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Doug Martsch Talks Built to Spill's "Perfect" Portland Show

September 8, 2008 11:48 AM ET

If music fans have any single person to thank for the recent trend of live performances of entire albums, it's U.K. concert promoter Barry Hogan. Since 2005, Hogan's All Tomorrow's Parties series has seen the Stooges play Funhouse, the Lemonheads run through It's a Shame About Ray and Sonic Youth tackle all of Daydream Nation. Earlier this year, Hogan asked Built to Spill frontman Doug Martsch to perform his band's beloved 1997 Warner Bros. debut Perfect From Now On for the first New York installment of All Tomorrow's Parties, which goes down September 19th. From that request came Built to Spill's current tour, during which the Northwest quintet will play the album 50-some times between now and November.

"I don't know what anyone thinks — some people like that record, some people don't give a shit," Marsch said a few days before the tour began in Seattle on September 4th. "For me it was just a cool, weird kind of challenge and, you know, just a different thing to do."

The second show was on September 5th as part of MusicFest Northwest, a four-day musical orgy of over 200 bands in 18 venues across Portland, Oregon. The Wonder Ballroom was packed to its 800-person capacity and a line several hundred hopefulls long stretched down the sidewalk in front, making BTS the room's biggest draw of the weekend.

In previous interviews, Martsch has admitted that Perfect From Now On is "a little slow," and the performance proved it. Old favorites like "I Would Hurt a Fly" and "Kicked It in the Sun" stretched out over six- and seven-minute spans, swelling from one gorgeous, patiently built climax into the next. Cellist John McMahon, accompanying the band for the tour, bowed mournful chords over BTS' swirling, three-guitar wash as Martsch played familiar leads note-for-note. Knowing the sequence songs would come in was comforting but left little room for surprises.

The energy level spiked immediately after the album's final track when the band veered straight into "Goin' Against Your Mind," the raging opener of 2006's You In Reverse. They encored with "Car" — delicately played by just Marsch, McMahon, and bassist Brett Nelson — and "You Were Right," which sent the crowd into a frenzy. A little unpredictability went a long way.

Set List
"Randy Described Eternity"
"I Would Hurt a Fly"
"Stop the Show"
"Made-Up Dreams"
"Velvet Waltz"
"Out of Site"
"Kicked It In the Sun"
"Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else)"
"Goin' Against Your Mind"
Encore:
"Car"
"You Were Right"

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