Tag Archives: Built to Spill


Built to Spill Arrive at The Bowery Ballroom with Nothing to Prove

September 24th, 2015

Built to Spill – The Bowery Ballroom – September 23, 2015

To say Built to Spill, ensconced in their third decade, arrived at the stage of The Bowery Ballroom with nothing to prove would be stating it far too simply. Doug Martsch, the band’s creative life force, sporting his trademark aesthetic dilapidation, opened the first of three Bowery Ballroom shows with understatement that belied the tension in being both a musician touring behind his most recent LP—the band’s eighth studio album, Untethered Moon—and his position as something of a living rock icon. But Martsch is no relic or golden calf, enjoying neither the iconoclasm nor the media coverage granted to other titans of early ’90s independent rock, like Malkmus and Brock. Instead, Martsch’s enduring image is the one he brought to the stage last night: Eschewing the spotlight, workmanlike in his approach, still as committed to his craft as one of the great guitar players in rock, remarkably uninterested in whatever else comes with a career of his size and scope.

Appropriately, Martsch sported a black T-shirt and jeans, said little besides a mumbled “thanks” between songs and spent much of the evening with his eyes closed. Even as fans punctuated the moments between songs with shouts of “I love you, Dougie!” and “Play whatever you want,” Martsch appeared unfazed. He and the band, a new lineup for Built to Spill, played songs from across their catalog, opening with “The Plan,” “Living Zoo” and “The Wait.” The inimitable frontman remained largely impassive, demure even, as he thrashed through spot-on guitar solos. Like the line in his beard where the gray descending from his temples meets the brown hair of his jowl, resembling an inverted Black and Tan, Doug Martsch is these two things at once: young and old, roaring and contemplative.

The band then played “Three Years Ago Today,” “I Would Hurt a Fly” and “Sidewalk,” songs from 1993, 1997 and 1999, respectively. As Martsch moved into more recent material, “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” a lyric from “The Plan” emerged as prescient. Martsch had begun the evening singing, “This history lesson doesn’t make any sense/ In any less than 10,000 year increments.” A longer view of history was exactly the remedy for a set that whipped through the past, only sometimes chronologically. While Martsch appeared to care little for posterity or celebrity at The Bowery Ballroom, he held an intimate and hard-won sense of time—its pliability and its indifference.
—Geoff Nelson | @32feet

(Tomorrow is sold out, but you can see Built to Spill tonight at The Bowery Ballroom.)



Built to Spill Unleash Their Guitars at Music Hall of Williamsburg

May 21st, 2014

Built to Spill – Music Hall of Williamsburg – May 20, 2014

Someone casually observing Doug Martsch might find it hard to believe that his voice comes out of him. The bearded, stoic and always somewhat serious looking frontman of Built to Spill is not a person you’d expect to have a fragile tenor voice that comes out gracefully tender. And it comes alongside a trademark wiggle—starting at his leg and up to his head, it runs through him like an electrical current, almost looking unnatural, like his voice is being pulled out of him from the deepest depths of his feels. By contrast, his guitar playing couldn’t look more effortless, pulling out incredibly difficult riffs without seemingly giving them any focus whatsoever. There’s really not a subpar guitarist in Built to Spill, you could pick anyone out of the Brett Netson, Jim Roth, Martsch trifecta and they’d likely crush any other band’s guitarist.

One of the best things about Built to Spill is that they’ll hide just a short couple of lines within a song that you’d love to last forever. Playing live, if you’re lucky, they’ll find that part and stretch it out into an epic jam, which has everything to do with their collective guitar mastery. All three guitarists soloed at the end of “Conventional Wisdom,” each relying heavily on the whammy bar, the wavering guitar tones leaving the song feeling almost like a living, breathing thing. They’d trade off, with one covering the beauty of the main riff, the other two mudding it up with equally beautiful noise jams. The climax in crowd-favorite “Carry the Zero” also stretched out into a swirling guitar jam. The prolonged intensity of its dizzying denouement almost felt exhausting to endure (in a good way, of course). For most Built to Spill fans, this is the first show with Jason Albertini on bass and Steve Gere on drums. The two fit right into the fold, pretty impressive considering they had 21 years of Built to Spill to catch up on.

The band’s cover choices were like a cherry on top of a sundae, beginning with the Dinosaur Jr. classic  “Sludgefeast,” perhaps in honor of J. Mascisweeklong residency on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Then came Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” quickly becoming a live go-to for the band. They were generous enough to let everyone get in their “more cowbell” jokes before the second half of the song, when someone came out with one. The encore ended with an epic jam of Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love,” with some singing help from two guests, Erin and Peter, who pulled fans onstage, the show finally ending with a solid half of the crowd dancing alongside the band, with Music Hall of Williamsburg’s disco ball turned up to 11. —Dan Rickershauser

(Tonight’s Built to Spill show at The Bowery Ballroom is sold out.)




Built to Spill Still Kill

October 6th, 2010

Bulit to Spill – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 5, 2010

Things you might have learned from Built to Spill between 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on the other side of Tuesday: Doug Martsch is a fantastic, virtuosic guitarist. And this is a band with a catalog so rich and so deep that choosing a set list must be like an indie-rock Sophie’s Choice. And lastly, it has been a long drive since 1992, but the intervening 18 years have left Built to Spill no worse for wear. Rather, they remain sharp and weird and achingly relevant.

Martsch resembled something of an amped-up bobblehead, delivering his lyrics with rapid-fire abandon and tweaking his neck in perfect rhythm. The band proved sharp, navigating the throwback 1990s guitar symphonies with aplomb and energy, while playing “Reasons,” “Hindsight,” and “Distopian Dream Girl” in succession during the first half of the set.

Continuing to wipe himself off with a towel, Martsch played the aging yet mercurial frontman well. He has less hair than he did in ’96 when Keep It Like a Secret was both a major-label release and a critical shift in rock modality, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still spike his remaining locks to the side with sweat. He would close the night in shuddering, thrashing fashion with “Carry the Zero.” The final movement tested the boundaries of the band, the past from whence they came and the moment into which they stepped, accepted and crushed. —Geoff Nelson


Built to Spill – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 14, 2009

October 15th, 2009

Built to Spill - Music Hall of Williamsburg - October 14, 2009

Photos courtesy of Mina K


Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Built to Spill on 10/15

October 13th, 2009


Built to Spill is still in town for three more nights: tonight at Webster Hall and tomorrow and Thursday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. You can still buy tickets for the first two dates, but if you want to see Thursday’s sold-out show, you’re gonna have to try to Grow a Pair of tickets from The House List. Just fill out the form below. List your name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Built to Spill, 10/15) and a brief message telling us an embarrassing spilled-drink story. Eddie Bruiser, who likes to stay clean, will notify the winner by noon on Thursday, October 15th. Good luck.

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See Built to Spill Next Week (and Stream Two New Songs Today)

October 6th, 2009

If you were in an indie-rock fan in the ’90s, you’ve probably listened to Built to Spill. Singer-songwriter-guitarist Doug Martsch formed the band in Boise, Idaho, with Brett Netson on bass and Ralf Youtz on drums. Because he wanted to work with a variety of musicians, Martsch originally intended to change the group’s lineup for each album, so after their first album, Ultimate Alternative Wavers, came out in 1993, bassist Brett Nelson replaced bassist Brett Netson and drummer Andy Capps subbed in for Youtz. The newer version of the band released Built to Spill’s second album, There’s Nothing Wrong with Love, the following year. Martsch continued to release albums, and somewhere along the way, Nelson and drummer Scott Plouf became permanent members of the band. Their seventh full-length album, There Is No Enemy, is out today. To celebrate, come out and see Built to Spill. You’ve got four chances: next Monday and Tuesday at Webster Hall and next Wednesday and Thursday at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

(Check out the video for Built to Spill’s “You Were Right,” above, and click on the links below to stream the new songs “Things Fall Apart” and “Hindsight.”)

“Things Fall Apart”