Sunday, July 8, 2007

built to spill 07/07/07 - in which the author learns a little lesson about livenation and acquires some serious saddles sores

prepare for an epic story of unanticipated heartbreak and unforeseen kindness.

the evening began with a bike trip down to and across the brooklyn bridge to catch a glimpse of the boredoms BOADRUM performance with 77 drummers. i was seriously unimpressed. i only stuck around until 7.30, but it seemed to me to be pretty lame. here's a picture of the boredoms proper through a gap in the steel of the bridge.

then i biked as fast as i could up to mccarren pool to catch bob mould, cat power, and built to spill. i was feeling confident, because the mccarren website said that they show began at 7.30, and i figured i would only have missed a bit of bob mould's set. however, when i arrived, cat power was basically finishing up her set, at 8.05. the people around me said that mould had gone on at 6 and doors had opened at 5, and i was absolutely perplexed, disappointed, and upset. fortunately, cat power's last song was "willie," my favorite off last year's excellent the greatest, so that was some small consolation. however, i still felt robbed of at least 20 bucks, and, after cat power finished, i went to make a nuisance of myself with the live nation people. after roaming all over the pool, inside and out, i found a promoter, who said that, while he couldn't help me personally, he would try to find someone who could, and, in the meantime, i could have a free beer. so i drank my free beer (delicious brooklyn lager) and waited for built to spill, with instructions to come back in 20 minutes. in those 20 minutes, built to spill started their set, so i got a medium-good spot (i didn't want to wade in and then have to wade out) and enjoyed the first few songs before returning to the side of the stage (where the promoter hung out). there i met a lovely woman from live nation, who practically personally apologized for the confusing door times, and promised me two tickets to any live nation show at irving, warsaw, or luna lounge. i can't really express how significant this was without feeling like i'm being overly dramatic. i've always had the same perspective on live nation as i do on clear channel - that they're bloodsucking money grubbing corporate pig bastards - and this promoter's kind offer really threw me for a loop. i'm not going to retract my bloodsucking, etc. position, but, like everything else, i've learned that live nation is nuanced, and good people might actually be working for a "bad" company. it was a valuable lesson.

as for built to spill; seeing them always begs the question: why doesn't anyone use distortion anymore? built to spill, yo la tengo, dinosaur jr. - these are the bands we still have that write rock songs with great fucking distortion. sleater-kinney's last work, the amazing the woods, was blissfully heavy and grungy, and then they quit. is there no more audience for 90s esque rock? well, even if the only people who still make it are leftovers from the 80s and 90s, plenty of people still want to listen to it, as the large crowd last night indicated. built to spill played a lot of songs from you in reverse, unexpectedly. to be fair, this is the first time i've seen them since they had a recent CD out (i saw them in 2004 and 2006), so maybe they were more excited about playing new stuff than older songs. not that that prevented them from playing some golden oldies like "made up dreams, "nowhere nothing fuckup," a gorgeous, virtually doug martsch solo version of "car," and the two hits from keep it like a secret, "time trap" and "carry the zero," which ended the show.

built to spill has never really been one to do much interacting with their audience, and doug's comments were limited to saying "thanks" after every other song, and introducing an eno cover (i'm not sure of which song the video below, and if you know, leave it in the comments section). their songs, as always, were never quite the same live as they are on albums; though they played "in the morning," they left off the last verse, and "the source" was similarly squelched. however, they did a nice jam on "carry the zero" - there were 10 minutes left before the pool had to shut down, so they filled the time that way (which meant there was no encore, jackasses) - and on several other songs. however, the whole show had a rather stifled or expected feel to it - by which i mean, built to spill seemed to be going through the motions and the crowd just stood there and took it. their technical skill was high, as always, and (also as always), built to spill's ranks were bolstered by some unnamed guests on guitars, whose work on the fretboards merged perfectly with doug's own melodies to the point that you couldn't tell who was playing what. i'm not sure what i had been expecting - built to spill is one of my favorite bands, and i wouldn't pass up a chance to see them, but i think the big outdoor arena space isn't really the right one to see them in. i've seen them in two small venues (the paradise in boston and irving plaza), and it was perfect. in their quiet way, they fed on the crowd's energy and played two great sets. in mccarren, somehow lost onstage, some of the magic was missing.

i took several videos, which i'll be posting to youtube tonight and tomorrow, but check out the brian eno cover and "time trap" below the photo.

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