The crowd was sparse when we arrived during one of the opening acts at First Ave last night. Thus we were surprised when we stepped out for a coffee and came back to a packed Main Room just prior to Built to Spill’s performance. The cult following showed up and it was evident through the cheers of recognition from the crowd as a riff or drum beat would begin a song.
The band’s 20 plus year history is obvious when you watch them perform together. They are a tight-knit group and it seems as if every note was intentionally chosen as they synchronize and harmonize with one another.
Doug Martsch’s quivery, yet clear tone reminds me a bit of Ben Gibbard or Wayne Coyne or even Neil Young at times, but the similarity to bands like Death Cab or The Flaming Lips mostly ends there. With three electric guitars, a bass and drums and over a century of combined experience as musicians, the band is perfectly set up for the epic eight or nine minute songs (some even longer) which are common on their records. As my friend Kyle put it, they’re just fun to listen to. The evidence for Martsch’s direction and the band members’ commitment to creating the music together is clear when you watch them perform live.
Doug Martsch held down most of the lead parts and Jim Roth and Brett Netson would typically complement him with some crunchy rhythm guitar or ambient whiny guitar sounds. At other points, it was fun to watch all four guitarists punch the rhythm together, playing complementary parts.
Cortez the Killer is a great example of one of the band’s long, impressive jams. Here’s a live performance:
Read more about the band on their website.