Listen To Me Goddammit!!! Listen To The Silversun Pickups!!!
A few months back I was reading my favorite MP3 blog, Gorilla vs. Bear, when I came across a review of a Silversun Pickups show. The reviewer raved about the band’s performance, which had been somewhere in Texas, as well as posted a track called Lazy Eye which was from their, at the time, upcoming release Carnavas (listen to it at MySpace). I downloaded the track and was instantly hooked. This being around May, Carnavas wasn’t slated for release until July, but Gorilla vs. Bear had heard an advance copy and was drooling over it already. They also noted that, while their recorded work is amazing, Silversun’s live shows do the songs even more justice. Since I was already hooked to the one track, I added them as MySpace friends, and learned through the site that they had an earlier ep called Pikul. I scoured my favorite CD stores in Toronto (Rotate This, Sonic Boom, Soundscapes) looking for Pikul, but came up empty. Until, on a whim, I checked HMV. Lo and Behold, I found my own copy of Pikul. The album stayed in my CD player for a few solid weeks of constant listening. This is very rare for me, even more so since it was only an EP. Kissing Families, the opening track on the album, is one hell of a song. Their transitions from slow to fast, from quiet, to screaming, combined with some really amazing guitar work and funky beats, dug the hook of my Silversun addiction even deeper into my lip. I found myself listening to it on repeat, forgetting sometimes that there were other tracks on the album, all of them great.
Finally July came, and I managed to track down Carnavas shortly after its release. OHHH MAN! What an album. From start to finish, every track is amazing. The Silversun Pickups have a sound that is hard to describe. As a whole, it’s straight forward rock music, but the components are all very fresh and unique on their own. The guitar work seems almost experimental, often distorted as it builds into walls of sound much like Asobi Seksu, then seamlessly melds into the keyboard lines. The beats and the bass lines are super funky and play off the more experimental edge of the music, making it very accessible to pretty much anyone who likes the rock and roll music.
While obsessing over them, I learned through their MySpace that they were to be playing a show at Lee’s Palace on October 17. I was thrilled. Shortly after learning this info, I picked up six tickets to the show. Six, even though, only 1 of my friends actually knew of the band. Over the next few weeks, I started to push them endlessly on my music-conscious friends. What often happens when you try to push a band on people is that they listen to the tracks you send them once or twice, then forget about them and go back to listening to their Coldplay albums. This was the case with the Pickups. As much as I tirelessly pushed them, no one wanted to come to the show. This is with the exception of fellow Culturatti contributor Jamie Read. Tickets were only $8.50, so I started on drastic measures, telling one friend that I would take her for her birthday. On the day of the show, she backed out. In the end I gave away my four remaining tickets to some good friends: Tammy, Jyl, Carl and Mike.
We started the night with drinks/dinner at the Green Room. Headed over to Lee’s at 8:30 just in time to catch opening act Nassau and realize that they suck. Instead of standing through they’re set, we headed over to the Brass Tap for more drinks and a round of musical chairs as the music in the bar kept starting and stopping. On another note, Brass Tap has a set of Elvis busts painted in Kiss make up which are awesome squared. 9:30 came around and we headed back to Lee’s just in time to catch the beginning of the Silversun Pickups set. The review I had read was more than true. The Silversun Pickups live show is even better than their recorded work. I’ve already raved about their albums, so you can guess, I loved their show. They were very modest as they remarked that the crowd that night was much larger than they were accustomed to playing. Lead singer/guitarist Brian Aubert joked about his last time being in Toronto was on his birthday last year. On this, the crowd began a running joke with the band constantly wishing him happy birthday between songs. One fan even bought him a drink and set it up on stage. Going even further than that, Jamie began singing Happy Birthday loudly, within a few words of the song, the entire club, and the band followed suit resulting in an amazing chorus belting out the fake birthday cheer. The Pickups live show is much rawer than their produced work, really showing off their lo-fi colours. Some lyrics were screamed in places where they would be sung, and some parts went on longer as the band improvised on the material, at one point remarking they made a song go on longer just because the audience looked like they were having so much fun. Everyone involved loved the show. My only critique of the performance is of Nikki Monninger’s back up vocals. At first her vocals were set way too low, but once this affliction was cured, I noticed that she was still very quiet on the mic. Nikki, the exceptionally cute bassist, seems to suffer from acute stage fright. Her sheepishness adds even more to her cuteness, but did take away from a few of the tracks she sings back up on. As she got more comfortable in front of the audience, her vocals definitely got better. I wondered at one point if she had been getting over a cold. This being said, her bass work was impeccable. After the show I overheard one fan telling her that she was inspired by the performance to once again pick up her own bass after a long period of setting it down.
Viva Voce followed The Silversun Pickups, but most of the audience left before their set. They are a husband and wife combo normally, but had another guitarist on stage with them that night. The lead singer/wife in the band is a bad-ass guitarist who relies a bit too heavily on her whammy bar while the drummer/husband seems to be able to do everything. The guitar solos were long, but cool, however, I did find myself getting pretty bored by the end of their set. To end off, they ripped off the tune from The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What you Want but put in their own lyrics. I kept expecting them to break into the song’s famous chorus, but they never did, leaving me disappointed and feeling lied to. On a side note, I am a moderate fan of theirs. I love the track We Do Not Fuck Around.
After the show we headed upstairs to the Dance Cave to chill out for a short bit and listen to the drum circle that was happening and watch dancing hippies going crazy to the rhythms. In the end, all four of my guests that night became fans of the band. Everyone had an amazing time. The lesson that I learned from all of this is . . . people need to listen to me when I recommend some obscure band. Too bad I’m not the one who needs to learn this lesson. All those who had told me they wanted to go in the beginning and then backed out, really missed something special. Of the 82 live acts I have seen so far this year, The Silversun Pickups are definitely way up at the top.
My friends and I will be talking about this night and the awesome Silversun Pickups performance for years to come. eihcnerf