Friday, October 8
8pm
9:30 Club
Washington, DC

“Built to Spill were one of the most popular indie rock acts of the ’90s, finding the middle ground between postmodern, Pavement-style pop and the loose, spacious jamming of Neil Young. From the outset, the band was a vehicle for singer/songwriter/guitarist Doug Martsch, who revived the concept of the indie guitar hero just as Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis — another important influence — was beginning to fade from the limelight. On record, Martsch the arranger crafted intricate, artfully knotted tangles of guitar; in concert, his rough-edged soloing heroics earned Built to Spill a reputation as an exciting and unpredictable live act. Much like Pavement, Martsch’s compositions were filled with fractured song structures and melodies, often veering abruptly into new sections with little attention to continuity or traditional form. (In fact, the difficulty of Martsch’s songs helped force him to abandon his original intention of working with many different lineups, since the twists and turns were difficult to master.) His lyrics had all the loopy wit and pop culture references of many a ’90s slacker icon, but Martsch changed things up with a genuine wistfulness borrowed from Mascis’ and Young’s more introspective moments. Unlike Pavement, Built to Spill were never hailed as rock’s next great hope; they were neither as revolutionary nor as eclectic, and their music — with its winding instrumental passages and less immediate construction — required more effort to absorb. Instead, they remained even more firmly underground, where their unorthodox approach enjoyed tremendous support from the indie faithful. After a long break from releasing records, the revamped group (now a quartet comprised of Martsch, Nelson, Plouf, and Roth with additional help from the guitar-playing Brett Netson) stormed back with one of the finest records of their career, 2006’s You in Reverse. Built to Spill resumed touring just after its release, and began recording for their next album later that year, although the results came in the form of a single, 2007’s “They Got Away.” The band entered the studio once again in 2008, recording There Is No Enemy with production from Martsch and David Trumfio. The album appeared in October of 2009. – Steve Huey, AllMusicGuide

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