Friday, October 9th, 2009
Good Ol' Boredom
Built To Spill and Disco Doom at Lee's Palace in Toronto
Frank YangWhen it comes to bands doing multi-night stands, I’ve come to the wholly unscientific conclusion that given the choice (ie – all shows are announced simultaneously and not only after one has sold out) that the last night of the run is the one to hit. The band isn’t tired from travel, any sound issues will have been sorted out (one hopes) and the looseness is conducive, in theory, to a more exciting or unpredictable show. There’s more chance, in other words, of the band “leaving it all on stage”, as the kids say. And so for Built To Spill’s two-night engagement at Lee’s Palace this week, a repeat of their first-ever visit to Toronto in July 2007, I opted to hit the second night. It figures that everyone else I knew who was going went to the first.
The media as well, judging from the reviews that were circulating the day of my show. And though the verdict was generally positive, it seemed as though the thumbs up was a qualified one, which I could understand. Having seen them twice before, I knew they could offer up guitar-driven transcendence but were also at risk of extended, aimless jamming. But it’s exactly that fine balance of noodly meander and pop focus that makes Built To Spill so great, so I was looking forward to the show regardless.
Openers for the tour were a Swiss act – when was the last time I saw a Swiss band? – called Disco Doom and to the literal minded, no they did not sound like disco nor doom. What they did sound like was a band tailor-made to appeal to fans of Built To Spill who also have a fondness for fuzzy, early ’90s shoegaze influences. They had it all – whispery boy-girl vocals, fuzz-laden guitar lines and pretty much no stage presence at all. They also sort of had songs… nothing that sticks in the memory after the fact, but everything felt good, for what that’s worth. Their set-closing extenda-jam went over well with the rapidly filling audience, and of course it would. If you were looking for 500 people in Toronto who appreciate a good extenda-jam, this is where they’d be.
No one expects a lot of chit-chat from Built To Spill. Or at least they shouldn’t. These are guys who prefer to let their fingers do the talking, coaxing out insanely convoluted and intertwined yet unfailingly melodic lines out of their guitars, and so when what seemed like a final pre-show soundcheck with frontman Doug Martsch and drummer Scott Plouf turned into a jam of “Three Years Ago Today” from their 1993 debut Ultimate Alternative Wavers, well, that seemed perfectly natural. And though the band had just released their latest album – and best in some time – There Is No Enemy the day before, the set list would show it no favouritism, instead touching on every one of their records before it was all over. And comparing it to the previous night’s set, it’s obvious that choosing one night over the other was futile, at least as far as song selections went – only one tune, the Canada-saluting “Hindsight” from the new record, was repeated. If you’re a Built To Spill fan and want to be sure to hear your favourite song during a multi-night stand, be prepared to shell out.
Performance-wise, the first half of the show was a bit snoozy in delivery, the extended tuning breaks and set discussions between selections doing nothing to help maintain the modest energy generated during the actual songs. Guitarist Brett Netson tried engaging in a bit of banter, but mostly the band worked in silence, eyes on their tuners. With “Conventional Wisdom”, however, it seemed like the band spontaneously discovered another gear and gunned it – well, relatively speaking. It didn’t suddenly become a Metallica show, but someone or something definitely kicked them in the sun and made a pretty good show into one that was staring greatness in the face, so it felt like a disappointment when they closed out the set after just over an hour, following a wicked “Virginia Reel Around The Fountain”. Here they were just hitting their stride and they were calling it a night? Sure there was an encore, but how much can you do with the encore? A lot, as it turns out. Though Martsch initially promised just a couple songs, they kept going, ultimately trotting out four more tunes and extending to almost the two-hour mark, much of that an epic-length, appropriately named “Stop The Show” to wrap it up. Not quite the marathon 27-minute “Randy Described Eternity” they served up last time, but still dizzying. I now understand why they do the multi-night thing. It’s not necessarily because they want to do intimate shows or they’ve got the massive fanbase to justify it, but to play all the songs they want to would otherwise take upwards of four hours.
Photos: Built To Spill, Disco Doom @ Lee’s Palace – October 7, 2009
MP3: Built To Spill – “Hindsight”
Video: Built To Spill – “Conventional Wisdom”
MySpace: Built To Spill
MySpace: Disco Doom
NPR is streaming last night’s Dinosaur Jr show in Washington DC – something to hold you over until they finally come to Toronto to play the Phoenix on January 21 of next year. The Washington Examiner talks to Dino drummer Murph.
In honour of their reunion, which now includes a them-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties in May in the UK to go with their four nights in Central Park in September, PitchforkTV is streaming the Pavement documentary/live film The Slow Century for a week.
Video: Pavement: The Slow Century
Okkervil River’s Will Sheff talks to The Golden Gate X-Press and mentions that an album they made with Roky Erikson will be out early next year. Erikson is playing Lee’s Palace on October 28, but don’t expect Okkervil to be along as his band for that – the fact that The Sadies are opening that show up pretty much guarantees they’ll be his band.
The Sadies will also be playing with R&B legend Andre Williams at the Horseshoe on November 19, tickets $15.
And speaking of winning passes, here’s a doozie of a contest though it’s not mine. The folks at Against The Grain and Rootmeansquare, who put on many/most of the awesome shows in the city and who are responsible for most of the ticket giveaways I have, are officially joining forces (in a corporate sense) starting next year and as such, are looking for a new name and are soliciting your help in coming up with one. In their words, “Think MUSIC, art, alternative, indie, new wave, cool but not retro, etc.” If your suggestion inspires them or is chosen as their new identity, you will win “ONE YEAR OF FREE CONCERT TICKETS (+ 1) to all ATG, RMS, H-Shoe Tavern, & Lees Palace shows (non-transferable)”. That, friends, is a shitload of concerts. The letterhead they write the guest lists on will essentially have your name printed on it. So put those thinking toques on and send you ideas to email@example.com with “BUSINESS NAME” in the subject line. Go!
Still not convinced my hosting isn’t going to go kack as soon as regular traffic loads ramp up. Not much I can do about it until I’ve gotten all my files and data backed up, which is hard to do when your site is inaccessible, let me tell you. Hoping to have this all sorted out within a week or so, though, so thanks for sticking around. Assuming you’re sticking around.