Built To Spill

support Disco Doom
author PP date 10/11/15 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

Few indie rock bands have amassed as much critical acclaim throughout their careers as Built To Spill. With numerous universally beloved albums featuring the innovative guitar playing of mastermind Doug Martsch, they have carved themselves a memorable niche for those music fans who love 90s guitar treble in their alternative rock, but also prefer the music to be generally lighter and more indie rock oriented without necessarily going into pop like most of their British counterparts. It's a formula that has allowed Built To Spill to consistently pull solid crowds despite not being a particularly mainstream band, and tonight that infamy has led into another sold out show at Loppen. In other words, say goodbye to being able to see shit unless you get up front early.

Disco Doom

Disco Doom

But before we get on with the headliners, let's dissect opening band Disco Doom, who originate from Switzerland. While chatting with my photographer prior to the start of their set, we quickly observe a stage stacked with diverse effects equipment, among them a particular unusual touch-based effects generator that is a completely new acquaintance to me. Turns out it helps create a layered wall of treble-charged guitar distortion at will, resulting in an expansive, almost stadium-sized guitar sound at times. Occasionally, their bassist exchanges his instrument for a third guitar that also helps expand their soundscape to epic proportions. Still, most of the time their expression is minimalistic and characterized by lofty guitars and the charismatic clean vocals of their vocalist, who is best comparable to a certain Chris Martin of Coldplay fame. In fact, much of their music feels like a light and less poppy version of "Parachutes"-era Coldplay. There are a few exceptions where the band delves into rougher alternative rock with a little scratch attached to the vocals and some heavier distortion 90s style, and moments where they go for noisy soundscapes and far more experimental instrumentation than Coldplay, but overall the comparison holds. It's very mellow and relaxing and definitely suited for larger stages than Loppen. Here, the lack of movement of the band and the confined surroundings don't do their songs too much justice. Some solid moments but mostly anonymous.

6

Built To Spill

Built To Spill

It's been two years since Built To Spill last graced Denmark with their presence. Back then, it was at Pumpehuset, an upgrade from the previously sold out 2008 show at Loppen. We're here again, obviously, and the venue is as jam-packed as I've ever seen it tonight. It's practically impossible to find a place to view the stage properly unless you had positioned yourself near the stage long prior to the start of the set, and any movement across the stage you might as well forget about as we all pack closer to the scene. The band kicks off with 1999 track "The Plan" to get the warm and fuzzy guitars going, but it feels more like an introduction as "In The Morning" is the real one to get the crowd going with small sing-alongs. "Living Zoo" then follows from the new album, showcasing awesome riffs that Martsch has been known for writing throughout his career.

The buzzing distortion, the funky guitar melodies that stave off from the conventional, it all contributes to a feeling that the songs have a great energy attached to them. Moreover, the band appears ecstatic while playing through them. Jim Roth, in particular, looks as if he's in an orgasmic state as he traverses through dizzying riffs, clearly loving every moment of it in the process. In the meantime, Martsch himself spends most of his time singing with his eyes closed into the mic, delivering an earnest wail that helps fortify the down-to-earth vibe that has always surrounded Built To Spill. They're not flashy on stage, not much is happening in that sense, but they have enough great songs to let these carry the whole show for them.

Built To Spill

For some reason, many songs are separated by slightly awkward silent pauses. Not sure why the band isn't playing straight without stopping, because if they did, the energy from the songs and the passionate reactions from different crowd members in turn for their own favorites could have translated the show from being just good into something magical. The crowd appreciation of the band is extremely high, and the temperature inside the venue like a sauna at this point, so with a better dynamic this cocktail could've resulted into truly memorable moments. Instead, what we get is a cozy, chilled out performance that felt satisfying but which was missing the big wow effect overall. Each song receives a loud cheer from the crowd, and some, like "You Were Right", "Stab", and "Liar" share a sing-along moment with the majority of the crowd. The latter comes right after the encore where the audience has been shouting for song titles for the band to play, which the band more or less ignore to play "Liar", followed by "Big Dipper" and "Broken Chairs". With a 17 song setlist spanning six albums with a big focus on "Keep It Like A Secret", I think most fans can leave the show feeling pretty good.

Built To Spill

Setlist:

  • 1. The Plan
  • 2. In the Morning
  • 3. Living Zoo
  • 4. Center of the Universe
  • 5. Distopian Dream Girl
  • 6. Never Be the Same
  • 7. So
  • 8. You Were Right
  • 9. Joyride
  • 10. Bad Light
  • 11. Stab
  • 12. Pat
  • 13. Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else)
  • 14. Carry the Zero
  • --Encore--
  • 15. Liar
  • 16. Big Dipper
  • 17. Broken Chairs

Photos by: Philip B Hansen

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