Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Built To Spill & Meat Puppets @ The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA, 02/25/08

At first glance, the godfathers of 80's underground cow-punk and the godfathers of 90's indie guitar rock don't have much in common, besides their title. The relatively unknown opener from Seattle, Helvetia, worked to bridge the gap between the two bands with a sound that fused the best of both styles: Anthemic songwriting, J. Mascis-esque vocals, Sonic Youth style noise solos, and a penchant for jamming out. But even their fairly impressive attempt (which encouraged me to check out their myspace, something that I encourage any Dinosaur Jr fan to do as well) couldn't make the two bands' performances feel any closer to one another.

Meat Puppets took the stage and exhibited an energy and excitement that you wouldn't expect from a bunch of gray haired middle aged men going on their 28'th year as a band together. The Bassist in particular, Cris Kirkwood, overflowed with enough glee and playfulness to fill a giddy schoolgirl at her first high school dance. However, their age revealed itself in the extremely dull moments that they decided to play any of their recent work. Thankfully, the extended jam sessions that tied each song together made up for such mistakes, and fan-favorites like "Up On The Sun" and "Plateau" were instilled with enough improvisation and twists to feel completely new.

Sadly, Built To Spill was in direct contrast with Meat Puppets' enthusiasm (which surprised me, since the first time I witnessed them, on the You In Reverse tour, they were spectacular). Their stage presence was just what you would expect from one of the spokes-bands of the slacker generation. Whether staring solemnly at their shoes or pensively fixated on their guitars, they barely changed their facial expressions and stage positions for the entire show. Other bands may have been able to put up a show without much movement, but Built To Spill's best songs vary between ecstatic joy and soaring chaos, so by all rights, their physical manifestation should be appropriate. Instead, I got the impression that they were going through the motions, completely unmoved by their own stellar compositions. But the even bigger issue was the poor sound-mixing, which effectively eliminated the best parts of each song (dense layers of supplementary riffs, slide guitars, and Doug's wonderfully whiny voice) in favor of the rhythm guitar's overloud chunky monster riffage. Still, unmoved by their most recent work, it was nice to see that they hadn't abandoned their classic albums, crafting a set that took all the best tracks from their trio of greatness (There's Nothing Wrong With Love, Perfect From Now On and Keep It Like A Secret).

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