Innovation. Free thought. Pure, flowing creativity. Nothing about veteran indie rock torchbearers Built to Spill fits the norm when they step on stage. This became colorfully apparent to the sold out audience at the Trocadero last Thursday. Peddling tunes from the band’s fifth album, Ancient Melodies of the Future, the Idaho trio approaches rock ‘n’ roll with a genuine technical ingenuity, emotionally poetic lyrics, and an enchanting sound reminiscent of the classic rock “road bands” of the early 1970s.
Gentle in appearance, the band approaches the spotlight with one goal: to play. Seemingly simple in nature, yet complex in application, Built to Spill doesn’t buy into the circus that rock has become. Almost non-responsive to the enthusiasm of the crowd, the mild-mannered Doug Martsch (lead vocals/guitar) led the audience through a 90-minute set, engulfing the listeners in pulsing rhythms and unparalleled soaring guitar.
Martsch’s voice possesses a quality that weaves an outpouring of emotion into the simplest of lyrics. Every band member contributes a vital ingredient to the group’s stage presence, filling out the ensemble in a way that creates a warm, full sound. Take one element away and the sound would crumble.
Following a set that incorporated tracks from their new album as well as several classics, the band rung in their finale with a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s anthemic “Free Bird” for a full audience sing-along.
With such a powerful performance, it isn’t hard to see why Built to Spill has a certain “real” quality much of today’s mainstream music lacks. Even those hailed as originators in their given genre of music could stand to take a few notes from this Idaho trio.