Monday, November 30, 2009
Built to Spill
The Cat's Cradle
I've really been firing on all cylinders lately when it comes to getting to the club right when the band I want to see starts playing. I walked in the door just as Built to Spill began their first song, and despite the packed house I was able to nook right in near the front by the side of the stage.
At this point in my life I've seen this band play probably close to twenty times (if not more), and I knew full well what this night had in store for me. As always, BtS played a fantastic mix of songs from across their entire catalog - off the top of my head I can recall "Virginia Reel Around the Fountain", "Carry the Zero", "Stop the Show", "Reasons", "You Were Right", and "The Weather". As always I would have killed to hear more songs from "Perfect from Now On", a statement I have made after every one of their shows...even the shows where they played a lot of those songs. Just can't get enough of that album, even 12 years later. Surprisingly, as Doug and company just released a new record called "There Is No Enemy", there were very few new songs, just fan favorite after fan favorite for the better part of two hours.
Sadly, another truism of any Built to Spill show also reared it's ugly head - the terrible, awful crowd. For reasons unclear to me for well over a decade, assholes and idiots love this band. This may be saying as much about me as it is about the rest of the crowd, but the personalities that infest any given Built to Spill show are the worst mix of drunks, frat boys and douchbags. And this isn't just a Chapel Hill thing - most of my live viewings of Built to Spill happened in San Francisco, and it was no different there. The constant yelling of inane things at the band. The bouncers having to break up a fight in what looked to be the strangest, most inappropriate "mosh pit" I've seen in ages. And then there was the gaggle of chatty women standing behind me, referring to themselves as "cougars" and sticking their garbage and beer bottles in the hood of my pullover. There really should be some sociological studies done on this strange gathering awkward, useless chaff, but I guess it says a lot about what a great live band Built to Spill is that anyone with any sense would suffer these fools.
The Cat's Cradle
So I've seen this newly reformed Polvo a number of times now, and even in my super fanboy status, it's hard to deny they aren't getting more and more awesome with each and every gig. Yes, awesome, that is the technical word for their performance, I saw it in a technical handbook on show descriptions. They've certainly gotten a lot of tighter, what with the touring and the practicing and the recording a new album, tighter than they ever sounded pre-break-up.
Given that they did just record a new album, "In Prism", I was a little surprised that they didn't play more songs from it. It's got to be a tough balance for a band that has been around for a long time that has a large catalog to get the ratio of new songs and older fan favorites down on their set list. Obviously most of the crowd usually wants to hear their favorite song, while the band really wants to play these new tracks they are proud of. I'm almost always on the "play the old shit" side of the fence; but unlike most material that gets released by groups post-reunion, the new Polvo record is really damn good.
Anyways, yadda yadda yadda, the new record is great but they still played almost entirely old songs. Not that I'm complaining, but my faulty memory can only recall "Beggar's Bowl"; a couple more new ones would have been nice. What they did play was a super-extended version of "Bombs That Fall From Your Eyes" that sounded like Polvo crossed with "Umma Gumma" era Pink Floyd...it was one of the best things I've heard in months. Maybe through some magic of the internets someone out there reading this review bootlegged the show and can hook me up with a copy of that song, I would be forever grateful.
As a side note/complaint, I tried buying the vinyl of their new album on my way out of the club, and they were sold out! I had been putting off buying it for a while because I wanted to wait and get it when the money would be directly going to the band, but no such luck. And then a couple weeks later I stopped by Schoolkids in Raleigh to make the purchase...of course they were also sold out. It's almost comical that I've had such a tough time buying a record by a local band released on a local label, but on the bright side it means Polvo is moving units and that is definitely great for them. One of these days I'm going to finally find and buy that damn record...
So there was this "Rock and Shop" event going on during the day in Durham, and what the hell - I like to both rock and shop, so it seemed like a good idea to attend. It helped that two of my favorite local groups were playing - Mount Weather and Lonnie Walker, though when we were walking into the event we passed the Mount Weather guys loading their gear out...bummer on that, I was hoping to see them play again. But Lonnie Walker was still due to play, and after a bit of strolling around with the wife while she gawked and glad handed over a number of small craft tables, the band made with the music and I watched them rock out while the old lady continued to shop. I still struggle to figure out who it is Lonnie Walker remind me of - I know everyone else says Bob Dylan, and I can see where they are coming from, but there is a lot more to it than that. I previously mentioned the Talking Heads and I still get that vibe on some of their tracks, but there is a rootsy, almost Band-like feel to their music. All I know is their songs are instantly stuck in your head, and I wasn't the only one entranced - there were a couple of small kids standing next to me who were downright mesmerized by the live rock action. It's good to know I've got more in common with small children than just my overly picky diet...a mutual love of fantastic music too!