Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Slim's - Built To Spill

Dedicated to the memory of Dr Albert Hofmann.



Boz Scaggs owns Slim's, now in it's 25th year, and is a co-owner of the Great American Music Hall.

Like the Great American Music Hall, you can buy a "dinner" ticket for usually around $25 on top of the price of general admission for the privilege of sitting in a reserved balcony section. This includes salad, an entrée and dessert.

We were seated, presented with a menu printed on thick stock paper and asked for our choice of dressing (always ranch). I scanned the menu - something with chicken, roasted tri-tip, fish and chips and cheese ravioli with marinara. Sorry, vegans, nothing for you.

I picked the fish and chips, my date the tri-tip.

I should have ordered the tri-tip - juicy and medium-rare, with roasted potatoes.

The chips were hand cut, skin on and insufficiently crispy. The fish, a single filet of what looked to be tilapia, was fried with a cornmeal crust. I don't mind the choice of fish, but I would have preferred strips in beer batter - the fish and chips of my ancestry. [ Editor's note: the fish of choice in London was plaice, although originally it was Atlantic cod - fished nearly to extinction in the 19th century. ]

San Francisco may struggle to produce a passable bagel, but I know at least they can do "fish 'n chips" having had the real deal at Edinburgh Castle many years ago (served in newsprint by the lovely Koreans who ran the friers).

Never mind the dish came with ketchup (arguably a legitimate fish sauce, given its Asian origins, but not a traditional fish'n'chips sauce - although apparently Britons love it), at least they provided malt vinegar and a home-made tartar sauce. This almost made up for the dry, bland corn meal crusted filet. I ate half and gave away the left overs.

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Slim's gets points for serving reasonably priced drinks - which is to say they do not gouge you like other music clubs. A locally brewed bottle of Anchor Steam is $5 and not $8 or $10 as I've seen in some places I will not name.

We bought a bottle of pinot noir that was drinkable for $25 (my date tried to beg me off, stating the $35 version was far superior - in hindsight I should have listened).

Slim's also has a pretty good sound system and competent engineers.

So, don't come for the food. Do come for the music.

On April 27th and 28th, I went to see Built to Spill and opening bands Junior Rocket Scientists, Slam Dunk and San Jose's Ugly Winner.

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"I see Doug (Martsch) at the local food co-op all the time," said a former co-worker from Boise, Idaho, from whence Built to Spill hails.

They share a drummer with Caustic Resin, so says Katie, my local bartender who grew up in Boise.

Rearrange the members, I pointed out, and you'll end up with Tree People, the band Martsch originally fronted in the late 1980s.

You either love Built to Spill or you don't, and I emphatically do.

I first encountered their music when my co-worker CF came to my cube one day, excited, and proclaimed, "dude! this is the best cover of Cortez the Killer ever!"

"Cortez the who?"

"Cortez the Killer... it's a Neil Young song. I thought you liked good music," he responded incredulously. He had thrown down the music nerd gauntlet -- was I some kind of rube? I don't like Neil Young? Built to Who, What?

Until that day, Neil Young was someone I always found vaguely irritating - his voice, such that it was, squeaked like an un-oiled wheel; his guitar work was rugged and unrefined (so I thought).

I was 25 and I was just starting to really listen to music. CF made me put on my headphones and proceeded to smile and nod at me as I went down Built to Spill's Cortez rabbit-hole, emerging 21 minutes later in some real sense a changed man.

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Slim's
333 11th Street
San Francisco, CA

Built to Spill