If you, like me, are an indie rock fan, then seeing Built to Spill should be on your list of bands to see live. I went with a group of friends to Cat’s Cradle (one of the best venues to see anyone play) on May 8, and I saw a couple of electric performances by individuals and bands.
Built to Spill frequents Cat’s Cradle, as they usually make sure to have a stop every tour. This year they brought along two openers, Itchy Kitty and Prism Bitch. Itchy Kitty are from Spokane, Washington and they play wonderfully loud, jarring sounds in the vein of punk and “whiplash inducing riffage” as stated by their Bandcamp bio. Prism Bitch are from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Their genre focus is in the pop indie rock niche, which unfortunately adds to my slight distaste for their performance.
After milling about in the crowd waiting for the show to start, Itchy Kitty hopped on the stage. The members, Ami Elston (guitar and vocals), Naomi Eisenbrey (bass and vocals), Mike “Sug” Tschirgi (drums), and a fill-in guitarist, immediately started off trying to get the crowd moving.
Elston and Esenbrey’s vocals screamed through the Cradle and jolted most people awake. I don’t think many people were expecting a raging punk band like Itchy Kitty to open for the soft, mild-mannered Built to Spill.
At one point during their set, my group of friends got a shout out from Elston and Eisenbrey for being the only people trying to mosh and get moving to the music. I loved their stage presence. Especially Naomi Eisenbrey’s jerky movements when they covered “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads (which was fantastic and horrifying at the same time).
Itchy Kitty killed their set. I didn’t recognize all of their songs, but “Year of the Slut” and “Diffuse the Rat” were good ones to throw some elbows to. I am hoping this tour with Built to Spill will make their fanbase a bit more vast so we can see them headlining soon.
Moving onto the second opener, Prism Bitch did a fine job. They were more of who I expected to open for Built to Spill. Their pop centered indie rock did not blow me away like Itchy Kitty’s in-your-face screams and riffs. The members are Lauren Poole (bass and vocals), Lilah Rose (keyboard, guitar and vocals), Chris Walsh (guitar), and Teresa Esquerra (drums and vocals).
I thought Poole and Esquerra made the most impact on the band’s presence on stage. Both were fun to watch as they poured in all their energy into their instruments. Poole’s vocals were a great addition to Rose’s dreamy, classic, pop-rock style of singing. Prism Bitch did not get me moving like Itchy Kitty, but I have hope they’ll be able to fine tune their style to find a sound more intriguing.
Built to Spill
When Doug Martsch finally came to stage it was already 10:30 p.m. Both openers had exhausted me and friends, but nothing could stop me from enjoying seeing one of my favorite bands knock out some of the best guitar work in the world.
Doug Martsch was joined on stage by Prism Bitch’s drummer, Teresa Esquerra, and bassist Melanie Radford. Both Esquerra and Radford were amazing fill-ins. Radford’s bass playing was fun to watch. She looked like she was having as much fun as the crowd the way she swayed with Martsch’s rhythms.
Built to Spill’s set ranged from classics to covers to long winded instrumentals. They started off with “The Plan” to get the crowd “moving” (everyone was doing the obligatory calm head bops to the beat). There were a few technical issues after the first couple songs, but after that quick pause Martsch played the opening instrumental to Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”, which led into “Gonna Lose”.
A cover of a Cate Le Bon song, “Are You with Me Now?”, marked the middle of the set. The plucky instrumentals and Martsch’s soft voice created a memorable sound. I really loved this cover (unfortunately I had never heard of Cate Le Bon before this concert). At this point the crowd began to sway their hips and move their feet more.
That cover was followed by “Goin’ Against Your Mind”. The never ending guitar riffs, bass solo by Melanie Radford, and always incredible drum work by Esquerra created the perfect atmosphere for the song. I think while they were playing “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” I saw Martsch smile for the first time and only time during their set.
“Carry the Zero” being one of the last songs they played was a treat too. That classic hit will never get old for me, and now I can say I have seen it live. I honestly believe that finally seeing Doug Martsch and Built to Spill perform live was a life goal achieved. While the merch table was mediocre (besides the bangin’ Itchy Kitty t-shirts), seeing Built to Spill live is an important experience for people to understand why they are so well loved.
– DJ chef