Built to Spill | 09.17.06

And every song had such a long jam time—making every song sound like it was the final song of the evening. Built to Spill just likes to rave out.



Photo by Todd Owyoung 

w/Helvetia, The Prids
Mississippi Nights, St. Louis

On a rainy night in St. Louis, indie-rock legends Built to Spill carved yet another notch into their Mississippi Nights bedpost. The band, fronted by Doug Martsch, was originally scheduled to be in good ol' St. Louie back in April, but when the aforementioned lead singer was placed into emergency surgery for a damaged retina, the dates promoting their new album, You in Reverse, were pushed back until autumn 2006.

This is probably a much more suitable setting for this tour, as You in Reverse is full of succulent harmonies, breezy vocals, and smart lyrics—the perfect soundtrack to a bright fall day in a sunny park with colorful leaves drifting in the crisp air. The band also did a halfway decent job of picking opening bands—the Prids, a foursome hailing from Portland, Ore., and Helvetia, a trio from Seattle, Wash.

The Prids, comprised of an on-again, off-again couple (David Frederickson and Mistina Keith) and two other men (Joey Maas and Eric Hold), are sensational. Keith is perhaps the most energetic female bassist ever, while Hold maintains the serious side of the band by soulfully tickling the plastic ivories of his keyboard. Frederickson, with his matted-down mohawk, creates a gritty harmony with his guitar waves while drummer Maas ties all of these pieces together by pounding out the bottom layer of their Northwestern tiered cake. While many journalists have pigeonholed their musical genre as post-punk, the Prids more often bring to mind a younger Sonic Youth, minus Thurston Moore's throaty vocals. As this band was formed in the mid-'90s, calling its music alternative rock would probably be a bit more accurate. In all, the Prids put on one hell of a show.

As for Helvetia, the second opening band…not so much. As the three boys stepped onto the stage, there seemed to be one thing missing: confidence. They were unsure of which songs were next in their set, confused about how to get the soundman to change their monitor mixes, and looked as though they were not having a good time. Helvetia's set could have been better rehearsed, and the boys could learn a great deal from both the Prids and Built to Spill in the department of stage presence.

After situating themselves, Built to Spill took the stage. When Martsch pulled the band together in 1992, members came and went, but eventually, the band stretched itself to hold Scott Plouf, Jim Roth, Brett Netson, and Brett Nelson. As the five scruffy members positioned themselves to begin their show, a huge screen was set up to show creepy but beautiful artwork from Portland artist Mike Scheer. A slideshow of Scheer's work served as a unique but fitting backdrop for the band—hauntingly contemplative, with some M.C. Escher/Tim Burton qualities—bringing out a whole new perspective to Built to Spill's thorny songs.

Martsch was like a god at the lead microphone-crooning with his eyes closed and body unmoving, except for his neck (at times) and arms, which lovingly stroked his aged guitar. Playing songs from their last four records, but with an emphasis on their most recent release, the set was a good combination of songs, save for the fact that every song sounded similar to the one that preceded it. And every song had such a long jam time—making every song sound like it was the final song of the evening. Built to Spill just likes to rave out.

The one other downfall of the evening was the fact that this legendary band didn't play their best song, "Carry the Zero." It is a melodious track from their second album, Keep it Like a Secret, and, to quote a companion, it's "the song that makes everything okay." In other words, it's a perfect song to finish up an evening of good (for the most part) rocking. "I'm not knocking your want to carry that home…"

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