The Built to Spill show last night was like a giant bear hug. Better, bigger, warmer, and more delightfully dramatic than the one that pizza guy gave to Obama
last week. It was a campfire sing-along where the stars were in our eyes, not the sky. Not everyone loves emotional guitar sounds, but those who do filled Culture Room with their sweaty bodies, their intense feelings, idol worship for Doug Martsch, and loud singing voices.
I had only seen BTS one other time, in 2006 in Brooklyn. I wept openly to "Kicked It in the Sun." No lies here. The band played for more than two hours as Martsch talked politics with the crowd. My recent interview with the musician
revealed not only that Martsch is a warm and open human being but also that there would be no mention of that hot topic at Culture Room (save for an Amnesty International sticker on a guitar, if that counts). Oddly, the venue was as emotional anyway as if the presidential elections were taking place in the venue that night.
During our phone call, I also asked if the band would play "Virginia Reel Around the Fountain," a Halo Benders song BTS performs, at this show for a friend of mine. Martsch took note, writing it down. Keep reading to find out what happened there with that.
Opening for BTS was a young, high-energy Yeah Yeah Yeahs meets Thee Oh Sees group Sister Crayon, and Helvetia, which offered the crowd some fancy guitar moves and a J Mascis-type voice.
Last time BTS came to Culture Room, the crowd was old and angry, demanding the band play whatever the fuck it was they wanted to hear. Last night, though, save for a few jokey "Free Bird" yelps, everyone's voices merely followed that of Martsch. The crowd was young, old, cute, and in love with the music.
Built to Spill kicked off with "Traces," and immediately heads nodded in approval. An upbeat "In the Morning" kept the crowd's hearts swelling and their hands clapping. The band members sounded really crisp, and behind their heads flashed some funny, weird, nature-based visuals. Guitarist Brett Netson joked, "One thing's for sure, solid light show." And he wasn't lying. The lights flew around the stage making for not-too-shitty photographs.
Martsch punctuated most songs with a humble "thank you" and at one point said he was psyched to be up there. When he left lyrics out of songs, the audience picked up the slack. The sole crowd surfer hit the air during "Conventional Wisdom." And "I Would Hurt a Fly" probably got the biggest applause of the night. During "Joyride," one of Martsch's strings broke, but he kept singing as he tried to put it back on. That's commitment.
After an hourlong set ending with "Carry the Zero," BTS left the stage, but the audience was in hysterics. Even though I was hoping for all Perfect From Now On songs
, it seemed like the band played a balance of tunes off of all of its albums.
The encore was intense, and at the end, there it was: "Virginia Reel Around the Fountain
." They blew that shit away. It was a magical closer. I was so grateful they performed it. But that wasn't all.
Immediately after the show ended, fans swarmed Martsch, first looking up at him on the stage as he broke down the set, and then as he walked out of the venue. And he was so nice. Didn't look bothered for a second as people took multiple photographs and asked for signatures and just chatted. I thanked him for playing our request. He said he'd written it down originally, then lost the paper. The set list was created sans "Virginia"; remembering last minute, he scratched another song and closed out with it. Very kind and thoughtful.
When I arrived at the venue, I was tired from work and from just being tired. But when my friends and I left, I felt my heart and head were bursting with good vibes and music, and that serves music's most major functions, that of true human expression, genuine entertainment, and a harmonious community. It was a beautiful show.
Overheard (sort of) in the crowd: "This is perfect." (From now on?)
Also overheard (sort of) in the crowd: "What is it you write for again? The Les Paul Post?"
"In the Morning"
"I Would Hurt a Fly"
"You Were Right"
"Twin Falls Idaho"
"Carry the Zero"
"Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss"
"Virginia Reel Around the Fountain" -- For Marco O'Toole