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Youth is King

By: Jessica Groseto Spill, has always looked like your Dad. Now that he’sshaved his bushy, tufty beard, slightly less so, but itfollows that the rest of Built to Spill is also hirsute andmiddle-aged. There was something endearing about Martsch’smeek presence, something decidedly un-rock ‘n’ roll, butstill lovely to observe for an evening.

The first time I saw Built to Spill live in 2001, co-headlining with Ben Folds solo on his piano with his Schroeder-from-Peanuts style, the entire experience was sweet and I left the venue with a wistful smile plastered on my face.

Fast forward to a recent Sunday night at Southpaw in Brooklyn, and Doug Martsch is no longer your Dad after a couple of cocktails at a wedding. He’s your Dad after a long day of work when you ask him for money. Up on the stage in front of a sold-out, adoring crowd, clearly made-up of old, devoted fans, Martsch seemed grouchy and almost bored with his own performance.

He kept calling to the sound guy to adjust his levels and Martsch walked slowly through songs from classic Built to Spill albums like There’s Nothing Wrong With Love and Perfect from Now On.The audience still mouthed along with the words, but it seemed half-hearted.

If I’m going to drag ass to a concert on a Sunday night, I want my performers to be excited about performing for me. Martsch was just irritated. The highlight of the performance was songs from Built to Spill’s most recent release, 2001’s Ancient Melodies of the Future. Perhaps because Martsch and co. have been playing these songs for the shortest amount of time, they were the freshest.

The highlight of the night was definitely the first opener: the Prids. Granted, I’m a sucker for a chick on the bass, but the Prids were pure indie rock goodness. They were fairly straight-ahead garage, but the songs that included bassist Mistina Keith on vocals sounded like a less esoteric version of Erase Errata. The other opening act was Mike Johnson and the Evil Doers. They were stoner metal, and as a rule I hate stoner metal. Since I was predisposed to hate, I will reserve judgment on the goodness or suckiness of the Evil Doers.

It depressed me to see Martsch so downtrodden. I was more upset that he looked unhappy, uninspired. His albums are always excellent, but perhaps live rock ‘n’ roll really is the province of the young. I saw Iggy Pop live once, and even though he was high energy, and over-the-top as usual, he looked like he was going to have a coronary. All the veins in his neck would bulge out as he jumped up and down and the years of drug abuse had ravaged his gaunt face. Martsch is no Iggy Pop, but playing shows for years has taken its toll. Dad should stick to the recording studio and the recliner.

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