field report no.100616

LOCATION: Brooklyn Bowl BK.NY
SUBJECT: Built to Spill

I've been slowly losing some of the music closest to my heart. It's not aging badly or going out of print. Quite the opposite: it's becoming too well loved—by everyone else. It's becoming Classic. I grew up feeling largely alone in my musical taste, but now come to find out, vital pieces of my history are shared by multitudes—just like me.

That's the kicker, right? We want to believe we're special; unique. It's not like I don't wish my favorite artists good fortune and success. Maybe it's a by-product of being part of the shift-change generation on the internet. I didn't grow up with this level of information, connectivity and immediacy, but I have lived long enough to see it come about. One theory would put forward that I should find solace in this wealth of community. It hasn't played out that way.

I've found—as with any relationship—if the music that defines me is going to resonate through thick and thin, I must work to maintain a very personal relationship with it. I need to set aside some alone time—date nights with my favorite albums. Otherwise it will languish on the shelf (real or virtual) while I shudder at the thought of hearing another random party-guest squealing with glee because I put that record on—feeling one step closer to being completely annexed.

Built to Spill are as universal as it gets for the indie-rock demographic. Rewind to the early 90s, Pacific Northwest, and they were just your favorite locals. I can't deny that, as they've ascended, I felt like my own private Idahoans were cheating on me. When they come up in conversations I fight hard (and sometimes fail) to resist saying douchebag things like "Oh, I grew up in the NW, so I used to see them all the time—you know, before they were big." Which just amounts to trying to stake a greater claim to the band than whoever I am talking to. I don't need to be a bigger asswipe than I already am.

This show at the Brooklyn Bowl sold out in a hot minute. A perfect reason for why I haven't bothered going to their shows in nearly a decade. Lately, though, I've been feeling the tug of nostalgia a tad more. So, there I found myself, with Built to Spill, 3000 miles from our home, butts to nuts in a see of adoring fans, who (believe me) knew every word. It was more endearing than it should have been—even interesting. For years, I'd seen Doug traveling with a small raft of guitarists, and this night he held down the six-strings spot on his own, playing both the rhythm and leads with aplomb. 

As an added bonus, since there wasn't an album for him to promote, per se, we were served a sort of greatest hits set, pulling one-or-two songs from (quite literally) every album.

Maybe I should look at this all differently: isn't this the sieve of history at work? We are now beginning to see what has longevity and near-universal relevance decades down the line. When Built to Spill did one those (somewhat questionable) complete-album-live tours for Perfect From Now On, it put in stark relief the fact just how many fans they've acquired in the years since its release. They have slowly grown, organically as possible, into a generational touchpoint. Even if they weren't your band back in the day, they seem to evoke those days effortlessly for you now.

It's just hard to accept the universality of something I found so personal.

NOTES: Built to Spill; Hop Along; Alex G