Live Review: Built To Spill/Quasi - The Troubadour - Los Angeles, CA
Thu, 11 Sep 2008 16:23:25
Built to Spill Videos
Two bastions of indie rock's old guard brought their road-tested stage shows to a sold out crowd at the Troubadour on Wednesday night. Granted, Quasi and Built To Spill aren't Our Band Could Be You Life status, but the members of both bands have been banging out tunes since Conor Oberst was just a twinkle in his mother's bright eyes. Met with an appropriate degree of reverence from the audience, the two acts gave back to the fans with a display of talent fortified by these years of experience.
With Sleater Kinney on permanent(?) hiatus, drummer Janet Weiss has been busy banging skins for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and Bright Eyes, and it's easy to hear why she was scooped up so quickly by Quasi. Weiss carves rhythms like a brick wall but has the subtly to lead singer Sam Coomes and bassist Joanna Bolme through the peaks and troughs of their shifting tempos and dynamics. Coomes switched betwen keys and guitar, as the trio injected favorites like "Birds" and "It's Hard To Turn Me On" with an even looser sense of the free-jazz experimentation their songs enjoy on record. The coolness with which they tackled the most challenging of their material spoke to the skill and cohesion they've developed from years together as a unit. Lots of divorced couples can't even stumble through weekly litter hand offs, but Weiss and Coomes have only gotten tighter over time—musically anyway. Inspiring stuff.
Built To Spill are so on top of their live game right now that they seemed to be inspiring even Coomes. Closing the Quasi set, he seemed almost as thrilled as the crowd for BTS to hit the stage, stumbling over himself to assure everyone that we were "in for a treat." BTS ringleader Doug Martsch lead the band out, looking every bit the part of an indie statesman—vaguely aloof and confidently nonchalant. The set list wouldn’t contain any surprises, since everyone knew they'd be performing their classic Perfect From Now On in its entirety, but few could have expected it to sound so immaculate. Songs from the album tend to start internally, seeping out slowly, before they erupt and melt in every corner of a sound system. Lesser musicians would lean on the magic of studio wizardry to swirl this concoction into the proper consistency, but BTS pulled it off live without a single note out of place. Individual sounds were free to float around in the rafters, but they all dissolved into the ether in harmony. "I Would Hurt A Fly" and "Stop The Show" sounded especially inspired, but album closer "Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else)" tied things off with an intricate post-rock bow that made everyone aware of the gift they'd just received. The band did return for an obligatory encore, but it seemed almost superfluous amended to the cohesive narrative they'd just offered.