Everything was in place for Silversun Pickups to enjoy a triumphant night at the hometown date on the band’s current fall tour. Supporting their most recent and third full-length release, Neck of the Woods, and with opening acts Atlas Genius and School of Seven Bells in tow, the show was set at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean. Miles away from the band’s home base of indie-centric east side neighborhood Silver Lake, it was the venue itself that proved to be the night’s biggest obstacle.
The cavernous, gymnasium-like venue has a capacity in the area of 3000 bodies, but the extremely high ceilings and concrete , bunker-like walls make it seem even bigger, creating a massive space to fill with sound. Each act’s sound person more than earned their money in attempting to do so, and with varying degrees of success.
The crowd was still filing in as Australian buzz band Atlas Genius blasted out a quick set of their infectious and angular pop-rock that’s been honed to a fine, radio-ready edge. Chatter about the band rippled throughout the venue after their set, with music-industry types tipping them as an imminent sensation.
Ethereal Brooklyn outfit School of Seven Bells leaned more towards their beat-driven, electro side during their show, turning the volume way up to compensate for the massive room. The set was highlighted by “Half Asleep,” pulled from their 2008 debut album Apinisms.
When Silversuns Pickups emerged to a cheering full house with “Skin Graph” from their latest album, the sound was literally a dull roar that barely reached the balcony seats at the back of the room. Shifting into “The Royal We” from Swoon, it was during the epic, My Bloody Valentine-invoking new song “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” that the sound person cranked everything up to 11. What was a dull roar became a full-on rock & roll attack. Quieter tunes like “Here We Are (Chancer)” took on a slightly menacing tone in the bombast, matched by the big, overloaded light show, with diehard fans down front reveling in the sonic maelstrom.
The “aww” moment came when Singer Brian Aubert took a moment during the set to announce that it would be the last show extremely pregnant bassist Nikki Monniger would be playing with the band for a while so she can deliver twin daughters (Sarah Negahdari from fellow L.A. band The Happy Hallows is set to fill in while Monniger is on maternity leave).
Focusing mostly on their last two albums, the band ran through most of Neck of the Woods and a good chunk of Swoon before ending the set with breakout single “Lazy Eye” from their 2006 debut album, Carnavas. Returning for a four-song encore, longtime devotees were rewarded with “Kissing Families” from their 2005 EP, Pikul.
Closing with fan favorite “Well Thought Out Twinkles,” Silversun Pickups had ultimately triumphed over the challenging circumstances with a combination of strong songs, rabid fans and as much pure volume as they could muster.
–Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local