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Built To Spill @ Pitchfork Music Festival 2009

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Built To Spill had the unenviable task of following up the Jesus Lizard’s explosive set, and at first their performance suffered from a letdown in energy and a rather curious string of songs to start out the show. Opening with the meandering “Liar,” especially after the hysterics the crowd had just witnessed from David Yow and company, just didn’t seem to go over. “Stab” also proved to be a bit plodding, but the dynamic finish to the song saved it, and gave the set a bit of a spark. “Strange” built on that energy, but it wasn’t until a stellar “Kicked It In The Sun” that the show really was given some life. The band followed that up with a roughly 10 minute jam tacked onto the end of “Conventional Wisdom” that dragged on a bit too long, but certainly showcased the masterful guitar work of Doug Martsch.

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“Else” was gorgeous, but all too brief, especially when considering how stretched out some of the band’s other songs had been. “Big Dipper” is always a fun song, and proved to be perfect for the outdoor setting, but it’s too bad the overcast night sky prevented us all from gazing upon the constellation that inspired it. The set continued to suffer from drastic lows and highs, and the band members’ tendency to lose themselves in their jams and not edit some of their extended meandering and more effectively tailor the set to a festival atmosphere caused many in the crowd to visibly lose interest in the show. So while a cover of the Halo Benders’ “Virginia Reel Around The Fountain” was a cool choice (by the band or the crowd, who supposedly selected their set list based on voting that took place as part of Pitchfork’s “write the setlist” night) the execution of the song left a bit to be desired, and again lost all of its potency and poignancy by dragging on for far too long. “Goin’ Against Your Mind” fared a bit better, with stellar guitar interplay amongst the band members, but lost the attention of some festival goers who started heading towards the exits as the song lost its way. But those that left missed the best song of the set when Built To Spill closed out day one of the Pitchfork Music Festival with the exquisite “Carry The Zero.” It sounded incredible, and represents what was the creative peak for the band as far as studio output, and also proving to be this night’s best song. It shows what the band can accomplish with a bit of self control while also reigning in the riffs just a bit. “Zero” was a wonderful way to end the night, and certainly saved what was up to that point an uneven set, and managed to make it memorable.

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[Review by Erik Thompson, photos by Jon Behm.]

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Also: Built to Spill “There Is No Enemy” Review


    You are a fucking kunt.

    What the fuck are you doing writing about Built To Spill if you dont like long songs? Do you not know that they improvise the end of most of their songs you meatheaded retard?


  • Man, Blood, that’s unfair.

    Those comments were pretty justified. I’m very much a fan of long songs, but thought that some of the extended jam sessions could have been shortened to make room for other pieces. I would have liked to have heard more from Perfect From Now On (though I was delighted that the audience chose “Kicked It In The Sun”). I only wonder why they elected to play longer songs instead of more songs.

    I, too, felt that Else was cut too short. I’m incredibly glad they played it, though.

    For the most part, I agree with Erik and Jon.

  • “Carry the Zero” left me pretty choked up- especially when Doug Martsch’s voice started cracking. I’ve been trying to find video of it all day.

  • How can anyone argue with BTS doing extended guitar jams within and at the ends of their songs at Pitchfork 2009? Whether it’s Miles Davis, ,John Coltrane, Jerry Garcia, Neil Young, take your pick, the expository jam is what makes us get up and go see live music as it happens instead of replaying studio recordings over and over in the comfort of our own homes.

    When the music at Pitchfork 2009 transitioned from Jesus Lizard to BTS, it was as if the bar had suddenly raised from worn out, three chord, has been, pathetic stage diving crap, to a level of musicianship by BTS that could build a technically and emotionally complex piece of art without having to pander to the fifteen second attention span of those who found the Jesus Lizard “compelling.”

  • Thought the Built to spill show was incredible. It’s so refreshing to see bands rip it up, extend the songs. That’s the best part of a live show for me.

  • All I can say is that for their first Chicago gig in 2 years, BTS did not deliver.

    As a veteran of 11 BTS shows going back to 1999, this was the worst show I have seen by them, by far. Erik and Jon are dead on for most of the review. Plenty of downs and only a few ups.

    BTS just did not bring it for a festival headliner. The execution, on more than few a songs, left a lot to be desired. The sound was terrible. The fumes were disgusting. And Doug + Jim were just not giving much.

    BTS played a ton of slow to mid-tempo songs. They never even got it going until ‘Virginia’ which by then was an hour into their set.

    I highly doubt the audience wrote this setlist since BTS has been playing this group of songs to death since 03. Overall, they packed it in.

    suck it

  • I completely disagree with the review. During many of the extended jams that you and apparently the lame people around you were so bored with, BTS was locked in like I have never seen them before. Sure, it would take a lot of convincing to prove to me that it was a completely fan chosen setlist, but it was a crowd pleaser to those of us who actually like Built to Spill in the live setting. I thought they killed it and set the bar for the entire weekend.

  • Sighcadelc,
    I think your positive memories of them in 99 have been over glorified in the last 10 years because Built to Spill totally ripped it Friday night. One of the best shows I’ve seen this year. I’m not too familiar with the whole BTS discography but I was blown away by that entire set. I have to get the rest of their albums after a show like that. The set saved my night, I accidentally got off the train at Ashland/63rd (the hood) and missed Tortoise.

  • Well put Blood…

    Your utter lack of substantive argument, and inability to read a review from an objective standpoint really highlights your ability to differentiate a good and average performance from a band (no matter how incredible they are).

    I’ve always said, if you’ve got nothing intelligent to offer, bigotry is the most pointed and effective way to explain your opinion.

    I also think its wise to read the entire blog post before you let the coffee, coke, or whatever else jazzes up your early afternoon, puke nonsense into the world

    Great piece Erik!

  • wasn’t even remotely close to the best i’ve seen BTS play and i’ve seen ‘em about 15-16x going back to 1997 in Boise.

  • i am a huge built to spill fan and was so excited by the idea of the write the night with this band and boy….was i DISAPPOINTED!!!!!

    stab, carry the zero, kicked it, and dipper were the only songs that even came close to my wishes. nothing off of wavers or normal years – LAME. everybody knows that they haven’t really made a great record since secret. the band looked so bored and scott the drummer looked like he was ready to go home before hey even started. i have seen this band 10 times and this was by far the worst show i have ever seen. shame on you doug!

  • WOW! I am shocked by that review. I totally disagree. I have seen BTS about 6 times and that very well may be the most outstanding performance i witnessed. Martsch pretty much tore a hole in the sky. The jams were incredible and inspired. The music on the whole was transcendent and possessed the band and the crowd; well, the people around me anyway. I found it funny that the reviewer expressed concern for having to follow jesus lizard. No comparison. jesus lizard, though i was entertained, are cursed by the reputation of having a crazy lead man which consigns them to forced wackiness and showboating; whereas BTS doesn’t need any extra frills to provide entertainment, they simply perform excellent music and deliver the audience to a far out and incredible space; I was blown away and had absolutely no problem with the selection of songs.

    On a side note, i must say the fumes from the generators or tour buses, or whatever, was horrible, and, in fact contributed to the many people who i witnessed passing out.

  • I thought built to spill did an amazing performance. And who ever was talking about tortoise, you didn’t miss anything. no offense.

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