Last Night: Silversun Pickups, Against Me! and The Henry Clay People at The Palladium Ballroom

Silversun Pickups, Against Me!, The Henry Clay People
The Palladium Ballroom
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Better than: playing "Lazy Eye" on Guitar Hero at home.

The crowd that came out to Silversun Pickups' headlining set at the Palladium seemed like a cross-section of people who have seen 30 Seconds to Mars and Muse, but also The Secret Machines--implying there was a balance between hazy shimmers on the guitar as well as big drum beats with the four-piece's straightforward and compact songs.

If you stood close to the stage, you probably felt like you were in a rocket ship blasting off. If you stood in the far back, you could practically hear everything from singer/guitarist Brian Aubert's whisper-to-thrash vocals to Joe Lester's subtle, atmospheric keyboards. Bassist/singer Nikki Moninger provided sweet, on-point backing vocals as well as turns on lead vocals, but drummer Christopher Guanlao pounded the crap out of his minimal drum set. Oh, and the light show during the whole thing was quite vivid and exciting.

Sure, some of the songs from Silversun Pickups' two-LP-catalog recall Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins and Diary-era Sunny Day Real Estate. Still, they didn't come across as feeble attempts to bring nostalgia up in front. Almost evenly mixing songs from Carnavas and Swoon in a set that ran well over an hour, certain songs drew large cheers, but it was quite obvious that the crowd was feeling every song.

The band rarely broke for a second between songs. They had a handful of songs behind them before Aubert addressed and thanked the crowd. Only until the band built up to "Lazy Eye" did he speak again. He didn't need to; the crowd wanted to be rocked more than thanked.

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Against Me! played second and delivered a wholely different but high-quality set. With a retooled line-up featuring new drummer George Rebelo from Hot Water Music, Franz Nicolay (formerly of the mighty Hold Steady) and with a substitute bassist for regular Andrew Seward, the band did quite the job winning most of the crowd over.

Choosing to stick mainly to their Sire-era records White Crosses and New Wave, the nearly-full Palladium got a great sampler of where the band currently is. No longer a band that plays tiny venues, the band has used its experience opening for stadium bands quite well.

Nicolay was a welcome addition to band's backing-vocal department behind frontman Tom Gabel and lead guitarist James Bowman. Whether he was playing the accordion or a keyboard, Nicolay's boundless energy was a welcome sight. Rebelo played closely to former drummer Warren Oakes' beats, but he added plenty of oomph to the four on the floor.

Opener The Henry Clay People was a blast of goodness right off the bat, but the crowd response seemed to be relegated to appreciative applause between songs. Seeming like a good mix of Harvey Danger, Sloan and Sire-era Replacements, the band's 30-minute set was neither too short nor too long. Daresay it sounded like Southern rock-ified power pop? In some ways, yes.

Critic's notebook

Personal bias: Because of a guy five feet away from me deciding to light up a doobie shortly into Against Me!'s set, the rest of my night was painful. I've been to many shows before, and yes, people have lit up jazz cigarettes at some of them. I've never had a tension headache because of second-hand reefer, but this was different. For the rest of Against Me!'s and Silversun Pickups' sets, I made many attempts to see straight for more than five minutes. This was no fun contact high--it was an endurance test. Coupled with exhaustion from a long day of traffic reporting, I had to find places to sit while Silversun Pickups blew the doors off the place.

By the way: The last time I saw Against Me!, they opened for the Foo Fighters at the American Airlines Center. After they were finished, this dude-bro near me commented that he thought they sounded like GWAR.

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