Built To Spill & Dinosaur Jr, Oxford O2 Academy
Steve and I have a relationship that, as far as music is concerned, works something like this… I plough through obscure periodicals, far-flung corners of the internet and dusty record shops hunting for exciting, sexy new music. When I’ve found some, depending on the decade I’ll either record a compilation tape, burn a CD or download a playlist onto a USB memory stick shaped like a pineapple and hand it to Steve to enjoy and impress girls with.
Steve, in fairness, does likewise and has often brought little-known artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and The Beatles to my attention, for which I am eternally grateful.
Anyway, by virtue of being a 6 Music ‘jock’ and being sent all kinds of free stuff, Steve was able to up his game and introduce me to the joys of Built To Spill, a band that I’d shamefully managed to overlook.
For the uninitiated, Built to Spill’s sound revolves around three guitars and veers from laid back & dreamy to insistent & snarly. It’s never less than fascinating, often thrilling, and Doug Martsch’s high-pitched vocal recalls Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard (who apparently cites BtS as an influence).
The last time I saw Dinosaur Jr was during their first reunion tour in 2005. It was unbelievably loud, like being beaten around the head with a mid-sized bungalow, and I walked away with little recollection of the evening, save for a ringing in the ears that will no doubt return to haunt me in later life.
As the roadies wheel on more and more amps for tonight’s set, I’m patting myself on the back, carrying myself head high through the crowd and drenching myself with a massive celebratory bucket of Gatorade, safe in the knowledge that this time I’ve come prepared.
The young, devil-may-care Harry would be appalled, but old, let’s-just-sit-down-and-have-a-biscuit Harry couldn’t give a shit about that snivelling little idiot, which is why he’s proudly wearing earplugs to a gig.
I’ll concede it’s not fashionable or sexy, and listening through earplugs is like watching through a net curtain, but if it means that 83-year old Harry is at least able to hear the bus coming before it runs him over, I’ll be happy.
The set has moved on since those reunion shows – rather than being tied to the early albums we also get picks from the two (excellent) new albums, a blistering Feel The Pain and a triumphant Freak Scene, amongst other treats.
J Mascis, looking for all the world like Iggy Pop’s glamourous younger sister, peels off 747-sized riffs and glorious, squally solos, while Lou Barlow looks like he’s having the time of his life on bass, a world apart from the nervous figure he cuts at solo shows.
The ludicrous 10.30 curfew (in order to make way for the indie disco) means we only get a one-song encore, but I’m probably the only one left disappointed. The rest of the audience stumble out into the night, wondering what just happened, and why Oxford’s buses have fallen silent.
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