scent of a favored sleeping bag had an extra layer of muscle and urgency. The effect was exhilarating.

Like an NBA star making a late career push and coming back to their craft hungry, Built To Spill have added the pointed boost of motivation to their existing proven skills. And like sportswriter Drew Magary often says in all-caps; THAT’S GOOD HUSTLE.

The evening’s handwritten setlist.

Built To Spill’s setlist for 7/15/2010:

In The Morning
Three Years Ago Today
Untrustable / Part 2 (About Someone Else)
Virginia Reel Around the Fountain
Wherever You Go
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss
Carry The Zero
Time Trap
Conventional Wisdom

Thanks to Josh Lieberman for his contribution to this story. Thanks to Mckinsey Miller, who introduced me to the music of Built To Spill many years ago.

Christopher Rogers

Christopher Rogers is a journalist / developer / enthusiast from and about the San Francisco Bay Area. His favorite secret about the SF Bay Area is that -- --- --- ---- ---- ---- - -- ------ ----, --- - ---'- ------ ------, -- ------ --- -------.

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