Silversun Pickups, Against Me! Warehouse Live July 20, 2010
Against Me! opening up for Silversun Pickups would be like the Replacements opening up for My Bloody Valentine in 1991. Except that Against Me! isn't on the wane of their career and Silversun has way more albums in them than their last two headphone-melters. Punks and shoegazers, we mean no disrespect.
Against Me! finds themselves opening for bands that couldn't be any more different from them, mostly out of their love for so many genres and the spirit that those same bands see in them. In the span of a year from 2007 to 2008, Aftermath saw these Florida heart-punkers supporting Mastodon and Foo Fighters, and playing the early-afternoon shift at the Vans Warped Tour. Let's not forget their '08 Austin City Limits set going up against Conor Oberst and Vampire Weekend.
Silversun Pickups has been opening up for bands like Floyd-in-waiting Muse since 2006 album Carnavas hit the shelves and taught people about the healing powers of tastefully used effects pedals. They've been the artiest thing on modern-rock radio since that one time ClearChannel played a Mars Volta single during an overnight shift. Deservedly, Silversun has made it over that hump and made their reverb-bath something any listener can get down to.
Tuesday night at Warehouse Live, both bands hit the main stage for two different crowds that ended up coalescing into one sweaty mass for both. If you left after Against Me!, you missed almost two hours of bliss. If you arrived right before Silversun Pickups, you saw a set that would put Adderall to shame. That's a stretch, but AM killed it even if the die-hard Silversun folk just sat in the pit in quiet anticipation, politely going along with the punk scene in front of them.
Against Me is touring behind this year's White Crosses, their second major-label LP and most mature to date. Where 2007's New Wave was a declaration of independence from indie-punk tempered with fiery social angst, Crosses is culled from two years of flux within the band. Babies were born and members left, changing the band's dynamic and informing their lyrical structure.
Singer-guitarist Tom Gabel is still captain of the ship, but the band now sports the keyboards of former Hold Steady member Franz Nicolay live. The drumming duties have now been assumed by Hot Water Music's George Rebelo, who adds a touch of history from his primary band's storied lineage.
The Crosses material is way tenderer than the work on New Wave and previous albums. "I Was A Teenage Anarchist" and the title track are more wistful than angry, like New Wave cuts "Stop" and "Thrash Unreal" reading like diary entries from a brash community organizer. Still, Crosses translates live, with older fans either taking or leaving it. Aftermath wasn't sold on the album until Tuesday night.
It fits the times, as like-minded younger bands like the Gaslight Anthem and Fake Problems preach about times past and regaining old-school values. The band closed the set with "Sink Florida Sink" from the seven-year old As The Eternal Cowboy, a document of the band's piss-and-vinegar days as rioting upstarts.
A short break brought what seemed like another 500 people into the room for Silversun Pickups, who had the most reverent and altogether attentive crowd of the two bands. From song one, "Growing Old Is Getting Old," wave after wave after noise was coming from the stage. We still can't see how four people can make that much clamor, and with only a five- or six-piece drum kit at that.
The band has remade shoegaze into a radio-friendly commodity. Before, it was still the stomping grounds of scene vets like My Bloody Valentine, Slint and Mogwai. Silversun makes it swoon, to steal the title from their 2009 album.
People find soothing tones in the band, making them perfect headphone-rock heroes for the new decade. Silversun's last two albums and freshman EP are sonic beds you want to lay in for hours. Not many mainstream bands are making digestible journeys like this anymore, let alone this masterfully and approachable.
We had never seen a Houston rock crowd this rapt and respectful in quite awhile. No one was throwing empty cups. No hoodrats were fighting in the crowd that we saw, and they were actually clapping after guitar solos. The band let it be known that Houston has always been good to them, relating a winking jail story. The throng was almost shoved to the back of the house for most of their set, and no one was moving out of their spots in the sold-out ballroom until the house lights came up after the encore.
Initial set closers and biggest singles "Panic Switch" and "Lazy Eye" coated the walls of Warehouse Live with a thick gloss of low-frequency tones. The latter can be as sweet and twee as it wants to be and the next second becomes static-laden brilliance.
Personal Bias: Silversun Pickups remind us of the Smashing Pumpkins without the ego and smarm of Billy Corgan.
The Crowd: Buzz listeners, beard-stroking indie-bros, and roving packs of very pretty, tall blonde chicks. And the stray stoner bathing in the music.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I won't be able to hear tomorrow. I should call in. If I can even make a phone call."
Random Notebook Dump: There was so much love in the room the whole crowd would have hugged Silversun to death if given half the chance.
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SET LIST (Silversun Pickups)
Growing Old Is Getting Old Well Thought Out Twinkles Sort Of There's No Secrets This Year Royal We Little Lover's So Polite It's Nice To Know You Work Alone Future Foe Kissing Families Catch and Release Panic Switch Lazy Eye
Substitution Rusted Wheel Common Reactor