For the past few months, I’ve been writing on a range of reasonably significant issues – most recently on the oppression of the Tibetan people and previously on a gamut of issues such as the coming presidential election, campus events and peace in the Middle East. However, though these issues each seem at least mildly important to most students, I thought that it was about time that I returned to my roots and wrote about something that actually mattered – in absolute terms and to the typical college student.
Though it would be great to see an end to the daily bloodshed in Iraq through participatory democracy or the end of ethnic tensions through increased awareness, these transient problems are simply overshadowed by three words: Built to Spill. In the actual literal meaning of these words I can offer little guidance, except to explain that some unnamed antecedent is apparently constructed so that it will discharge its contents in the most haphazard of manners. However, to me, these words signify the second most fun thing you can do with your ears (don’t ask about the first).
Built to Spill is of course the groundbreaking group from Idaho that typifies the vanguard of the so-called northwestern sound. They gained wide critical acclaim throughout the ’90s as alternative rock swamped the airwaves, even talk radio, and headlined major concert series across the country. However, they are not dead. Not only do they continue through bands that cite them as major influences, such as Modest Mouse, but they still put out fantastically good content and tour throughout the country every year.
In fact, I was lucky enough to get a seat in a concert in St. Louis over spring break, in a venue, to my outrage and surprise, which was not much larger than a shoebox. Though this meant that I had to drive all night right before my flight back to this frozen wasteland, I can easily say that the trip was well worth it. As I watched these five almost-past-middle-age men wail on their guitars, drums and microphones, I realized that, although they had always been one of my favorite bands, they were, simply, rock gods. I have favorite bands, and I’ve seen them in concert.
In fact, I saw Bloc Party in concert and then wrote a disappointed review about their sub-par sophomore album. However, nothing could prepare me for the hour and a half (after some surprisingly good opening acts, including the Meat Puppets) of pure, aural pleasure. The experience was almost religious and not in a kneeling, cracker-eating kind of way, but in an “I’m on acid and seeing heaven” kind of way (although I was completely sober).
I would have thought that age would have taken the vigor from their performance, but the increasingly bald Martsch et al have only used it to perfect their craft. Case in point: one of their guitarists, whom I will refer to as Bushy due to his untamable hair and obvious penchant for drugs, had a cigarette holder not only on his guitar, but also on his tambourine. It is this type of forward thinking that allows him to blow my mind while still indulging his addictions. These preparations, not found in less veteran bands, are simply the rhetorical symbol that I use to convey to my readers what they can’t absorb through this paper, but can only experience in person.
However, what I can’t explain is the completely mind-altering show that they can put on. All I can say is that even though I am a continually broke college student, after the concert I bought their last two albums and even a shirt, not that I didn’t already have all the songs illegally downloaded, but somehow I felt I had underpaid for my ticket and that they deserved more of my money.
Furthermore, if you ever have the chance to see them live and the only way is to sell your grandmother for flight money to Alaska, it’s well worth it.
Burnett is a member ofthe class of 2010.