Built to Spill/The Delusions/Brett Netson @ Paradise Rock Club - 9/19/2001
Dead Moon @ The Breakroom - 9/08/2001
Zen Guerrilla/The Glory Holes/Vendetta Red @ The Crocodile Caf - 9/21/2001

[ built to spill ]
Built to Spill/The Delusions/Brett Netson
Paradise Rock Club
Boston, MA
September 19, 2001

Built to Spill

It was the last night of a three-night stand for Doug Martsch and Co. at this rock 'n' roll haven known simply as "The Paradise," located just a stone's throw from Fenway Park and Boston University. Whereas most bands on the fringe of popular stardom would have peddled the fruits of their most recent recordings, Built to Spill dug deep into their treasure chest of uplifting, impeccably crafted guitar rock and brought out some aged favorites, practically ignoring the recent Ancient Melodies of the Future altogether. Martsch, along with drummer Scott Plouf, bassist Brett Nelson, guitarist Jim Roth of The Delusions, and longtime cohort Brett Netson on guitar and keyboards, performed songs that highlighted past junctures in the Boise band's distinguished history: a spirited "Nowhere, Nothin', Fuckup" illustrated their fiercely independent beginnings, "Car" brought to mind a grassroots rise to critical acclaim, and a sauntering "Kicked It in the Sun" recalled their first, brilliant step into rock's big leagues. The performance was anchored by a stirring, three-song sampler from that very same album, 1997's Perfect From Now On, and punctuated by ecstatic covers of George Harrison's "What Is Life?" and Cheap Trick's "Dream Police," and a triumphantly dead-on and never more appropriate "Free Bird."

Earlier, popular touring mates The Delusions delivered an impressive set of their own, after a freelancing Netson christened tender eardrums with a collection of gritty laments.

Netson was visible throughout the entire show, setting up equipment and interacting with fans before any of the music began, and later, devoting his free-ranging musical services to Built to Spill's team effort. With his long, thick hair in a state of disarray and an open Rolling Rock at his feet on the stage floor, he became a one-man band, using the wonder of digital delay to create a loop of gravelly rhythm over which piercing shards of reverbed distortion were laid. These forlorn-yet-luring guitar lines recalled Neil Young's haunting soundtrack to Dead Man, Jim Jarmusch's stark frontier odyssey. During the last couple of numbers, Netson pushed his harsh, often earsplitting, vocal style past the boundary that divides compelling uniqueness and grimacing inelegance. Fans eagerly awaiting Martsch's tranquil call must have crumpled in repulsion at the Caustic Resin frontman's crackling yelps.

Appearing onstage just in time to save us from an overdose of backwoods desolation, The Delusions revealed a tenacious eclecticism and an honest professionalism that made me wonder why the band is still such a secret to most. Forceful, mid-tempo rockers gave way to country-tinged romps, with Jim Roth coaxing drowsy lines from slumber on a pedal steel. Netson took the stage again for The Delusions' encore, joining them in a lengthy, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sonic liquidation, complete with dueling, effects-laden solos and feedback-drenched mayhem. It was a perfect appetizer to the multi-course meal that was to come.

It didn't take Built to Spill long to reach the euphoric levels of pliable melody and rhythm that give their music such an intoxicating feel. The band set an elevated precedent from the start with a rocking version of "Time Trap" and the audience sing-along "Kicked It in the Sun." Not as obviously detected on album, but immediately observed live, is the fluid rhythmic aptitude of Plouf and Nelson. The understated drummer is a master at cleanly handling the numerous tempo changes inside Martsch's songs. Likewise, the former Butterfly Train bassist was a constant, unwavering force behind Martsch's shape-shifting melodies and waves of exploratory guitar. Throughout the entire performance, Nelson gracefully dropped high-end dalliances and pulsing low-end reverberations into pockets of sound momentarily devoid of strident guitar.

Martsch traipsed all over his own songwriting map, delivering songs from five different Built to Spill albums and two songs he penned with Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson during their collaboration as the Halo Benders. His most recent efforts were touched upon, but only briefly. "Trimmed and Burning," the most riveting rocker from Ancient Melodies, was launched in explosive fashion but later unraveled, as an out-of-breath Martsch missed a crucial lyric and became visibly irritated because of it. He quickly redeemed himself though, nailing the stop action chorus to "Nowhere, Nothin', Fuckup" and joyously leading the band through the arena rock classic "Dream Police."

All songs selected were delivered with accuracy and emotion, but it was the trio of "Randy Described Eternity," "Made-Up Dreams" and "Velvet Waltz" that eventually stole the show. The recurring four-note rhythm coupled with Martsch's keening voice on the former, virtually halted time. Played with foot-stomping force, it demonstrated the sly, unexpected intensity that's awakened every so often within Built to Spill's multi-layered sound. "Velvet Waltz" is another epic creation amidst an album full of them, and the live version couldn't have been more powerful. After a week filled with such unimaginable terror, Martsch's humble and resilient voice rising up through escalating electricity, singing the lyric "in a world that's not so bad," was by itself worth the price of admission.

-Dan Cullity
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[ dead moon ]
Dead Moon
The Breakroom
September 8, 2001
Seattle, WA

Dead Moon

How cool would it be to have grandparents who played in a rock band? Pretty cool. And how cool would it be if those grandparents were Fred and Toody of Dead Moon? Pretty fucking cool. These two are definitely not your average grandparents. Toody is sporting her staple Jack Daniels t-shirt (complete with the sleeves cut off), a huge candle burns atop Andrew's kick drum, and when Fred brushes back his long hair between songs, you can catch a glimpse of his Dead Moon tattoo inked on the right side of his cheek. Can you imagine what it would be like to have Fred as your granddad, asking him things like how he gets the distortion he coaxes from his guitar to sing so beautifully?

A little bit from the history books: at the age of 15, Fred Cole was being called "the white Stevie Wonder." Dead Moon's first single, 1988's "Parchment Farm" b/w "Hey Joe" was cut on the same 1954 Presto-88 mono disc cutter the Kingsmen used to cut their classic "Louie Louie" single--a gift from Toody to Fred on his 39th birthday. Drummer Andrew Loomis, who helped steer Fred and Toody away from their experimentations in "some weird ass kinda country and western" music looks uncannily like Ted Nugent--except only much nicer, and with better teeth, too!

And the music? Short, raw, low-fi powered garage rock written with generous amounts of sensibility, and played with fervent melody. When Fred and Toody lock vocals on a song there is no separation between the two. The roll of the tongue on every "L," the taste of the back of front teeth on every crisp "T"; every nuance is in sync, and watching them complete the other's sentence is nothing short of beautiful. I'm not overly familiar with the band's catalog, but what I saw tonight left me inspired. We should all be so lucky to have grandparents like these. And we should all be so lucky to have music as good as theirs.

-Craig Young
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[ zen guerrilla ]
Zen Guerrilla/The Glory Holes/Vendetta Red
The Crocodile Caf
September 21, 2001
Seattle, WA

Zen Guerrilla
Vendetta Red

Looking for religion? Allow me to recommend the psychedelic blues, gospel punk revival group known as Zen Guerrilla. Why? Because the best thing at a Zen Guerrilla show (besides the music, of course) is listening to vocalist Marcus Durant talk between songs. With his microphone heavily delayed, his words are completely unintelligible, and the only thing that really comes through are his humbly mumbled thank you's. John Lee Hooker has sounded more understandable. What's the next best thing at a Zen Guerrilla show (again, besides the music)? Wondering if this will be the time that Durant's afro catches fire. Standing at a good seven feet-plus (including hair), shaking, shimmying, and doing scissor-kicks and other gymnastic feats that would put Diamond Dave to shame, Durant always seems in jeopardy of stuffing his head inside a one of the stage lights. Will this be the time? Did he just singe his hair? He's everything you could want in a preacher...and...he looks great in a pair of Jackie O'-style sunglasses.

And their music tonight (and on any night, for that matter)? Balls-to-the-wall blistering psychedelic blues riffs to back Durant's aforementioned boom-boom-boom vocal histrionics. Pushed along by the locomotive-sized concussive force of drummer Andy Duvall and bassist Carl Horne is guitarist Rich Millman--a man on fire, shaking his head violently from side to side as his stokes and strokes the blues from his guitar, stopping occasionally to stick out his tongue in an ecstatic release as his fingers fly furiously across the fretboard.

Fresh on the heels of their latest release, Shadows on the Sun (Sub Pop), and having not played Seattle in some time, the band were noticeably thrilled to be back in town, and that excitement carried over into the music and through the packed crowd gathered at the Crocodile Caf. Between numbers Durant thanked the crowd repeatedly, and between thanking the crowd the band put on one of their best shows yet. Hands in the hair, feet walking across hot coals, the music testified and we were baptized. Hallelujah! The highlight? A version of Bowie's classic "Moonage Daydream." "Keep your 'lectric eye on me babe / Put your ray gun to my head / Press your space face close to mine, love / Freak out in a moonage daydream." Oh, yeah!

Opening the show was Vendetta Red, who had moments of inspiration--especially when they all sang together sans microphones--but who looked as if they'd spent a bit too much time watching At the Drive-In. One of the guitarists either stepped up on a monitor and went over the other side, or missed it entirely, and instead stepped over the edge of the stage and face first onto the floor. Ouch! Between Vendetta Red and Zen Guerrilla was the garage rockabilly of The Glory Holes. Their singer, who spent a good deal of the band's set on the floor dancing with the crowd (no, he didn't trip over a monitor, too), had a vocal quality reminiscent of Girl Trouble's K.P. Kendall. Tight, anxious garage rock...they're definitely worth checking out.

-Craig Young
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