September 28, 2008

That Was The Show That Was: Built To Spill, Dinosaur Jr, Meat Puppets

Built To Spill, Sept. 27, 2008, Boston
We last saw veteran indie rockers Built To Spill so very long ago that we couldn't recall the year and our review of it no longer exists. A search of the Googles reveals that the show was Sept. 18, 2001. Which seems like an odd night to see a show, as it was but a week after Sept. 11. Weren't we all hunkered down in bomb shelters back then? We guess not. We recall the show as being along the lines of the press we've seen for the current tour: nice, but somewhat uninspired. Some lame fan called out for "Free Bird" toward the end of the set that night, and Built To Spill obliged, which was slightly bad-ass. But the emotional high point of the show was the all-too-brief encore, when fronter Doug Martsch returned to the stage alone with an electric guitar and delivered a haunting solo rendition of The Smiths' "This Night Has Opened My Eyes." Another search of the Interwebs reveals this was a favorite of Mr. Martsch's around that time, because he was playing it a lot; here's a video of him playing an acoustic version.

Built To Spill was selected to perform its (in our opinion, relatively bloated) third record Perfect From Now On at last week's All Tomorrow's Parties festival in New York, and Martsch and band tacked on a strand of additional performances, of which last night's show at Boston's Orpheum was one. We've expressed numerous times that we prefer Built To Spill's earlier indie pop material, specifically the band's sophomore set There's Nothing Wrong With Love. That record is love-struck, wide-eyed and optimistic, while Perfect From Now On is heartbroken, darker and bummed-out. Despite its slower pace, its fewer emotional punches are potent, occasionally devastating, and are punctuated by some of Mr. Martsch's best lyrical hooks. We get goosebumps each time we hear the lines "I'm gonna be perfect from now on / I'm gonna be perfect starting now" (from "Randy Described Eternity") and "there's a mean bone in my body / it's connected to the problems that I won't take for an answer" or "let you go to sleep / feeling bad as me" (from "I Would Hurt A Fly"). Still, that Perfect From Now On has steadily developed a cult following, as evidenced by the skinny, t-shirted and flailingly enrapt in attendance last night, is curious to us. Even so, it is our second favorite of the band's records, and we are certainly happy that Martsch -- he formerly of the underrated act Treepeople -- continues to cultivate a young, fervent fan base.

Which brings us to last night. Contrary to the press mentioned supra, we thought the show was fairly gripping -- at least when Martsch was at the microphone. He sings like an agitated Muppet and sweats like an out-of-shape jogger. When delivering lyrics, he fully extends his torso upward and his head tilts off the top of his neck to the right and left as he sings. However, Built To Spill as a band, or at least in this configuration (a sextet anchored by exceptional drummer Scott Plouf, formerly of The Spinanes) exhibits zero stage rapport. The group -- save for Martsch -- largely looked to Plouf for cues, and generally comported itself as if it were a group of session players unfamiliar to one another. For his part, Martsch offered no stage banter and was content to quietly tune his guitar between tunes. That said, there was certainly passion in last night's performance, particularly in the two encores that followed the faithful recitation of Perfect From Now On. Directly on the heels of the album closer "Untrustable Part 2 (About Someone Else)," the band catapulted into a searing, dynamic version of "Going Against Your Mind," the standout cut from 2006's You In Reverse [review here]. We were thrilled that the final song was "Car," from There's Nothing Wrong With Love, which closed out the evening on an upbeat note.

Schedule conflicts have conspired to keep us from seeing Dinosaur Jr., one of our five favorite bands, since a wonderful in-store set in Cambridge in June 2007 [review here]. The trio turned in a thrilling, hits-packed performance last night, and we were as surprised as anyone to end up with one of drummer Murph's sticks when he lobbed it into the crowd at the close of their alloted time. Had instinct not kicked in, we're fairly certain the stick would have lodged itself in our left eye. We're building up something of a collection of band memorabilia, as we ended up with one of Lou's bass picks after it was flicked into the audience at the in-store [see our review of the show for a scan]. Anyway, Dinosaur Jr. last night played a loud and exciting set. It seemed to take J a bit of time to build up a head of steam as far as his soloing went, but by the time the band played "Pick Me Up" from last year's excellent collection Beyond [review here], the notes started coming rapidly and furiously. As best as we can recall, the band began with "Sludgefeast," "Been There All The Time" and "Back To Your Heart." The set closed with "Mountain Man," and the encore was "Just Like Heaven." In between Dinosaur played "The Wagon," "Freak Scene," "Out There," "Feel The Pain" and the aforementioned "Pick Me Up." It was awesome.

Doors last night were scheduled to open at 7:30 so we figured we had at least until 8PM before The Meat Puppets took the stage. We figured wrong. By the time we got seated the band had already played a few numbers. Luckily, as we got settled in our awesome second-row, center seat [thanks to KoomDogg] The Meat Puppets kicked in to "Up On The Sun," our favorite song of the band's. The trio, fronted by Chris and Curt Kirkwood, strung together a handful of tunes with echoey space jams, hitting a number of career highlights along the way. We shot a number of typically mediocre pictures of the show last night and you can view the entire set right here. If you are thirsting for audio, we recommend checking in with NYCTaper, who recorded the show the preceding night. Built To Spill's set is posted here; Dinosaur Jr.'s set is posted right here. Built To Spill heads to Europe Oct. 1 for five weeks of tour dates, and you can check out the entire itinerary at the band's MySpace casa right here. Here are a couple Dinosaur Jr. MP3s for readers who actually slogged all the way through.

Dinosaur Jr. -- "Freak Scene" -- Bug
Dinosaur Jr. -- "Pick Me Up (Live)" -- Urban Outfitters In-Store, June 11, 2007
[live recording courtesy of Bradley's Almanac]
[right click and save as]
[buy Dinosaur Jr. records from Newbury Comics right here]


nyctaper said...

Hey Jay, thanks for the links. Check back on nyctaper for Meat Puppets from the same show within the next 24 hours.

Unknown said...

My pleasure, thanks for the recording. Am just tagging it and will listen to it soon. Was track 6 in the zip file? My fingers slipped as I was tagging track five and I may have deleted "Feel The Pain" by accident, unless it was never there in the first place?

Unknown said...

Found the file. My butterfingers zapped the band name and it floated out of site for a while.

Justin Snow said...

Hey, great review. It sounds like BTS played the exact same set at ATP, which is of course a very good thing. I couldn't ask for any more after hearing Perfect and then "Going Against Your Mind" and "Car." I'm glad to hear the Boston show was just as good.

Btw, I'm in total agreement about BTS stage presence. Pretty lackluster. But then again, it's Built To Spill so I didn't really care that much.

Jay said...

Dood, great review. As bummed as I was to have to give up that ticket, I'm glad you had a good time. That's the best seat I was able to procure there since the front row seats I snagged for a raging Sugar show back in '94. As for the BTS show back in '01, I attended that with you and the good Doctor. Martsch was wailing away that night. As for the proximity to 9/11, I actually went to a Buddy Guy show at Harborlights on September 12 that year, which felt even weirder at the time. Buddy kicked ass, anyway.