Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Brian Tromans and Timothy Reidy
Unquestionably the most musically adventurous Tulip Fest headliner in recent years, LA’s Silversun Pickups drew a surprisingly large crowd to Washington Park on a particularly soggy Saturday.
Vocalist-guitarist Brian Aubert and his band certainly know their way around pop melodies and forms – as they proved with the slinky “Here We Are (Chancer)” and the audience slap-along “Mean Spirits” – but much more than your average band of alt-popsters, they tend to bury their pop tendencies beneath a darker attitude, a noisier attack, fractured rhythms and layers of distorted guitars in overdrive. Several times throughout their 95-minute set – most notably during “Panic Switch” and the final encore of “Well Thought Out Twinkles” – Aubert descended into wild, guitar-freakout abandon as he stalked the stage.
Comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins (rampant in Silversun Pickups’ earlier days) still hold water, but now only to a point. The band has grown beyond easy categorizations with a sound that gracefully fluctuates between the seemingly polar extremes of ambiant and anthemic. There was plenty of guitar crunch in evidence – the encore of “Substitution,” being a prime example – but there were also some more tender moments, as during the shimmering “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” and the almost ballad-ish “Catch and Release.”
Like a mad scientist, Joe Lester worked feverishly behind his bank of keyboards, while drummer Chris Guanlao was in a constant flail ‘n’ pound mode, hitting his highlight with the complex tempo-shifts of “Simmer.” Providing a perfect focal foil for Aubert was bassist Sarah Negahdari (subbing for Nikki Monniger, currently on maternity leave), decked out in a blue summer sun dress and pogoing throughout the show with an irresistible smile on her face.
Royal Teeth kicked off the Main Stage festivities, while Nashville-based rock foursome the Features held down the middle slot on the bill, ripping through such notable new tunes as the delightfully wobbly “This Disorder” and the spacey pop-twang of “With Every Beat,” from their brand spankin’ new self-titled album.
NOTE: Royal Teeth are headed back to Nippertown on Thursday night, opening for Metric at the Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park. Showtime is 8pm, and tickets are $25 in advance; $27 at the door.
SILVERSUN PICKUPS SET LIST
The Royal We
Bloody Mary (Nerve Ending)
Here We Are (Chancer)
Little Lover’s So Polite
Catch and Release
Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)
Kissing Families > Well Thought Out Twinkles
Michael Allen’s photograph at Metroland
Excerpt from Brina McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “While the band’s atmospheric experiments on ‘Here We Are (Chancer)’ and ‘Catch and Release’ satisfied, it was at its best at full throttle. ‘Mean Spirits,’ led by Negahdari’s throbbing fuzz bass, reached dizzying heights of headbanging fury, while the ever-popular ‘Lazy Eye’ from the band’s 2006 debut Carnavas, which closed out the main set, gradually built up to a thundering climax. Both openers brought different musical flavors to the stage. New Orleans’ Royal Teeth was perhaps most noteworthy for vocalist Gary Larsen’s uncanny ability to sound like a young Michael Jackson on the verge of tears — which he used to great effect on ‘For Keeps’ and a fun cover of Queen and David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure.’ The band’s rhythmic drive was its other claim to fame at this performance. Bassist Joshua Wells in particular provided some rock-solid playing to anchor the band’s moody pop. Bluesy garage rockers the Features kicked things up a notch, offering up a kinetic, garagey stomp on such songs as ‘Golden Comb’ and the fist-pumping ‘Won’t Be Long.’ Singer, guitarist and bandleader Matthew Pelham shouted and played like a man possessed throughout — his best moment, and the band’s as a whole, came on the guitar solo for ‘This Disorder,’ a simple, slightly discordant line that cycled over and over until reaching a powerful climax.”