Saturday, June 24, 2006

Built To Spill @Slim's, June 23rd

(Why didn't I have my real camera?)

Tonight went to Slim's in San Francisco with Amanda and Teddy to check out their fav, Built To Spill. I still don't have huge familiarity with their stuff, but I was excited to see them live again, having enjoyed them once before in a stellar lineup last October at Coney Island with Rilo Kiley, Gang of Four and the Pixies.

We got to Slim's just as the opener was finishing up. Slim's is a smallish place that probably holds 500-600 people, andthe place was already packed for the sold out show (2nd of 3 nights in San Fran). Where we were by the bar seemed pretty hopeless and pointless, so I explained to Teddy the two beer trick that the Britta showed me -- you hold two beers and make your way through the crowd and pretend you're bringing a beer to someone up front. Plus, people get all worried about spillage, so they're usually more than willing to move aside. Teddy held his and Amanda's PBRs oh so carefully, and we followed him close behind in the wake. We managed to get about 4 people deep from centerstage. Awesome!

BTS tonight had 3 guitars, bass and drums, led by Doug Martsch. I find his singing voice similar to Wayne Coyne's of the Flaming Lips, except without any of the pretension. Doug is a different and somewhat kind of refreshing leadman -- no frills whatsoever. Dressed simply in a black t-shirt, shorts with his balding head and beard, he was simply there to rock. The rest of the band was similar in appearance too -- no preening or posing commonly associated with any otherband. Perhaps the boldest detail by Doug was the sticker on his guitar -- a big W with the red circle and diagonal over it (see above fuzzy picture). The band as a whole was all business -- no banter, no smiles. I kinda missed the subtle interactions you usually see during live performances. I couldn't tell if BTS were having fun or not. But the 100 minutes of music they played were solid.

BTS can get kinda jammy, but not in that stinky, smelly hippie kind of way. They have lots of extended guitar solos and use a lot of fuzz and distortion, but vary their sound somewhat too. One of their newer songs had a reggae beat that I remember hearing at Coney Island. And a few tunes verged on the political, one in particular which made good use of the images and video clips projected on this white sheet suspended above and in front of the band while the band simply played an instrumental. Some of their recorded music feature more poppish, catchier stuff, but none of that came out tonight, which was too bad. As both Amanda and Teddy put it, BTS played almost nothing they wanted to hear, but the band still sounded great live.

Our trip back to Oakland was a bit of a pain -- I'm not psyched about the public transportation in the Bay Area late at night. The BART shuts down at midnight so we had to take a series of buses to inch back closer into Oakland. We ran into some drunk doods on the last bus we caught back to Amanda's 'hood and they wanted to pick a fight, but we managed to diffuse the situation. For the next time I come to this city, I had better work on my kung fu!

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