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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Built to Spill rocks Barrymore with angsty vocals, stunning guitar


Soaring guitar solos and angsty musings of a delicate voice shook the walls of the Barrymore Theater Saturday the second Built to Spill played its first chord.

The Boise, Idaho-based band, with a sound that has oft been compared to that of Modest Mouse and Pavement, wowed the packed East Side venue with its delectable, extended takes on the guitar-heavy indie rock that made them famous in the 90s throughout the 2000s. Singer and guitarist Doug Martsch said little throughout the band’s set—he’s a humble, shy man onstage—but he would occasionally utter, “Thank you,” in his quiet voice as hundreds of fans hollered at the tops of their lungs. “I love you, Doug!” some shouted. “Freebird!” others shouted unironically, as the band has been known to play it in the past. It was a beautiful case of musician and crowd coming together at once, and the humble nature of the audience perfectly complemented the guitar gods’ presence onstage.

Before Built to Spill took the stage, rockers The Warm Hair and self-aware Canadian hipsters Slam Dunk kept the gradually filling Barrymore occupied. The Warm Hair’s singer, who sported shoulder-length hair and a tight fitting jacket, drank beer throughout the set and raised his fist in the air after each song. His image fit the classic-rock vibes of the instrumentation and the Springsteen-like inflections of his voice. Slam Dunk was a mangy-looking bunch and full of humor. When an audience member asked them if they smelled bad, they launched into a three-minute dialogue with audience, in which the crowd tried to guess which deodorant kept the band smelling fresh.


“Deodorant talk wasn’t on the setlist,” the band’s singer said.

Finally, Built to Spill took the stage to rapturous applause. Guitarist Brett Netson, who lit cigarettes between sets, took a few final drags before composing himself on the side of the stage. The band then launched into a 16-song setlist filled with Built to Spill favorites, as well as three eclectic but well-performed covers. The band’s sound is as fresh as ever, but because they’ve been around since the 1990s, the band members wore their middle-agedness with little shame. Martsch, sporting a bald head and graying beard, looked old but sang like a child. His voice cracked at high notes and quivered throughout, adding a sense of childlike naiveté to introspective lyrics such as “Count your blemishes, you can’t, they’re all gone” and “You can’t trust anyone / ’Cause you’re untrustable.” Martsch, whose technical abilities have elevated him to guitar god status, ran his hands all over the fret of his guitar even as he closed his eyes, soaking in the sounds around him. When he sang, his head shook from side to side, convulsing with musical passion as his voice remained even and unaffected by his body’s spastic movements.

During several songs, the band jumped into extended guitar jams, showcasing their technical prowess while remaining calm and composed as the three guitars blended together in a beautiful, complex interplay.

Songs such as “Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else),” “Carry the Zero” and “Liar” retained all their nostalgic air and emotional poignancy in a live setting. The crowd responded to this fittingly, with huge bursts of applause and occasional whispers of “wow.” The band’s rock sensibilities were further established in covers of Captain Beefheart’s “Abba Zaba,” Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and The Smith’s “How Soon is Now?,” which brought the band’s set to an end with extended slide guitar instrumentation.

Everything about the emotional show was smile-inducing. Throughout most of the set, I wanted to turn to the people surrounding me to give them hugs. If music can make a person feel that way, it’s doing something right.


Goin’ Against Your Mind

In the Morning

Center of the Universe

Planting Seeds

Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else)



They Got Away

Abba Zaba (Captain Beefheart cover)

Carry the Zero


Conventional Wisdom


(Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Blue Öyster Cult cover)


How Soon is Now? (This Smiths cover)

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