Built to Spill with Solace Bros. and the Delusions at Starr Hill in Charlottesville, VA - 10/5/03
A Sunday night, yet I still decided that a 2+ hour trip to Charlottesville would be in order to check out Built to Spill at Starr Hill. Luckily, I bought tickets a few days in advance, because upon our arrival at the venue, several disgruntled fans stood outside, stunned that the show had sold out just hours prior to its start. The place filled quickly, and as would be expected at a BTS show, the crowd was pretty diverse there were your hippy kids in Phish t-shirts and dreadlocks who likely came to sway to Doug Martschs amazing guitar skills; there were the local indie rock kids; and then there were the UVA kids who have to find something social to do involving beer every single night of the week, including Sunday, even if it means paying $17 to see a band theyve never heard of. All of this contributed to a packed and somewhat annoying crowd, but the performanceswow they made it entirely worth it.
When I say performances, I am referring to all three acts. The opening bands, The Solace Bros. and The Delusions, both put on excellent shows in their own right. Though different from one another, it wasnt difficult to tell that they would be bands selected by BTS to join them on the road.
The Solace Bros., a trio with guitar, drums, and keyboard, went on first. They filled the small room with their twangy, jammy guitar rock but that was just the first song. As they continued to play, they managed to confuse everyone in the crowd who was wondering just what kind of band they were. We heard fast, punk-ish numbers, garage rock ditties, and the keyboard player even threw some electronic shit in there. The keyboardist and guitar player took turn on lead vocals. The only real constant throughout the set was the massive energy emanating from the stage and the fact that the songs they were playing were at their roots really pop songs. Their performance left me thirsty for more and wondering what the hell they might sound like on a recording; so I came home and immediately purchased the band's EP at their website.
The Solace Bros. were a hard act to follow, but the Delusions were almost up to the task. While the Delusions did play several pop songs, their sound seemed to rely heavily on noise rock and droning vocals throughout their performance, warranting some shoegaze references. The noise to speak of came from lots of guitar distortion and feedback, and I think one of the guitarists was even making some crazy sounds playing slide with a bottle. (Im not sure though, because Im short and couldnt see that side of the stage so well.) The only real complaint I had is that the main lead vocalist sort of had a boring voice you know, one of those nasal, monotone, almost (eek!) emo voices but his vocals were better on the less droney songs.
Then, finally, the reason I was willing to drive to C-ville on a Sunday night, Built to Spill took the stage. They didnt look nearly as excited to be there as I was, but I suppose thats part of this bands demeanor. In fact, Doug Martsch probably didnt say more than 10 words to the crowd the whole night, but no one seemed to mind as his guitar did all the talking. Some people are just born to play guitar, and when they play, the guitar becomes almost like an extension of their body. Doug Martsch is one of those people. He led the band through a slew of old songs and a few new ones too, but nothing from his recent solo release. Carry the Zero was the biggest crowd-pleaser, and the bands set seemed to lean heavily to songs from Keep It Like a Secret. Disappointingly, the only songs played from the bands most recent release were Strange and Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss. Maybe this is because Martsch didnt pick up an acoustic guitar the whole night and several songs on this release rely on acoustic guitar and keyboards.
During the last song of the BTS set, the lead singer from The Delusions came out to jam on guitar a little, and he looked pretty uncomfortable on stage. Still, the song was still a pretty good closer until the coolest surprise of the entire night, when Martsch announced that they were just going to stay on stage and play what would normally be the encore. They then proceeded to do their own rendition of the Clashs White Man in Hammersmith Palais. Always a cool thing to hear one of your favorite modern-day bands perform one of your favorite old-school bands songs especially when hearing the old band play their own song is no longer an option.
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