(Photos by Jeff Enlow)
By Melissa Baron
Better Than: Getting laid, finding God and winning the lotto combined.
Download: Everything ever performed by Built to Spill (especially "Cars" or "the Plan") and the Meat Puppets (especially "Plateau" or "Lake of Fire").
In the almighty religion of rock and roll few can call themselves saints. This ever important title remains saved for the greats -- Elvis, Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones, Nirvana. Yesterday evening at the Fillmore two godly artists shared their holy craft and blessed us with their almighty talent. The Meat Puppets and Built to Spill shed their light upon the eager crowd and made skeptics believe again. Never in the history of rock has a more perfect show taken place.
Built to Spill look relatively like Jesus. At least the bearded three of the five piece. However, the most virtuous of people often come from the most sin ridden places. In their case, Boise, Idaho ("the City of Trees -- and neo cons). In 1992 the band formed under the leadership of Doug Martsch and released their first album Ultimate Alternative Wavers in 1993. In the past fifteen or so years Martsch and his various band mates released seven albums, signed to Warner Brothers Records and gained overwhelming critical acclaim.
Their live performance quickly explains the hype surrounding this band. Martsch (in all his adorably balding glory) intertwined two musical styles in an astounding manner. First comes the songs we all know and love including all the greats -- "Nowhere Nothin' Fuckup," "Car," "Goin' Against Your Mind," and "You Were Right." Then the song is elevated into an unbelievable jam session. Think the Grateful Dead with less patchouli and more indie cred (yes, even though they're on a major). Martsch even changed a guitar string while playing. Their stage presence feels almost pristine. Aside from the occasional "thank you" the band never addresses the audience who gladly basks in the music without the distraction of conversation. Even during tuning no one spoke except for intermittent praise and requests from eager fans.
This contrasted perfectly with legendary Phoenix, AZ natives the Meat Puppets. How the band notorious for their influence of the likes of Pavement and Soundgarden became an opening act boggles my mind. Since they formed in 1980 they released more than ten albums, worked with major label London Records and broke up and reunited twice. They also played with everyone from Black Flag to Butthole Surfers. These men represent a time when musicians were horribly unattractive but rocked your face off (not everyone ages like Sting). Together bassist Cris Kirkwood and guitarist/vocalist Curt Kirkwood (yes, they're brothers) look like the visual inspiration for David Lynch's "killer Bob" in Twin Peaks and Cris has drug shakes only surpassed by Keith Richards and Ozzy. Even so, few bands come close to the talent of the Meat Puppets.
They played all the hits -- "Plateau," "Lake of Fire," "Coming Down," even "Up on the Sun." These men shred so hard Guitar Hero trembles in fear and they do so on a sea foam green guitar covered in stickers and a powder blue bass. In fact, Curt is such a bad ass that he accidentally threw a pick and managed to grab one out of his pocket in the 25 seconds before his next earth shattering solo, and during Built to Spill's encore Cris danced on stage, took Martsch's guitar and rocked out a solo before dancing off stage again. I've never seen such epic awesomeness (or such sweaty fingers) as the Kirkwood brothers.
Together Built to Spill and the Meat Puppets have fans that span generations. There was a father with his sixteen year old daughter, a man that gave Martsch a video from a CD release party in 1994 and fifteen year old boys that deviously smoked a joint while raving about the Meat Puppets. Each of us found our faith in the goodness of kick ass music. Last night will be forever known as the evening our prayers were answered and we were all saved by the righteous rock of some of the best musicians around.
Personal Bias: I have worshiped the ground the Meat Puppets shred on since I was a child (I'm a Seattle native, I gotta have a soft spot for grunge). Also, I was a child for the vast majority of the careers of both artists.
Random Detail: Right before Built to Spill went on everyone around me lit up a joint including the eight foot tall overly affectionate couple in front of me who kept shotgunning each inhale. Gross.
By the Way: They're playing the Fillmore again tonight, February 25.