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Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 4:25 am | Light Rain 60º


Jeff Moehlis: Built to Spill’s Cup Runneth Over

Doug Martsch and gang serve up set of indie rock magic

Just a couple of weeks after the powerful Dinosaur Jr. show at Velvet Jones, catchy, heavy guitar returned to Santa Barbara with the Built to Spill concert at the SOhO Restaurant & Music Club last Wednesday night.

As for the band’s entire 20-plus years, the guitar master and vocalist was the unassuming Doug Martsch, who calmly served up song after song of indie rock magic.

The band, which has a long history of lineup changes, had the new rhythm section of Jason Albertini (bass) and Steve Gere (drums), who recently replaced longtime members Brett Nelson and Scott Plouf.

Doug Martsch
Doug Martsch

The band hit highlights from Built to Spill’s whole catalog, from early songs such as “Lie for a Lie” and “Hazy” to newer fare such as the opener “Goin’ Against Your Mind” and “Pat.”

Personally, I was quite happy that their ultra-fine 1999 album Keep It Like a Secret was well-represented by the dreamy “Else,” “Carry the Zero” with its transcendent ending and “You Were Right” with lyrics referring to songs by classic rock artists including Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Doors and Kansas.

Other popular songs were the rapid-fire “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss,” “I Would Hurt a Fly,” which had the crowd singing along, and “Big Dipper.”

The band, also known for performing eclectic cover songs, delivered with Cheap Trick’s “Southern Girls” and, especially, The Clash’s “Train in Vain,” which gave a late shot in the arm during the encore.

The show’s last song, Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand,” had members of opening bands Junior Rocket Scientist and Slam Dunk swapping in, but with its length approaching a half-hour and the clock approaching 1 a.m., it arguably overstayed its welcome.

Martsch has cited Dinosaur Jr. guitarist/vocalist/songwriter J Mascis as a major influence, and one can hear a similar spirit in their guitar playing, although Martsch and Built to Spill keep things at a much more reasonable volume.

Thanks are due to Club Mercy for bringing both of these bands in recent weeks to our charming, little town by the sea.


Goin’ Against Your Mind
You Were Right
Lie For a Lie
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss
I Would Hurt a Fly
Heart (Things Never Shared) (from Doug Martsch solo album)
Carry the Zero


Southern Girls (Cheap Trick cover)
Big Dipper
Train in Vain (Clash cover)
Cowgirl in the Sand (Neil Young and Crazy Horse cover)

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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