The Builders and the Butchers at SXSW '08

I've seen macabre Portland neo-bluegrass concern the Builders and the Butchers live several times now (including at


Last Night: Builders and the Butchers at Sunset Tavern

The Builders and the Butchers at SXSW '08

I've seen macabre Portland neo-bluegrass concern the Builders and the Butchers live several times now (including at Capitol Hill Block Party), but after witnessing last night's packed show at the Sunset, I gotta tell ya: these guys have officially outgrown all those small venues. Next time they play here in town, it's gonna have to be a headlining show at Neumo's or something, because it was a Wednesday night and the house was still packed. And even though that's a little sad for longtime fans, who will now have to jockey with the rabid masses for a choice spot close to the stage, it's nice that the band's been around long enough for people to let go of all their inhibitions and actually use the tambourines and shakers the band hands out at every show.

See, the first time I saw this band, attendance was middlin', and the folks in the front looked at the tambourines sitting on the edge of the stage like they were tiny UFOs that had crash-landed there instead of musical instruments for public use. But this time, everyone was so stoked to be dancing and playing the tambourines that one particularly enthusiastic guy up front, who'd been dancing his touchas off the whole time, was given the responsibility of playing a HUGE bass drum for one of the final numbers, by vocalist Ryan Sollee.

Speaking of drumming, there are few drummers more fun to watch than the B&B drummers, who sit side by side and beat on the drums, which sets them apart from most other bands like B&B, and also, they always look like they're having the greatest fuckin' time ever. I think my only qualm about the whole set was the new song the band introduced, because it was about a creature that came from the sea, and it sounded EXACTLY like a Decemberists' song, complete with that la-de-da thing that Colin Meloy does. And because Ryan Sollee has that sorta nasal frontman thing going on as well, it's dangerous territory. While everyone says the Decemberists sound like Neutral Milk Hotel, I happen to think B&B sound more like the Decemberists than the Decemberists sound like NMH, AND both the Decemberists and B&B hail from Portland, so there's a geographic link there as well. So far, even though the Builders and Butchers have a similar storytelling thing going on, with a similarly nasal vocalist, morbid subject matter, and old-timey lyrics, they've somehow managed to write songs that are different enough from the Decemberists' work to avoid myriad accusations of imitation...but then again, the sea chanty thing has been appropriated by the Decemberists, and I really don't want the B&B to become the Decemberists II. Only time will tell.

As for the openers: Battle Hymns, is a local band I hadn't see before, but they had a pleasant sort of alt-country thing going on. And they've got a show coming up at Chop Suey with Karl Blau September 3. I recommend giving 'em a gander. The Monday Mornings opened, and though I missed my exit off of 99 and as a result, their entire set (by the time I figure out how to navigate Seattle's confusing roadways, I have a feeling my ancient but wonderful car will be about ready to expire). However, I'm familiar with the Monday Mornings, and I enjoy this folk outpost's stuff immensely-- they're playing REVERBfest October 4th, at my (and possibly other staffers') behest-- so I'll have to catch them at a later juncture.

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