Built To Spill Live in Victoria

This article was originally published by Monday Magazine.

Built to Spill Review– February 5, 2012

On Tuesday night, Sugar Nightclub came dangerously close to hosting the greatest heist in Rock and Roll history: an early opening set courtesy of young local upstarts, Slam Dunk, threatened to steal the show from legendary headlining heroes, Built to Spill.

Slam Dunk’s infectious breed of tribal rhythms and frantic wails bore massive holes in the thick veil of smoke and laser-light that surrounded them, intoxicating their predominantly uninitiated audience into an utter derangement of the senses. As Slam Dunk ripped through blistering renditions of “Horse Bumper” (a song recently featured on Rolling Stone’s Website), “Sass”, “Scabies”, and selections from their debut album, The Shivers, they raised the bar to a height that very few bands could ever hope to reach: the converted crowd cried for more as the band left the stage.

Boise Idaho three piece, Finn Riggins, were next up, offering a stark contrast to Slam Dunk’s sound. While Finn Riggins matched Slam Dunk’s energy, they lacked the heavily rhythmic and percussive back-bone of the openers: Finn Riggins’ ethereal vocals and lead guitar sounds, while frequently beautiful, lacked grounding. Much of the problem was with the mix: while keyboardist Eric Gilbert tickled his ivories with tremendous gusto, we struggled to hear what he was playing as he was drowned out by a wash of guitar and vocals. Finn Riggins has much potential and a solid base of diehard fans including Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch, who rocked out in the audience for the entirety of the band’s set, but Finn Riggins would benefit from adding a bass guitar, or better yet, a bass keyboard, to beef up their sound.

Finally, the stage was set for Built to Spill. While Built to Spill’s seven albums over the past twenty years have been consistently good, the band has gone through significant changes in line up even since the last time Victorians had a chance to see them; if Tuesday night was any indication, the current incarnation of Built to Spill may very well be their best yet.

A wall of sound conquered the minds of the near capacity crowd for the entirety of a set that aptly began with a selection from the band’s first album, moved on to chronicle samples of every album in their catalogue, and ended with stolid covers of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “How Soon Is Now” . Lead singer and founding member, Doug Martsch, was in fine form. Obviously inspired by the new line-up, Martsch proved how important Built to Spill is to modern music as it became abundantly clear throughout the set how much bands like Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie and the Strokes borrow from Built to Spill’s sonic aesthetics. Built to Spill’s set at Sugar was easily the best to hit our town this year so far, thanks to Slam Dunk for raising the bar.

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