Built to Spill

Live Shots

Built to Spill

Texas Union Ballroom, April 20

There were a couple of interesting things about this hastily arranged show on the UT campus: namely, opening acts Explosions in the Sky and Windsor for the Derby. And Built to Spill? Oh, they merit a few lines too, but only because they were so remarkably unexciting. We're not just talking about college-rock heroes, we're talking about college-rock heroes with a reputation for a great live show, on the heels of last year's universally heralded Live album. And what did we get? An arena-rock band in disguise popping off in a school dance-type environment. Thankfully, Explosions in the Sky made things, by all accounts, worth the unfulfilled promise. The place was well over half full when Explosions went on a little before 9pm, rewarding early birds with a set of star-gazing tranquility and Homeric drama. On this night, the occasionally combustible instrumental fourpiece was less explosions, more sky -- a beautiful, panoramic view of the grand Western sky aglow with swirling colors. Windsor for the Derby found that act a bit hard to follow, as they bewildered old-school fans from their Trance Syndicate days with a newfound urge to rock out and frontman Jason McNeeley's unexpectedly frequent vocals. Despite a couple of highlights by the still relatively restrained sextet, the speedier shuffles seemed to rob them of their previously considerable meditative powers. WFD is seemingly a band in transition, while at this point Built to Spill is most certainly not. In fact, Doug Martsch and friends seemed to have the whole thing set on autopilot. Despite all the talk of Martsch's great guitar solos on the live record, BTS is at their best when working up tight little songs, with the extended treatment nothing more than a grand detour. Said tight little songs were all but absent from Friday's set (along with every song but "Time Trap" off '99's Keep It Like a Secret). Instead we were left with a bunch of waterlogged midtempo yawners, bloated by excess, with precious few moments of squiggly inspiration. Martsch's wispy vocals mostly went in one ear and out the other like he was giving a lecture next door in the Flawn Academic Center. Good thing there were so many comfortable chairs in the adjoining student lounge, because by the time BTS dropped their final 20-minute load of insipid arena rock, there was a waiting list as long as the SMF computer lab. Built to Thrill, they are not.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
X: The Godless Void and Other Stories (Record Review)

Alejandra Ramirez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

More by Michael Chamy
Texas Platters
Palaxy Tracks
Twelve Rooms (Record Review)

Sept. 16, 2005

Texas Platters
Comet
Feathers From the Wing EP (Record Review)

Aug. 12, 2005

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle