By Joseph Sutton-Holcomb
Special to The Seattle Times
If you’re an incredibly lucky musician, you’ll join a band that has the staying power of Built to Spill.
Thursday night marked the first of three consecutive sold-out shows for the ’90s-vintage, Idaho-bred group at Capitol Hill’s Neumos. The Friday and Saturday shows are for patrons 21 and over, but the incredible number of young people at Thursday’s all-ages show was proof of the band’s staying power.
In a reversal of its usual set-up for regulating this unusual mix of young and old fans, Neumos reserved the main floor space for older people; those under 21 looked eagerly down on from the smaller upstairs balcony.
Advice for anyone who had the foresight to pick up tickets to the Friday and Saturday shows: nab a spot near center stage. Built to Spill is famous for its triple-guitar fueled polytextured jams, but unless you’re standing in the middle, singer Doug Martsch’s vocals get lost in the mix. This is not something you want to happen, since his lyrics are gorgeously poignant.
The appeal of the band’s current lineup stems largely from its ability to jam vigorously around a poppy alt-rock structure. They are masters of the controlled buildup to head banging territory and the slow descent from catchiness into reverb-swaddled noise. They showcased this ability expertly on “Reasons” and fan-favorite “Carry the Zero.”
The band has aged gracefully. Built to Spill began by appealing exclusively to youth back in the day, transforming slowly into “dad rock,” as its original fans aged. During the encore, the group seemed to own up to this evolution by busting out an excellent cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”: some nostalgia for the parents, some cowbell for the kids. Lesser bands would never have appeased both demographics so deftly.
The bevy of openers made for a late night, and Seattle shoegaze rocker Erik Blood was the only one who brought strong energy. The hard, bluesy feel of the first band, Bankrobber, would have fit perfectly at the now defunct Comet Tavern across the street (R.I.P.), but was greeted with only mild head nodding and polite applause.
Apostrophes was more interesting, its strong female lead singer Tara Roth’s voice reminiscent of, if slightly less memorable than, The Breeders’ Kim Deal. Their songs were too much alike, but the overall sound was pleasant in a twinkly sort of way.
In a sportsmanly move, all three openers kept sets very short. Blood put it well: “We won’t keep you long. We know who you’re here to see.”
Doors open at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; $25 advance (206-709-9467 or www.neumos.com).