Built to Spill

Excerpt from the chapter "White Quartz."

Along with outdoor adventures, music was soothing my aching, on-the-brink-of-broken heart. I drove around blasting music. In my sensitive state, certain songs were hitting me deep. The new Built to Spill album You in Reverse became my soundtrack. The songs fit what I was feeling—a combination of melancholy and resigned contentment.

In July, I planned a trip to Burlington, Vermont, to see Built to Spill play a live show. The High Peaks were halfway to Burlington, so I planned to meet my dad for a day of climbing before the show. Then I’d stay at Sugar Shack Mike’s place in Burlington and climb with him the next day.

On the night before my adventure, I left work at the Ginger Man as early as possible. I was in bed and asleep by midnight. Dave came home in the middle of the night, turning on lights and making noise. He was drunk.

I asked him to turn off the bedroom light.

“Nah,” he said. Shocked, I sat up.

“You know I’m getting up early tomorrow,” I said.

“I don’t really give a fuck,” he said.

“You’re totally screwing up my sleep,” I said.

“Fuck you.”

All the time I knew Dave, he could be mean or antagonistic—especially when drunk. But this night was different. He was never mean to me out of the blue. He was generally very considerate and would tiptoe around if I was sleeping. This off-the-wall angry behavior was part of New Dave, part of the Big Trouble.

The next morning, I took off for my rock ’n’ roll via Adirondack rock climbing adventure. I was exhausted from the dramatic middle-of-the-night encounter with Dave. I left for the weekend with his last words to me being “fuck you.” I felt as if I was escaping, leaving behind stress and discontentment.

I met up with my dad, and we had a good day of climbing in Keene Valley. Despite my lack of sleep, I was energized in the Adirondacks. From there, I pushed on to Burlington. I arrived at the club to find an almost-full parking lot. I found a spot in the back corner and noticed a bunch of indie rock boys drinking cans of PBR next to their Subaru. I headed over with a freshly rolled joint.

They passed me a beer, and I passed them a joint. They were playing with a child’s toy voice distorter, saying creepy lines from The Silence of the Lambs. I started my night right, left the boys with the joint, and headed into the show. Inside, I bought a Long Trail Ale and pushed into the crowd to see the opening act’s last song.

As Built to Spill set up, I moved up near the front of the stage. They started the set with “Liar”—one of my favorites from the new album. The sound was perfect. They were tight and rockin’. I was dizzy with a flood of emotion. I felt the paradox of living: complete peace simultaneous with agony.

“Liar” seemed to be speaking about Dave. It described someone lost in his plans and dreams while life relentlessly chews him up.

The song also described a girl, a girl like me, who sees what’s happening. In the end, she finds peace. It’s melancholy and real. It’s peace in sadness, peace in knowing pain. Peace in living in a clear reality.

The Built to Spill show was magic. The music was cosmic, mathematical. While listening, I felt waves and saw strings. Everything was connected by these songs. Time and space disappeared. I was seven, taping my deceased mother’s picture facing out the living room window. I was eighteen, driving across the salt flats of Utah and allowing the magic, foreign landscape to relieve the grief of losing Aunt Barb. I was thirty, rock climbing and feeling spiritually whole.

At the show, inspired by the perfect music, I knew: if you don’t love somebody right now, then you never did. I felt what it was like to be married and in a family. To be married and alone. I lost track of past and future.

While the band played, images projected on the wall behind the stage. The art was by Mike Scheer, who created the artwork for the You in Reverse album. I was captivated and inspired. The lead guitarist had a tattoo across his fingers: F.R.E.E. It took me a while to read it clearly. When I did, I felt awed. He is free. He wears permanent ink across his fingers for everyone to see. He’s free to be judged and not care.

I plotted my own new tattoo, one that would capture the perfection of that Built to Spill show. A tribute to my spirit and my discoveries. A tribute to my freedom. And love. And the connectedness of all things. And God.