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Built to Spill: Smooth or Chunky

 story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: July 11, 2007

Built to Spill
w/ The Boggs
Wednesday, July 18, 9 p.m.
729 No. 14th St.

Go back in time. Check out the 1999 Lazy-i interview with Doug Martsch.  

I've talked to maybe a dozen people who attended the last two Built to Spill concerts in Omaha. All have the same question about the upcoming July 18 show at Slowdown: Which version of Doug Martsch and Company will show up -- the poppy Built to Spill or the jam-band Built to Spill?

The May 7, 1999, Built to Spill show at Sokol Underground was a hot, smoky set that collected the best songs from the then just-released Keep It Like a Secret, as well as '97's Perfect from Now On and previous albums. Martsch ripped through one indie-pop nugget after another, garnishing each with a tasty-but-brief guitar solo. It will stand as one of the best -- and smokiest -- concerts I've ever seen.

Other than the fact that Dave Foley and Lea Thompson were schmoozing in the crowd (both in town shooting the never-released movie "Out of Omaha"), the Oct. 11, 2005, Built to Spill show (also at Sokol, also smoky) is remembered for the band's epically long jams that stretched each song past the 10-minute mark, sometimes even longer, capping the night with a mammoth cover of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." As many people loved the show as walked out halfway through, complaining about Martsch's marathon guitar solos.




Martsch says he doesn't remember either gig, but that reports of the '05 show being a "jamfest" are overblown.

"We actually don't jam too much," he said via cell phone from Minneapolis last week, where Built to Spill was kicking off the tour. "We usually end our set with a long jam and during the show there might be one or two songs that go off a little bit. People are really exaggerating about the ('05 Omaha) show. We never played a show where we jammed all night. We don't do that. It wouldn't be fair to everyone or to us."

Martsch says an evening's play list varies nightly. "We always try to mix it up a bit," he said. "There are times when we lean more one direction than the other, but we mostly try to get a good balance of songs and jams." Playing alongside him on this tour are Built to Spill veterans Brett Nelson, Scott Plouf, Jim Roth and Brett Netson.

Martsch says he writes a different play list for every show. "But on a trip like this, since we're only going to a couple cities we've played before, the set list may be pretty similar," Martsch said. "I like to have a balance of stuff from all of our records so that if someone only has one record, there will be something that they recognize."

Mixing old and new makes even more sense on this tour. In addition to supporting You in Reverse, the band's last album released in April 2006 by Warner Bros., Built to Spill also is supporting the release of limited-edition (2,000 each) vinyl reissues of Perfect from Now On and Keep It Like a Secret -- remastered and back in print on vinyl for the first time on Warner's, having originally been released on Up Records -- and You in Reverse, available for the first time on vinyl.

"They originally wanted to release a box set of all of our records," Martsch said, "but the other labels involved dragged their feet. They did a great job and didn't spare any expense."

Omaha fans also may get a taste of a Rasta version of BTS Wednesday night. On Tuesday, Warner's released a two-song 12-inch featuring BTS original "They Got Away" b/w a cover of "Re-Arrange" by The Gladiators -- both reggae songs that have been performed on past BTS tours. "Most of our stuff comes out of jams," Martsch said. "One of them just happened to be a reggae thing."

So what exactly will we be in for next Wednesday night at Slowdown?

"I'm not sure myself," Martsch said. "We start our first show tonight. By the time we get there, we'll be playing something else. You start with a bunch of songs you think you'll play, and then realize a few don't have things going for them. By the time we get there, who knows what we'll be playing."

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Published in The Omaha Reader July 11, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.










"We never played a show where we jammed all night. We don't do that. It wouldn't be fair to everyone or to us."