Not since Billy Corgan and Dave Navarro played in the tiny occupancy that is the Cellar Door in 2009 or Vampire Weekend in that same year has there been another sold-out standing room show.

In fact, the last time Built to Spill played in Visalia, they played at the Fox Theatre, selling more than 800 tickets. Just to put things in perspective, the Fox Theatre holds 1,275 seats, while the Cellar Door holds a maximum of 400 bodies.


Kicking off the Thursday show was Canadian-based rock band Slam Dunk. The band played about 15 minutes before 9 p.m., but by that time, the venue was already jam-packed, coupled with a line full of will-call holders at the door. The band was upbeat and cheerful, with a sound that resembled a punkier version of Thee Oh Sees and Japanese Motors. The front man was likable; joking and conversing about how early the people of “Vis-AH-li-UH” came out to the show, and enticing the “lazy people” sitting on the couches behind the stage to come on the dance floor, all in good humor, of course.

“We’re almost done with our set so we can come over to sit down with you!” he exclaimed.

The band played fast with a psych-pop quality to them, with a drummer that resembled Weird “Al” Yankovich. The crowd was pumped and was left with wanting more.

But by the middle slot, that “pumped” feeling from the crowd came to a screeching halt, and was instead met with a whole-lotta awkwardness. Mixing a slew of lengthy prog-rock guitar riffs and thrashy ballads, the band’s instrumental sound was reminiscent of the late-70s and early 80s heavy rock. The singer, however, was probably what killed the band along with the atmosphere that was built up by Slam Dunk.


The shirtless, longhaired singer/guitarist of the four-piece band was either drunk or legitimately had the most God-awful vocals the venue had ever heard, with a coarse voice that was so clearly out of tune and sloppy at best. By the end of their set, nearly half of the crowd was gone, and fans were left wondering if their cherished main act was actually trolling them.

But not all was lost.

By 10:45 p.m., Built to Spill saved the crowd from their inebriated misery, and by this time, the venue was filled to capacity. This band was obviously too big for a club this small.


The opening song, “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” was met with a roaring applause. With this singular song, the atmosphere the built back up with a welcoming beat and an equally welcoming voice.

The Boise-based group is the epitome of the indie rock genre, pioneering the shoe-gazey-post-grunge, guitar-layering art rock sound formed in the early 1990’s that has influenced bands such as Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse.

Built to Spill continued well into the night for two solid hours, including an encore, covering most of their albums, including several songs from their 1999’s Keep It Like A Secret. Their encore included a Byrd’s cover “8 Miles High” and “Untrustable” from their 1997 album Perfect From Now On.




By the end of their last song around 12:45 a.m., the venue was still very much packed to capacity.

Whether it was a smaller venue or a bad opener, Built To Spill delivered exactly what their most committed fans wanted to hear, with $20 well spent.

Photos by Juan Verduzco for The Tastemaker & Sound N Vision. The rest of the show’s photos can be found here.