Built To Spill | 07.05 | Boston

Words by: Andrew Bruss :: Images by: Scott Fleishman

Built To Spill :: 07.05.07 :: Avalon Ballroom :: Boston, MA

Brett Nelson & Doug Martsch - BTS :: 07.05
Built To Spill waltzed their way through a mellow yet edgy set to a subdued, yet passionate audience at Boston's Avalon Ballroom. The group has long been known as a powerful influence on Northwestern acts like Modest Mouse and Band of Horses, but what they displayed in Boston was their unique blend of influences from the anti-pop sound of Pavement's Stephen Malkmus, and the fuzz-heavy edge of Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis, to the surf-rock twang of Brian Wilson. They managed to showcase this eclectic sound pool through a set of tunes that spanned their 15-year career.

Doug Martsch (vocals, guitar) and company opened the night's sonic mind melt with "Liar" off 2006's You In Reverse. The song featured an extended, jammed out intro, which the group utilized to fine-tune some of their uncooperative gear. Things started out slow but not poorly. Following "Liar," the group melded into an older tune, "The Source," from their pre-Warner Brothers album There's Nothing Wrong With Love. The most impressive aspect of the early chunk was the quintet's ability to bring their studio work into a live setting. They stayed true to the familiar lyrical arrangements while stretching out the instrumental segments with exploratory jams that offered something new but still kept things to the point.

Brett Netson - BTS :: 07.05
Deeper into the set, the group spit out a passionate "Velvet Waltz" that more than any other tune displayed the polar opposites their style engulfs. While strumming the living hell out of his Fender, Martsch sang the lyrics with his full lung capacity. Meanwhile, Brett Netson (lead guitar) plucked his strings gently and gracefully, effectively creating a hard-but-soft duality, an aspect of the group's sound that goes well beyond their guitar arrangements.

The only complaint was the band's lack of energy. While focusing on their instrumental prowess, the group barely looked at the audience. Martsch sporadically graced us with an occasional comment, but for the most part, the members of the group barely looked up from their instruments. In fact, interaction onstage between members was so rare it left one wondering how these guys managed to communicate. Most bands utilize a nod here or there to queue a solo, or a quick gesture to go over sound levels. By keeping to themselves, they demonstrated that they couldn't have been more focused on their own piece of the audio puzzle. For a first time Built To Spill attendee, this degree of inward performing was far from expected. However, as the set progressed, it became more and more clear that their lack of stage antics has played a large part in the development of their honest, what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach.

Doug Martsch - BTS :: 07.05
The majority of the crowd stood still and silent while the band dished out song after song. Folks seemed to erupt into a frenzy of cheering and appreciation after each track, and as soon as the group went into the next tune a hush fell over the crowd. Given the rarity of such a subdued audience, it occurred to me that Built To Spill wasn't at the Avalon to offer a standard rock 'n' roll performance, and their fans weren't there to see one. The group has developed a unique relationship with their followers over the years, one that always ensures their performances offer a clear view into the mind and soul of the performers on any given night. For a group as comfortable with their role in their "scene," engaging in stage antics would sully the honesty Built To Spill aims to provide.

Given their low-key style, anyone looking to catch a wild night of pyrotechnics and dudes in Mohawks leaping off their amps, Built To Spill is probably the last band you'd want to see. However, the group is honest about who they are and what they seek to provide. We're talking about a group that is simply not interested in trying to humor newcomers but performs for the unique few who accept the terms. For those seeking sonic exploration where you can close your eyes and drift away, Built To Spill will always be one helluva treat.

Check out Built To Spill's "Conventional Wisdom"

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[Published on: 7/26/07]

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LBSCATL Thu 7/26/2007 02:01PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

BTS are great. Doug Martsch miracled me and my buddy at the Variety Playhouse in ATL last spring.

karacter0 Thu 7/26/2007 02:16PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


thanks for the article and vid.

I always had an interest in BTS, but never go into them. They remind me of bilnd mellon/dinosaur jr./tool. I'm still not sure they belong on JBase.

p.s. the second half of that song in the video was awsome, but the first half almost put me to sleep.

mcarroll starstarstarstarstar Thu 7/26/2007 03:34PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Don't let anybody tell you that you don't belong, Built To Spill. karacter0, you're going to give them a complex.

moemoe6434 starstarstarstar Thu 7/26/2007 06:18PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

BTS is awesome. Martsch is very talented, everyone has to hear their 20+minute version of "Cortez Killer" on their Live cd if they think they can not jam or should not be mentioned here.

Someon thinks Dino Jr should not be here? Mascis can melt faces with his dripping chops. That boy can jam. His take on "Maggot Brain" on Mike Watt's Ballhog Or Tugboat can knock you on your ass.

waa8 Thu 7/26/2007 06:20PM
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cmon, karacter, saying that built to spill doesnt belong on jambase is just stupid. jambase has helped everyone broaden their horizons to some really great music. a band doesnt have to be a jam band to be good. that being said, built to spill is absolutely one of the best bands out there today.

karacter0 Thu 7/26/2007 11:37PM
Show -6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
moemoe6434 Fri 7/27/2007 04:11AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

certainly not more mainstream than: The Dead, Gov't Mule, Phish, SCI, or any of the other regulars on here. I guess you can say i completely disagree.

Ladoo starstarstarstarstar Fri 7/27/2007 04:45AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Yeah karacter, I wouldn't be surprised to see them touring with Justin Timberlake. I'm glad karacter isn't in charge of the content on this website. If he were, we'd only get articles about things such as a trained bear playing spoons and a washboard, just to make sure we weren't exposed to anything too mainstream.

ManyRoads starstarstarstarstar Fri 7/27/2007 05:18AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Saw these guys in Lancaster on July 3, and they just locked me into a sonic trance for the whole show, couldn't stop moving and shakin' it around all those mellow head-bobbers wearing black. What a journey!! Thanks BTS.

kaiserbun Fri 7/27/2007 05:20AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

a lot of my friends are big fans, but i just don't like their music very much. as far as the article choices on this website goes, they've been reaching outside the jam scene for a while. that's fine by me, its good to check out new kinds of music. sometimes you just aren't a fan though. there are bands that i like that people on this board don't like. please never mention Justin Timberlake on here again ladoo, even as a joke. there are some things i can't tolerate.

scottyg70 Fri 7/27/2007 11:46AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Built to Spill definitely jams, but for some reason escape the jamband label. Why? I have no idea. I think a 20+ minute version of "Cortez the Killer" qualifies as a jam, as does opening an album with a 9 minute tune (like "Goin' Against Your Mind" on their latest).

cuttyfives Fri 7/27/2007 01:29PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

im not about to d/l or buy any Timberlake but he does put out some decent club bangers...Seriously, you sound like a little nerd prick when you bash him. He has worked w/ pharell, rick rubin, 50 and Snoop. There is a time and place for "jam music" chillin, concerts, cruisin, bedtime, ect... But there is also a time for pop rap/hiphop...Friday night, at a club or a bar, something to dance to with a female...I like hippie chicks but majority of girls in urban settings dont like to go out and noodle out to Fire on the Mountain on a Friday night. Get over yourself, you need to watch the Southpark where the hippies invade SP. And everyone who hates on MTV needs to relax. Remeber the 90s, the great music videos they had...Now if you are in your 20s this is the shit we grew up too...Warren G, Snoop, Dre, PJ, RHCP, Naughty by Nature...I could go on forever, show some respect. even JJJEERRYYY MAN had a few vids...ex...Touch of Grey...that video is hilarious but i guess its to "corporate/mainstream" for all of you avant garde types...

Brythwhl Fri 7/27/2007 01:52PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Built To Spill is far from mainstream, and as many have said they do Jam, albeit in a different way than the Dead or Phish. Different strokes for different folks, I'm thankful for that. Also, what is with the pics? It says it is Brett in both pics, which it is definately not.

moejoerisin Fri 7/27/2007 02:19PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


built to spill are great - there's nothing wrong with love is an amazing album. i really hope to see them live soon.

karacter0 Fri 7/27/2007 05:43PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


ladoo, i'll give you a thumbs up since nobody else did. that was a good one. i do fancy the idea of a bear playing spoons and washboard :)

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Fri 7/27/2007 08:21PM
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Love these guys!!!

mcmanust Sat 7/28/2007 07:17AM
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I've seen Phish videos on VH1. I don't need that help kind of help from Jambase. By the way, their sound was changing quite a bit when you saw them on MTV. Perfect from now on, one of their best if not their best was released that year. I've seen these guys a couple of times and they rock. I have so much fun at their shows and their three guitar attack is a nice wall of sound.

G$Love starstarstar Mon 7/30/2007 10:56AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Built to Spill are one of the best live acts in America. Period.

MrKnowitall starstarstarstarstar Tue 9/18/2007 11:05AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Why don't you simpletons stop arguing about something so irrelevant and uninteresting. Have the great so called "JamBands" of today not perfectly demonstrated that there are no barriers in music. Have a look at some of the major festival lineups coming up. You have moe. and Umphrey's as big names alongside Rage against the machine and daft punk. Start doing your h omework before you waste your time writing and my time reading your mindless banter. Wait a minute, did Jay-Z not join phish on stage in Brooklyn? I highly doubt I'll be seeing Jigaman in Spokane with BTS this weekend. But if it did happen and timberlake was the opener, I'd grab another beer, get over myself for a few hours, and embrace the moment. and You know what else? All of you would be trying to find the show on archive a week later because someone told you it was good.