24 July 2007

Built to Spill - The Depot - SLC - July 21, 2007

How's that for a creative post title, eh? After "concertutional" I figured it best to play it safe this morning. Especially when we're dealing with a band that has often been considered one of Idaho's three greatest exports. (Well, okay, maybe not often... maybe my Idahoan compadre, Emron, is the only person to ever call Built to Spill "one of Idaho's three greatest exports." But he's said it many many times. And I tend to agree with him. The other two great exports? Potatoes (duh) and Emron himself. Although I hear sugar beets are gaining on those famous potatoes.)

It has been close to six years since I've seen Built to Spill. I never braved the Portland crowds to see them in at the Crystal Ballroom during their two/three night residencies there (the Northwest loves them some Built to Spill). I figured the best way to reacquaint myself with Doug Martsch and crew was to head to the Depot with the same crew that accompanied me on the last BTS trek (a pre-Ancient Melodies show at the mercifully closed DV8). So, aforementioned Emron, Kyality and I made to the Depot just in time for the opening act.

First things first, the Depot is amazing. It's brand new and the nicest club-style venue in Utah. Maybe the nicest club-style venue within a few states. The sound is amazing. The bathrooms are humongous. The air conditioning works. And there's really not a bad spot in the place. You can sit at a table. Stand against a pillar. Wander upstairs to the balcony/mezzanine. Or just plant yourself 20 feet from the stage and soak up every note. It could be the most comfortable concert experience I've had that didn't involve a hillside and a blanket.

I'll spare you the long-winded review and sum things up quickly. Built to Spill packs a punch. If you haven't seen them live, you probably ought to take the plunge. It's a tough experience to explain. The guitar work is pure madness and the time changes have the rhythm section earning their dollars. And Doug's voice, even though it was completely shot and caused him to mumble, "Some of these songs are going to be more instrumental than usual," Doug's voice is a little breath of levity in the midst of the guitar virtuosity. My attempt is failing. I knew it would. There's nothing I can write to describe the excitement of a Built to Spill show. So I'm giving up. Just know that it was amazing. I loved it. Even if I forgot my camera and had to settle for a pile of bad camera phone images like this one:

And maybe this strangely high-quality video will express a bit of what I couldn't:

Doug is the fellow on the far right who looks like your seventh-grade band teacher.

23 July 2007

A Modest Proposal

I'm calling for a Concertutional Ammendment (Did I really just type that? Concertutional? Wow...). It's simple, really. And it will only improve every live music experience you ever have. Here's the proposal:

All opening bands should have to cover one of the headliner's songs. Consider it a warm-up, a bridge to the main act. Something to remind you why you're so excited to be there while you're leaning against a wall hoping that the opener has a couple roadies backstage to help expedite the gear removal process. Think about hearing Malkmus tackle a Radiohead track (he opened for them in 2002 in SLC) or Calexico doing Wilco (2004, Kingsbury Hall) or LCD Soundsystem getting into some Arcade Fire (in 56 days...) or Rilo Kiley doing their best Modest Mouse (in 49 days). The potential is there.

Sound off if you're with me.

19 July 2007

My First Twilight

So...I just figured out that I have lived in Utah for seven of the past 10 years. I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but that's quite a bit of time served in the Beehive State. And, while I'm certainly known to voice a disgruntled opinion or two about this place, I'd like to think I've come around quite a bit. I even appreciated D's love letter to Utah summers. Didn't completely agree, but I could get behind his reasoning.

Why do I bring this up? Well tonight was a solid Utah night. Almost made me a little happy to call this place home. Even if I did have to drive across the ridiculous sprawl to get to my suburban home tonight. What made it so nice? Slowtrain and my first appearance at a Twilight Series concert.

The good folks at Slowtrain Music have been well recognized lately, showing up on the cover of SLUG magazine and subtly hyping their one-year anniversary party on KRCL's morning drive-time show. The place is run by a husband-wife duo and they're just about as kind and unassuming as two record store owners have ever been. No Jack-Black-in-High-Fidelity here. Just nods and smiles and special orders and records set aside for eager buyers. Tonight's special purchase—The Reminder (Feist) on vinyl. Arrived in a shipment today and Chris promptly dialed my cell to let me know he'd set aside a copy with my name on it. I gladly plunked down the $11.99 (a steal!) and added some plastic record sleeves—the fifth piece of vinyl I've purchased there in a month. I'm on a li'l binge. And, with the way I'm treated at 221 E. 300 S., I may never stop.

I left Slowtrain, parked my car in the Struck lot and walked the three SLC blocks (they're huge... three SLC blocks equal about 15 Portland city blocks or close to 1/2 mile... no joke) to the Gallivan Center, where every class and type of hip being awaited the Fiery Furnaces / Yo La Tengo double-bill. Old hippies. Young hippies. Clean hippies. Dirty hippies. Old hipsters. Young hipsters. Clean hipsters. Dirty hipsters. Downtown SLC can be a Dr. Seuss book populated with (mostly) Caucasian variety. It's kind of a strange sight... everyone's white, but everyone's different. Enh... I guess you'd have to see it. I've reread it three times, and, frankly, my explanation's not doing anyone any good. Let's move on.

Fiery Furnaces got things rolling and I really don't have much to say about their performance. They're solid musicians—they've got to be to keep up that frantic pace while keeping track of the endless time changes (3/4, 4/4, 6/8, you name it...). I just don't know that I'm capable of catching up with them. Perhaps my indifference to the Furnaces is nothing more than a symptom of my greater affinity for music that goes down a little smoother. I don't dislike the Furnaces. I even appreciate what they're going for. But I doubt I'll be choosing to see them again. It's not them, it's me. No, seriously...

I guess now is the best time to mention that, by the time the Fiery Furnaces left the stage, the Gallivan Center was packed to the brim. I staked out the usually safe territory behind the sound board, dead center about 50 yards from the stage. But the crowds flooded through every pathway and bit of open space the square had to offer. This is no lazy summer in the park. It's a scene (Or is it an arms race, D? Did you ever get that sorted out?) and once you've found your spot, don't plan on moving from it—there's no place to go. A step forward pinned me to the rails around the sound booth. A step back landed a strange fellow's hand in my back pocket. By 8:30, the Gallivan Center was in full-blown pedestrian/spectator gridlock.

Honestly, I was fine with all of it. It's hard to exhibit my typical "shut-up-and-listen" elitism at a free, city-hosted gig like this. I do my best to listen and try to avoid the distractions. Luckily, Yo La Tengo blistered their way through the sideshows. And by blistered, I mean scorched, screamed, soloed, sizzled. From note one, the three-piece outfit let loose a string of keyboard and guitar assaults that can only be described with shrugs and gasps. And the setlist was just about dead-on. The covered my absolute YLT faves, moving straight from Autumn Sweater into Let's Save Tony Orlando's House and later served up a near a capella version of You Can Have It All. They saved Sugarcube for the tail end of the set and delivered a relatively succinct encore that wrapped with a (seemingly) impromptu version of a Zombies track I've never heard of (then again, I don't know any Zombies tracks at all... how that for a completely un-hipster-like confession?).

So that was that. My first Twilight show. And it won't be my last. Peter Bjorn and John arrive (with Apostle of Hustle) later this month and Calexico comes to town in August (the day before I see Wilco in Berkeley...I'm working around the clock on the logistical possibilities of seeing both).

18 July 2007

Walk Away Now

So now that I've admitted to spending the last month or so soaking every note of Boxer into my bones, I probably ought to fess up to my addiction to La Blogoteque's Take-Away Shows video podcast. The series started up a while ago and it appears that friend-of-the-National, Vincent Moon is the visionary videographer (cinematographer? director? best boy? gaffer?) behind most of the spots. Check it out with this disclaimer: watch one and you're hooked. Every clip is hypnotic in its own way, especially when it's the Shins strolling down a street and starting into a Calexico cover before arriving at their eventual Gone for Good performance destination. Or when Sufjan Stevens spins and sings on a rooftop. Or when two fellows from the National head out on a sailboat and deliver a bare-bones version of Gospel. That said, the following two have been on nonstop rotation at the upto12 workspace:

Start a War kills me and the dinner-table performance is a pure stunner.

I know, attention spans are short these days. But carve out 15:27 for this required viewing. Please. Do this one thing for yourself. You won't regret it. Especially when you realize that a bit of the elevator percussion involves pages being torn from a phone book.

You can subscribe to the podcast by clicking on the iTunes link on the right side of the Les Concerts a Emporter page (it's all in French, so good luck... okay, fine, here's the English language page). You can only access the last 15 or so via iTunes, but you'll find all the shows at DailyMotion (just search for "take away shows").

17 July 2007

Wha Ha-pen?

Where have I been? What happened to this blog? Why don't I write? Theories are everywhere:

I'm lazy. I'm a bad writer. I have no original ideas. I can't handle the pressure of an audience. I'm too busy watching Rob & Big. I'd rather play Spider Solitaire on the BlackBerry. I'm too cool for a blog. I'm not cool enough for a blog. I got a new turntable. I spent 5 days at the Grand Wailea (on company dollars, no less). I spent 5 days in Wyoming. I drove across northern Nevada twice in four days with only one night of sleep in between. I have trouble waking up in the morning. I drink too much Diet Coke. I can't stop listening to Boxer (the National). I can't stop listening to The Reminder (Feist). I bought tickets to see the White Stripes and Arcade Fire and Built to Spill and the National (Arcade Fire and the National on back-to-back nights in Denver... holy holy). I buy four tickets to every show without knowing if anyone else wants to go. I play golf. I own at least five golf shirts. I own golf shoes. I'm moving up the corporate ladder. I have no idea where I'm going. I miss Portland more than I should. I'm reading the only Nick Hornby book I haven't read (A Long Way Down) and it's fantastic. I sleep with a baseball bat next to my bed. I've decided to buy records instead of CDs. I have horrible manners. I shrug a lot. I wink even more. I've given up on learning to whistle. I do my best to maintain a clean and orderly cubicle. I keep a change of clothes in the trunk of my car. I refer to my sons as "The Chubby" and "The Scrawny". I enjoyed Live Free or Die Hard a little too much. I eavesdrop. I have no excuse.

So that's that. Take your pick. Leave another couple in the comments. I know better than to promise that this post signals a change in my behavior... but I can hope, right?