22 September 2008

Live Review :: Built to Spill, The Trocodero, Philly, PA, 09/20/08

It took six years, missing the group on six different occasions, and ultimately a trip to Philadelphia, but I can now count myself among the groups legions of fans who can all claim one thing: I have seen Built to Spill perform live. Yeah, I understand there are better bands out there to see live. And, yeah, I know that, in the long run, it might not have been worth it to drop approximately $225 on a ticket (with airfare included). And I most likely would have been better off seeing them on some other tour besides this one; the one where they are playing Perfect From Now On in it's entirety. But I feel good about it all. I feel like I've nailed that deep-seated feeling in my gut of crossing off one of the bands you want to see before you die. (And for anyone who's keeping track, they were #2--#1 is a different story altogether. one I may share later on this here blog thing.)

Veteran alt.country.hardcore rock stars The Meat Puppets opened for BTS, which was an extra little treat given that they still seem to be having a great time at well over 40 years old. The crowd in the all-ages show was mostly stoked to hear their earlier numbers off of II (e.g., "Lake of Fire," "Plateau") but I enjoyed their more country-twinged numbers like "Tennessee Stud." It was a short, but enjoyable 50 minute set ending at damn-close to 9PM. After all, they had to make way for the headliners who apparently were dead-set on starting at 9:30.

My friend in attendance with me suggested the next morning after the show, that Doug Martsch never truly enjoys playing live. He just does it to make a paycheck. I'm not so sure; if that's the case, then why does the band tour constantly? Well, Martsch is certainly winning people over with his stage presence, because there isn't any. A barely audible, "thanks" is all that we got after thunderous applause. And he seemed genuinely exasperated after folks started yelling requests during the songs.

But presence does not a concert make, it's all about the music. And the music...well the music was fucking awesome. Even though I only dig about half of Perfect From Now On ("Randy Described Eternity," "Made Up Dreams," "Kicked It In the Sun," and "Untrustable" are showstoppers with the rest just good listens) the songs took on a harder, fiercer edge live and the cello definitely filled out the sound. While I anticipated the songs to last considerably longer than the record, they generally hovered around their length on the album. Except for "Untrustable" and the final encore piece "Car"--we'll get there in a moment.

"Goin' Against Your Mind" was the lone song that made the Perfect From Now On set before the encore. The encore was three songs, all chosen for their cello-heavy notation, and all three from the fantastic There's Nothing Wrong With Love--"Stab," "Big Dipper," and "Car." "Car" brought the jam that I had been expecting all night. After a good 7-8 minutes in, members of The Meat Puppets took over the bass and auxillary guitar duties mid-jam while Martsch squealed away on his Stratocaster, unaware of the changing of the guard(s). When he looked over to see them playing, he cracked his first smile of the evening--before surrendering his guitar to another individual onstage. That man was none other than Dean Ween of Ween fame. An epic jam with BTS members all playing random drums, Meat Puppets playing guitar and bass, and Dean Ween taking over duties on lead, ensued for another ten or so minutes. Then Martsch reappeared onstage to say goodnight and "hope it sounded good."

I'm a fan at heart, so I'll admit that my unusually high expectations for this show could never have been met. Was it the best show I've ever seen? No, far from it. Was it great for being my first (and probably last) time seeing Built to Spill? Hell yes, it was.

Hell yes, it was.