Monday, May 21, 2007

Silversun Pickups, 5.15.07, Webster Hall

[photo credit and more photos . . .]

By Charlotte Deaver

The Silversun Pickups have a reputation for questionable live performances, but they clearly put it all out for this one. Yes, lead singer and guitarist Brian Aubert has a sarcastic side. He won me over early when he shushed noisy cell phone users (yay!) and felt it necessary to explain the laws of gravity to some particularly rowdy frat boys (said something about how it may seem cool to jump up as high as you can and smash into a pretty girl, but really, it just means you're a dick). So anyone who still loves angst and appropriate snarkiness can appreciate his persona. On their website, I read that it took awhile for the band to be comfortable on stage, and that "Aubert was initially painfully shy in front of a mike." If that's the case, then screw early reviewers, because they've got it ALL going on now, and I don't want to hear any more about their iffy live shows, darnitall!

[photo credit and more photos . . . ]

(Oddly, though, Aubert kept reminding me of Roger Federer, who seems to bear no shyness or angst -- couldn't get that almost creepy comparison out of my head. Hmmm . . . is that a tennis racket, or a Gibson?)

My first reaction to their show was "damn, this is a guitar girl's dream band!" But no, there's only one (six-string) guitar. I never cease to be amazed at how much sound, texture, and rhythm can be created by one guitar. But the instrument that cannot be overrated in this band is the BASS. Nikki Monninger plays belly-of-the-earth bass with fiery, charged tones -- just hammers every beat perfectly. She and drummer Christopher Guanlao were simply nailed together, as should always be the case, but is often not with super-white indie bands, jam bands, or just plain sloppy bands.

Finally, this is as much a song girl's band as any other sort of rock and roll. They're a smart bunch -- not just cute or young, insane or arty. They're criticized also for rehashing 90s grunge: too Pumpkins, too Nirvana. But their distinctiveness is, to me, clear: They're substantive, skilled, slightly acid, seem to both take their time and also let go, frenetically. Just ironic enough for us to know they know we know what their doing, but just sincere enough for us to care, this band
seems knowingly poised at the moment before becoming jaded -- by the industry, by haters, by their own success, by who knows what. If that does actually happen, let's hope A) that it takes a few more albums and tours, and B) I can bill retroactively for fortune-teller's fees.


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