Last night’s Built to Spill show sold out sometime yesterday afternoon as expected and when I showed up at around 11 Sokol Underground was filled to the gills, it was like stepping into a third-world Customs holding tank, but with smokers — lots of them. I chatted with someone outside the venue while one of the openers was on stage. “What’s going on in there?” I asked. “Just a lot of sweating and secondhand lung disease.” There’s something weird about Built to Spill attracting so many smokers. Maybe unbeknownst to me they’re sponsored by American Spirit, though I didn’t see anyone passing out free pastel-colored boxes of their cigarettes.
As per usual, Lea Thompson and Dave Foley were there. Okay, guys, it’s time to go back to Hollywood now (I guess their movie wraps tomorrow). I never saw Foley. Thompson spent part of the show on the stairwell leading outside, I assume to gulp in fresh air or something else. I also saw some people who looked exactly like Steven Spielberg, Vincent Gallo, Sean Penn, and Napoleon Dynamite, as well as a guy who looked exactly like Doug Martsch, though he was older and balder than the Martsch I saw at Sokol Underground six years ago. But other than playing guitar better — and longer — he and his band didn’t sound much different. Martsch isn’t exactly a stage ham. He stands up there with his guitar, surrounded by four other guys, and does his thing, separating songs by saying “Thanks a lot.” We got treated to at least three songs from Keep It Like a Secret. I can’t tell you more than that because I don’t have any of his other CDs. I thought the band sounded tight, though the mix was too muddy for my taste. It wasn’t as loud as typical shows (maybe all the bodies in the room were acting as buffers) and I was able to take out my earplugs for most of it. The biggest complaint I heard was that the songs went on too long. He used them merely as starting points for 10-minute “jams” (probably the wrong word to use since these guys are anything but a jam band). I was standing in the back of the room toward the end of the set and one die-hard fan I knew stopped to say so long. “Where are you going?” I asked. “It’s just more of this for 20 minutes” he said, referring to another one of the structured rock odysseys that seemed to tail up and down forever. I hung around just to see if they played “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” which I had heard they were playing at other shows. Sure enough, Martsch and Company launched into it as the encore, but I left before he finished his solos. It was a looong set, probably over 90 minutes.
Tonight is Sleater-Kinney with The Gossip. I figured this one would have sold out by now, too. Seems like I’m the only person in the continental United States that doesn’t like S-K’s new CD The Woods. It’s been lauded as one of the best records of the year in almost every indie/rock music publication. I think it sounds like they tried too hard to be hard, and sacrificed melodies for gronk to create a Zep-meets-grunge noisefest better suited for L7. That won’t stop me from going tonight, though (being exhausted might). $14, 9 p.m., with two bands, it should be over by 11:30. We’ll see.
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