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Friday, Oct 2, 2009
Words and Pictures by Allison Taich

An audience of loyal Chicago fans patiently awaited Built to Spill to take stage at the Vic Theater last Saturday night.  Introducing their set was Chicago’s native rock poet Thax Douglas, who wrote an original piece entitled “Built to Spill Poem #7.”  After the band took the stage, and after tuning and gear fiddling, guitarist Brett Nelson interjected an apology: “Hey, sorry we’re fucking around, you know, taking for ever.  I’m sorry.  We’re gonna do it! Let’s do it!”


The group—Doug Martsch on guitars and vocals, Brett Nelson on guitar, Jim Roth on guitar, Brett Netson on bass, and Scott Plouf on drums—started their set on the mellow side with the new track “Oh Yeah,” followed by more tuning, and the old-school, melodic, up-tempo piece “In the Morning.”  By the forth song, “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss,” the band was content with their intonation and ready to give Chicago their all.  As people nodded, swayed, bopped and sang along to the music their expressions were nothing but smiles of approval and joy.


The set list covered the span of Built to Spill’s career (16 years and counting,) including “Oh Yeah” and “Hindsight,” both off of their upcoming release There is No Enemy, due out October 6th.  Some tracks were kept brief, while others strayed into extended, intricate jams—the most notable was encore “Conventional Wisdom,” which lasted a good half-hour before the band brought it to an end.  The entire time stage lights matched the music’s intensity, becoming brighter during build-ups and peaks, only to fade out as the musicians backed off.  Closing the show with “You Were Right” brought down the house. 


The band’s beautiful melodies and intricate guitar playing were ideal for filling and warming the theatre’s small, more enclosed, setting.  They could not have played a more perfect venue.  But what was most impressive was how Marsch, Nelson and Roth complimented and layered their guitar parts into one unifying sound.


When the performance ended both band and audience thanked each other for a stellar evening.  In the most modest of fashions band members broke down their own gear, sans roadies, taking time to mingle with fans.  They enthusiastically passed out set-lists and guitar picks upon request, and dutifully signed ticket stubs and any other concert paraphernalia handed to them.  Not just a great band, they were also a class act.


Set List
“Built to Spill Poem #7” (Thax Douglas)
1. Oh Yeah
2. In the Morning
3. The Plan
4. Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss
5. Hindsight
6. Wherever You Go
7. Reasons
8. Three Years Ago
9. Sidewalk
10. Timetrap
11. One Thing
12. Stab


Encore:
13. Car
14. Conventional Wisdom
15. You Were Right


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Thursday, Oct 1, 2009
by Zach Schwartz
Words and Pictures by Zach Schwartz

When Sunny Day Real Estate, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are all playing the same night in DC, and you can still sell out your show at (admittedly small) DC9, you’re probably doing something right.  The Antlers played a great set, to an excited crowd.  My fears that their melodic, sometimes soft, often swooping,  and always well produced songs wouldn’t translate well to a live show were completely put to rest.  They came hard at times, but went quiet too, and Peter Silberman’s voice is just as strong as it is on the album.


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Wednesday, Sep 30, 2009
Words and Pictures by Allison Taich

For months Chicago indie pop fans have been anticipating the arrival of fun.—the band that is—who played a colorful, energetic set to a sold-out crowd at Schubas last Thursday night.  Apparently the show had sold-out in a mere five days, a month prior to fun.’s debut release Aim and Ignite.  The evening started strong with Phoenix-based openers Miniature Tigers, but one could tell the audience was holding back for the main event.


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Wednesday, Sep 30, 2009
by Dave MacIntyre
Words and Pictures by Dave MacIntyre

After stepping inside Toronto’s Opera House to a mere scattering of people standing around, I had my doubts if the venue would succeed in reaching capacity.  After all, it was a Sunday night and does anyone really put in a solid evening of drinking and partying when they have to get up for work the next morning?  The crowd both reflected the twenty-plus years of musical solidarity amongst all the artists on the bill, while asserting the nature of those who refuse to get old. The number of new fans probably equalled the number of followers who were alive when this music first made its mark.


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Wednesday, Sep 30, 2009
Words and Pictures by Kirstie Shanley

Creating a live performance full of win, French-Finnish duo The Dø could have easily entertained an audience of thousands.  Olivia Merilahti was electricity personified.  Flipping her long lustrous hair, coming up to the tip on the stage and leaning into the audience were two of her frequent rock moves.  Dan Levy chose to engage the audience with his sudden floor kneeling.  But despite the sense of developed chemistry between he and Merilahti, it was she who truly stole the show.


It’s both an interesting and unusual combination for a band to be part French and part Finnish, though it worked for folk band Mi and L’au.  The Dø have a much different performing ethos than that duo, however, with a live sound deeply rooted in pop and rock.  In concert Merilahti’s lyrical delivery came off similar to the album, for the most part, but with an emphasis on the faster-paced songs overall.  She could easily play to the most enticing melodies and riffs while keeping her lyrics perfectly on target.  The presence of a live drummer maintaining a fantastic sense of timing throughout also helped.


On their 2008 album,  A Mouthful, a visceral shift in moods occurs over its 15 songs—even among the singles.  While songs like “Tammie” and “Aha” have an energetic drive to them, “On My Shoulders” is as melancholic as it is beautiful.  “Song For Lovers,” “Searching Gold,” and “When Was I Last Home” are simply sentimental songs rather than dance tracks.  Making the album increasingly diverse, it ends on a very raw and turbulent note with “In My Box,” which serves as a stark contrast between both the more stripped down intimate songs and those that feel like instant pop hits.


The Dø’s nearly hour-long set began like their album does with the aptly named “Playground Hustle.”  Some of the samples in that song, as well as “Queen Dot Kong,” seem reminiscent of those used by Solex from The Netherlands and certainly add to the flirty appeal of both tracks.  In contrast, “At Last!” was full of vivid longing, especially the way Merilahti tends to emphasize her words. 


By the third song the band abandoned the album order, switching to “The Bridge is Broken” which came off as an edgy lament.  “On My Shoulders” had a similar tone as Merilahti repeatedly asked, “Why would I carry such a weight on my shoulders? Why do I always help you carry your boulders?”  It’s impossible not to hear her cry without sympathizing.  Her accent, and the way she stretches out certain syllables over others, tends to make her sound even more tortured and anguished. 


Perhaps the best song of the night was the one not sung in English: “Unissasi Laulelet.”  It contained guitar parts memorable enough to match Merilahti’s wondrous vocals.  It’s undeniable how well the band kept up their presence and energy throughout the set no matter what they were playing—a night that, at times, felt as rough as it did playful.  Dangerous mood swings would be more common at The Dø’s shows if they just weren’t so satisfying to relish in every minute.



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