Built to Spill @ Headliners Music Hall, Louisville

Built to Spill/Chikita Violenta
Sunday, August 29th, 2010
Headliners Music Hall
Better than: getting a second chance at life.

Back when I was introduced to Built to Spill, it never occurred to me that I would ever have the chance to see these rock heroes in person. All hope was lost when they arrived in Louisville two years ago with the Arizona cow-punks of Meat Puppets, scheduling an 18+ show, and I'm pretty sure the same thing happened again the next year. It's been a really frustrating effort on my part, but I finally got my night. I shook the hand of Doug Martsch and felt my face brighten like Christmas morning. It was like he transferred all of the evening's energy from his palm to mine.

Now that I am 18 and can legally have access to more shows, it makes me so much more grateful to have venues like Headliners who have played as a temporary hutch to so many fantastic acts. There wouldn't be opportunities like this without it. When hosting such a broad array of genres, performances and artists, there really isn't a better place to be when you want to see an amazing show. Of course, this night's lineup was no different. Although I have a tendency to be late upon my arrivals, I have always cut it close enough to catch the headlining act. This is, after all, the reason I am forking over twenty dollars. So even if I did miss Chikita Violenta's set, I still feel like I received well worth what I paid to attend.

With "The Plan," Built to Spill opened up the set in a burst of excitement. Any song from Keep it Like a Secret had a tendency to energize the crowd more than the rest, I noticed. Several shouts for "Broken Chairs" and "Carry the Zero" were commonly heard during in-between song tune-ups, but most of these requests weren't honored until our well deserved encore. Throughout the set, the band made it a point to explore their catalog without totally voiding their new material as well, honoring an oldie like "Three Years Ago Today" and fairly new tunes such as "Things Fall Apart," jamming it out when necessary. The new material translated well live, but it didn't seem to have as much kick as the kind of jams they've been playing for years. Midway through after pounding out "Sidewalk," Doug took a moment to tussle his head with a towel, already dripping with sweat. With his hair sticking out like a clown and a quick survey of the crowd, he announced "this is when the show really begins." And the magic erupted there.

Like the heroes of their era, it's not long before it will be time for Built to Spill to hang their hats for good. I would advise anyone to check out the remainder of their tour and try to make it to a show. Although it seems like they aren't finished for good, it's hard to say what the future will bring for this band. Maybe it could be for the best; Doug can still continue will solo work, or he could even go totally wild and bring back Treepeople. Time has been good to Built to Spill, but let's hope it doesn't spoil them either. It is a much too precious legacy to tarnish.


Elvis Perkins in Dearland- Elvis Perkins in Dearland (2009)

If you've seen the 1960's version of Psycho, then you already have a vague idea of who Elvis Perkins is. Not only is his father Anthony Perkins—one of film history's most distinct serial killers—his bloodline includes other famous personas, from his great grandmother and fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli to actress Marisa Berenson. It really only made sense for Elvis to receive the hereditary torch of fame. This time, in a different realm.

After suffering through the death of his mother who was a victim on the hijacked American Airlines flight that crashed into the twin towers (a day before the anniversary of his father's death, no less) Perkins wrote his first solo effort, Ash Wednesday, heavily based off of these events. Now accompanied by a backing band, Perkins had no interest in creating an Ash Wednesday II. It was time for the rest of the band to have a say, and within Elvis Perkins in Dearland the complimentary chemistry between these musicians is mystifying.

Opening tune "Shampoo" jumps from mellow folk, to poetry, to straight up jamming in the midst of what people call "feeling the music." The fact that these band members are also multi-instrumentalists plays into the vibrant and diverse sound of each track. This would be the defining factor that separates Elvis Perkins as a solo act and the talented collective that is the rest of Dearland. But this unity doesn't take away from the times where Perkins can truly shine. He did, after all, start out writing poetry before translating his work to music. "Send My Fond Regards to Lonelyville" displays this talent well, painting for the listener a homely picture against a soulful and bouncy, acoustic tune—right before a parade of horns come marching passed. But don't be fooled by these ballads; Elvis Perkins in Dearland can get seriously heavy. Check the chimes, organ and stomping riff that craft the folk-sludge of "I'll Be Arriving." It is obvious from here that Elvis Perkins is not new to fidgeting with the structures of folk, and a regular Dylan when a harmonica is to be had. If only I knew about this before I made my Best Of '09 list...


Amaranth- California Demon (2010)

Rock duos are underappreciated, and their significance is overlooked. Even in full bands of four or five guys, there's usually two that sync up and play off of each other exclusively that forms the critical foundation of any group. Most usually, it's down to the bassist and drummer that propel and drive each song into a natural groove and rhythm. The ill dubbed genre of math rock has been one of the more prominent styles to feature and spotlight this phenomenon, with a planted seed from Louisville's dark quartet Slint and mass influence from Heavy Vegetable and Don Cabellero throughout the '90s. One of modern year's most well respected, Hella, is a showcase of pure force and spastic melody within this sparse genre, led by the octopussian drummer hero Zach Hill and the eccentric Spencer Seim on guitar. Hold Your Horse Is and There's No 666 in Outer Space both remain as snob favorites, with the latter being Hella's only album to feature lead vocals. Those in question were performed by Aaron Ross, who later formed Amaranth with bandmate Seim to play and release—rather simply in description and sound—straight up rock music. So far they've only played in select basements around the California area, but their debut album is fully accessible and a substantial piece of work. Tracked live with presumably little overdubs, Ross and Seim sync up not unlike that of a youthful Bonham and Jones... a classier Perkins and Avery... a gentler Chippendale and Gibson.

Songwriting duties within California Demon are noticably split up: Ross's tracks are crafted with a sprawling chaos that beckons the anarchy of folk music, while Seim delivers what could be considered Hella if their emotions were to be awfully conservative. Regardless of who wrote what, each track is tightly rehearsed and brimming with purpose. If their contributed work on There's No 666 in Outer Space was an interstellar exercise in existentialism, then California Demon is a trip back to earth with a similar perception but a further view of it, and from a concentrated focus of two people rather than five. The album begs to be played as loud as the ears can handle, enclosing a full spectrum of claustrophobic sound, practically swirling and evolving like a fractal abused with psychedelics. It can be meticulously catchy and downright introspective when it wants, but more importantly its most appealing trait is the unforced development of the duo's unbridled self-expression. The basements they've been playing in aren't the surroundings of someone trying to cash in their celebrity status and make a few dimes, but the surroundings of living in the intimate moment of creation with family and friends, close and far.