Full disclosure: before seeing Built To Spill perform it in its sprawling, magnificent entirety, I’d never head Perfect From Now On. I don’t mean that I wasn’t familiar enough with it, I mean I literally had never heard a note of the album, physical, digital or otherwise. How I could be so lax as to fail to prepare myself for the PFNO tour, I have no idea. But it happened.
Last time I saw Built To Spill was in McCarren Pool in Brooklyn, supported by Cat Power and Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü. The place, located in “romantic downtown Brooklyn” according to its website (it was a bit grimy), was roughly the equivalent of Marlay Park as a venue. And it was full, full of the kind of fist-pumping, soul-pouring fans that you get at Radiohead or Coldplay gigs there. The band played exactly that kind of set too, with such vastness and profundity that it seemed impossible that they’d ever have to play any lesser stage.
Two years later, Doug Martsch is literally within groping distance if I leaned, on the stage of Whelans. Whelans, the safety net for Saturday nights, the gig venue, the post-gig venue… It was almost like a culture shock, because of the magnitude of the associations I’d made for BtS in my head. Sort of profane.
Until the floating strains of Randy Described Eternity. The defiant resolution of I Would Hurt A Fly. It just snowballed, too. The band fed off the crowd, which led to the crowd feeding off the band, and the whole thing spiralled into one very loud, guitar-driven catharsis.
I suppose it might have been better if I’d been anticipating the next song like other people had, but for me it just seemed like a perfectly-measured set. I had some fun imagining that I was seeing this band for the first time, as a support act or at a festival or something. This “middle-aged farmer from Idaho” (thx Darragh, constant poet of the everyday), his middle-aged cronies playing essentially wanky guitar, with a cello in the background. The most unlikely thing ever, but it was great. Awe-inspiring at times.
Then the “encore”, straight from the end of Perfect From Now On into Goin’ Against Your Mind. That song is a gutfuck monster epic, and it had to be. Curfew at Whelans bumbling in to wreck things once more. It ended, and people shouted. “Carry The Zero”, “Center of the Universe”, “Big Dipper”, etc. Not to be. Time’s up, one more song.
Video taken by Loreana Rushe about two places behind where I was standing at this, one of the best gigs of the year.