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Photo by Autumn DeWilde

Built to Spill

The Chameleon Club, Lancaster, PA, July 3rd, 2007

Jul 03, 2007 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

It seems like Built to Spill has been on the road forever. After canceling the initial round of live dates in support of 2006’s You In Reverse due to frontman Doug Martsch’s emergency surgery to repair a detached retina, the band has been making up for lost time. The country crisscrossing has also allowed the band to showcase its new three-guitar lineup of Martsch, Jim Roth, and sometime collaborator, touring guitarist, and now official member, Brett Netson (Caustic Resin).

On this night, the band graced the stage of the quasi-Tiki bar/CBGB-like Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA. After a respectable indie-rock set by Kent, Ohio’s Beaten Awake, Martsch, Roth, and Netson, along with longtime members Brett Nelson (bass) and Scott Plouf (drums) took the stage to a packed house of a few hundred die-hard fans. If Netson’s casual strumming of the riff to Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” during sound check was any indication, BTS’s three-guitar attack was to be quite a beast. And it was. Punctuated only by terse “thank you’s” from Martsch, the band’s approximately 90-minute set included a fine assortment of tracks from BTS’s back catalog as well as songs from You In Reverse. All were played in front of a projection screen with rotating images dating back to artwork from Martsch’s pre-BTS band, Treepeople.

Occasional technical difficulties were present (Netson seemed to struggle with equipment once or twice, and a strange telephone operator-like voice played over “Strange,” prompting nervous smiles from the band members), but it didn’t seem to affect the performance. While the band can come across as more of a noodly-guitar indie-rock outfit on record, this live show was a testament to raw power. “Stab,” despite the band’s tripping over itself midway through and needing to restart, was an early high-point, with the three guitarists riffing in unison to thrilling effect. Further upping the ante was a cover of Brian Eno’s “Third Uncle,” which was mesmerizing in its concise flurry of blistering noise. While “In the Morning,” from 1994’s pop masterpiece, There’s Nothing Wrong with Love, was successfully bright and upbeat, the live favorite “Car,” from the same album, was played only by Martsch and Nelson and could have benefited from some of the beefed-up, full band treatment. What these moments made clear was that Built to Spill is at its best when it is at its loudest. A furious “Carry the Zero” closed the set proper, and the band’s encore performance of “Randy Described Eternity” was appropriately epic and ear shattering. Although quieter moments did exist during the performance, what was apparent was that Built to Spill can effectively forego subtlety and, as a live three-guitar/bass/drums act, tear the roof off any joint. Just like the infamous Nugent so eloquently put it all those years ago, so too was this performance: a “Stranglehold, baby” indeed.

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