The Built To Spill Endurance Test.

The lead guitarist walked out onto the stage, looking as awkward and confused as any college-aged bandmember in front of a crowd at the Showbox opening for Built to Spill, and said into the mike, "Hi, we're mumble mumble mumble."

He may as well have said, "Hi, we're called The First Band, because that's all we'll ever amount to, except when we headline the Crappleman's Bar Mitzvah in our hometown of the Tri Cities."

I've never seen a band look so uncomfortable, or play so horribly at an actual concert for a real band in my life. The lead guitarist, playing the simplist of chords for the first half of their half-hour set; the bassist grimacing as he tried to gyrate onstage; the drummer pounding the skins like Pip farting on a snare drum. Really, the only one who looked comfortable was the keyboardist/vocalist, and that was only because he seemed completely disinterested with the whole thing. It sounded like he was TRYING to emulate Ben Folds only with jazz piano instead of a more classical feel, but either way, it didn't work. Finally, when they opened up, when the guitarist actually plucked his chords instead of strumming them, they reeled me in. But, by then it was far too late.

The second shitty band on the bill was called Ape Shape. How do I even remember that? Well, it's pretty easy when TWO of the EIGHT members are wearing t-shirts with the band's logo on them. Seriously, how bush league is that? I think they were going for a sort of ska version of the B-52s, replete with the lead singer looking like Freddy Mercury circa 1982 (oh, the moustache and thining hair was PROMINENT on this all-tool-star), yet sounding like a straight version of Fred Schneider (singer of the B-52s) meets a queer version of Dean Ween (from the little-known band Ween). At first, I thought Ape Shape was going for some kind of Sly and the Family Stone vibe, what with the eclectic brood (two girls on the far right doing nothing but dance steps they MUST have practiced for all of three hours; the three former band-geeks turned ska-mates on the far left complete with the trumpet/trombone/saxophone; the Polynesian bass player who was the ONLY redeeming member). That just leaves the drummer. I figured it out. He looked EXACTLY like one of those Conan O'Brien "If They Mated" pictures. I'm not lying. The theme for this guy was, "David Michael Manni mates with a really Ugly Farm Animal." Like a billy goat or something. Seriously, this billy goat's gruff eyebrows and hair braids were scaring the BEJESUS out of me! Ape Shape was on stage for FAR too long, only really starting to get good on the final song. And THAT'S only because Lars, the trumpet player, put down his God-foresaken horn and picked up the cowbell. You can NOT look away from the man playing the cowbell onstage.

That only left Built To Spill. I think this was their idea of a social experiment. To see how much crap we can wade through and still endure to the end. It was like they put the shittiest bands before them so they could come onstage and SHOW us how a band who can actually play their instruments can sound. Sonically, this was the greatest performance by a live band I've ever seen. They played almost nothing but 6-8 minute epics, complete with in-sync guitar play, long and aggressive and oh so soothing compared to the bullshit I had to stand through. I'm not enough of a fan to actually identify the songs they were playing, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I heard, finding the more obscure songs much more satisfying than those the audience decided to get excited for (the singles, I guess).

Oh, and the audience, well, the first two bands, Ape Shape hailing from fucking Portland, brought along a vocal amount of teeny boppers to shout their names over and over between songs (and, of course, all they could shout between Built To Spill songs was "FREE BIRD", fucking imbeciles). There was the token annoying girl whapping me with her hair for the first two sets. But, the most unnerving was the dude behind me for Built To Spill. On three occasions within ten seconds, he pushed me with his arm square in my back, so I turned full around and gave him the stare down. But, towards the end of the set, he was back, breathing his cock-sucking breath on me, grinding up on my ass as he moved to the music. And, when he started sweating on me (mind you, pretty much everyone else in the audience was as Arrid Extra Dry as yours truly, this was NOT a mosh-type performance), I just fucking got out of his way and let his jump and sweat all over the next guy in line.

But, like I said, Built To Spill was amazing, second only to Les Claypool musically speaking. I'm not saying it was my favorite concert ever, but they sounded pretty fucking good. Much abliged to Melody for unloading her ticket on me, even though Caitlin and I had to go on a THURSDAY fucking night, netting me a full three hours of sleep when I finally got back around 2am. I'm telling you, work today was as big a struggle as I've ever endured. My eyes have never been so bloodshot. But, like I said, all the shit bands, all the shit sleep was worth it. Thankfully for Caitlin, it's her LAST show in an all-ages venue, at least when the alternative option is offered. Seriously, I never feel as much as the perv I am as when I'm in an audience full of high schoolers. Of course, I'd like to think the 21 and over crowd wouldn't shout so much annoying shit to the main attraction, but then again, in that scenario, alcohol IS introduced into the equation. Seriously, why can't I just be in charge of letting people into a concert? There'd be like ten people every time, all people I know, who won't piss and moan when the band takes a few seconds to tune their guitars.