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December 17, 2017


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SHOW REVIEW: Built To Spill
Live at the El Rey in Los Angeles

By: Mikel Jollett, Photos: Sean Costello

I hate reading show reviews. Generally, I don't care what set the band played (because I wasn't there to hear it), or how the drummer stayed "in the pocket" while the melodious types held down "infectious riffs of rock-inspired bliss". But, just to get it out of the way: Built to Spill played a bunch of stuff from their early albums, Doug Martsch looks like a frog, and yes, they did that long jam song at the end that whipped the hoards of drooling art-students into an ambivalent, if somewhat self-conscious, frenzy. There.

Now, on to the important stuff.

The room was really hot and humid and we had to stand the whole time. Water was $4 per bottle. I thought for a second that, like Woodstock '99, angry mobs would begin throwing anything combustible into a big pile, then dance around it, banshee-like, while the national guard collected outside with canons of tear gas and rubber bullets. But no. There was far too much plaid in the audience for anything so derivative. Puh-lease. Rioting is so last year.

The indie-rock crowd in Los Angeles is an interesting thing. Since this city is so over-run with the big hair, big pec, big ego types strapped to the "bumpin'" seats of their lowered SUVs, there isn't much room for the, uhh, more subtle cohort. I liken attending indie rock shows in this city to the end of that Blind Melon video where the little bee girl runs gleefully into the middle of a giant green field to find a bunch of other bee-shaped freaks cavorting about. Likewise, we stare at one another, wondering where we all go when the show ends, wanting to take each other home. We compare sneakers and smoke, often shedding quiet tears of joy at the prospect of finding so many other consciously outcast members of the shoegazing cult of young pseudo-intellectual, manic-depressive malcontents.

Indeed, the smell of love (and Prozac) was in the air.

Which brings me to the most essential part of the show: the predominance of that most rarefied, terrified, and enigmatic of creations wrought by the hand of God (on a whim, I'm sure--while drunk): the alterna-girl. Man, I don't know what it is about 35 year old, ambiguously straight, balding guitar heroes that whips up such an aphrodesiastic melee, but let's just say I've now grown a short beard and have been practicing the shit out of my guitar scales. (Oh, and like, I don't really care and stuff).

My friend Jason from New York captured the sentiment best, "I just want to take them all home, line them up on the floor and roll back and forth. You know, stay up late, play Parcheesi, talk about The Smiths." Navel rings, tattoos, hair colored slightly with unnatural hues of green and purple, make-up-less pretty faces adorned by wandering, light eyes that make momentary contact then look sheepishly away, (my heart all a-flutter), ten earrings, like 10,000 bracelets, and faintly heard proclamations of love for some DAMN GOOD bands. Thank you Doug. Thank you.

And since it was L.A., there was of course the ubiquitous celebrity sightings about which I deign to report. In that respect, everything in L.A. is like a time-out during a Laker game where the camera pans around to reveal (predictably) Diane Canon, Denzel Washington, and the toothy, stoned-off-his-gourd grin of Jack Nicholson. (Don't these people have anything better to do than be "seen"?) Anyways, Zack de la Rocha was in the balcony talking to Flea (in a Laker jersey no less) which gives me reason to believe that the concert may not have happened at all but was instead a vivid dream I had after falling asleep listening to a Built to Spill cd playing on the clock radio next to my bed.

Wait, wait, no. If THAT had happened I wouldn't have this wrist band on. Phew.

A quick glossary of terms:

"infectious": nobody (outside the field of etymology) really knows what this word means. It is generally used by music journalists to describe any tune with more than three notes.

Built to Spill: a very good band.

Doug Martsch: the leader of the band who really does look like a frog. He plays guitar like Pele played soccer, which is to say: well.

Woodstock '99: another in a long line of brazen attempts to ransack youth culture for the sake of Pepsi sales (see Woodstock '94, Lollapalooza, MTV) that went hopelessly afoul as a direct result of its perilously bad taste. (yes, I mean the cola too)

"banshee": an overtly literary comparison to a wailing Irish spirit that is perhaps better described by saying, "it looks like when white people try to do the Bobby Brown."

"puh-lease": please

indie rock: rock music from Indianapolis generally associated with the 500 mile car race of the same name.

"the alterna-girl": see IMWT "Azure Ray" review for clarification

"rarefied": rare. (sort of like flammable and inflammable)

"aphrodesiastic": that jiggy feelin'

"my friend Jason from New York": an invention of my isolated subconscious. I believe he represents me at age eight when I first realized (painfully) that flammable and inflammable mean the same thing.

Parcheesi: like Yahtzee, only played by Armenians.

The Smiths: somber British rock band of the mid-eighties inspiring too much adulation and far too many aesthetic suicides. (see "The Sorrows of Young Werther" by Goethe for an explanation of "aesthetic suicides" and a personality profile of the typical Smiths fan).

"stoned-off-his-gourd": what you didn't know? oh, and Tom Cruise is gay.

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