After way too many years of waiting to see Built to Spill, I arrived at St. Petersburg's State Theatre on Saturday night with a fairly good idea of what to expect. Too often, I've seen early '90s bands dial in a performance of fan-favorites, their technical skill lazied up by years of playing the same songs ad nauseum. Built to Spill, however, is not your typical Northwestern one-act-show. They're one of those rare bands that continue to turn out new favorites with every release, making music that's relevant to the present instead of remaining trapped in the past. I'd heard their live show would be loud, technically impressive, and somewhat subdued; the band delivered on every accord. [Frontman Doug Martsch pictured left; all photos by Tracy May.]
Typically, if I don't have anything nice to say about an opening band I'll just omit them from a review entirely, but I hated Revolt Revolt so much that it's worth mentioning. Given, I tend not to enjoy punk rock very much, so coming into the State and hearing it already had me grinding my teeth. Fortunately, a friend had warned me that Built to Spill put on the loudest show he has ever seen and to bring earplugs, which I gratefully jammed as far into my skull as possible. The set also included a Pixie-esque ballad which normally would be right up my alley, except vocalist Chris Bock was so miserably off-key that it was just unbearable. This was immediately followed by a song which drove me back out into the lobby with unbearably loud howling, hoping desperately Built to Spill would quickly take the stage.
Built to Spill came onstage to set up their own equipment, which I always see as an indicator of professionalism and modesty, especially from a band on a major label (Warner Bros). Even the relatively unadorned stage provided an unexpected straightforward element, bare save for a cluster of tropical plants a friend of the band had provided.