Pull up a chair. I have something to tell you. There is a band called Silversun Pickups and they are really good live. We just saw them at Live Nation’s showplace in Philly, the Fillmore. If you get a chance to see them in your town, you ought to check them out.
One of the amazing things about live rock is that it is happening all around you all the time, and it doesn’t really cost that much to partake. Well, unless you want to go see Roger Waters (why??) or some other big-named stud. If that’s your groove, you better start thinking things like “do I want a new kitchen or do I want to see Roger Waters?” Because the big time acts that play arenas and stadiums want to suck every entertainment dollar you have and put it into their pocket so that they can fly around in private jets and drink Dom Perignon with their corn flakes. They are the entertainment equivalent of The Man - they want everything from you.
And then there is us. The great majority of people who simply want to shake their bones to some good tunes, enjoy a beverage or two with their Lipitor, and not get robbed blind for nose-bleed seats in an acoustically-crappy arena. That is where bands like SSPU come in. They are happy to drive around the country in beat up old vans so that they can go on stage and get their crowd rush. Maybe they hope to someday play football stadiums, but maybe not. I don’t really wish for a lot more material stuff than what I have, and I know tons of people like me. So maybe they are satisfied with a good life that allows them to make a living by playing music. That sounds a lot better than grinding it out for The Man.
Whatever it is, they continue to headline venues like the Fillmore, or the TLA, or Union Transfer. They hardly cost more than $40, oftentimes closer to $20. In the audience, you get close to the stage so that you can see their faces, you don’t sit in a stadium seat and watch them on some jumbotron, and you get free (well, maybe) parking that is close to the venue. Sure, sometimes that parking is in places where you suddenly find yourself being a huge supporter of the 2d Amendment, but hey, it’s kind of cool to park in a dark and scary place filled with broken glass, and live to tell the story.
Wait a minute, I thought I was writing about SSPU and you distracted me. I’m ready again to write about them. Nah, that’s a bluff: I have to write first about their opening act, Minus the Bear. (Where do these people come up with their band names anyway? Does everyone swing by Colorado for a few weeks of heavy doping and then go “Aha! I have the perfect name for a band! Minus the Bear!” and the other stoners go, oh, wow, man, you’re right that is perfect.) Minus the Bear is a band from Seattle, and they were (a) a good musical match for SSPU, (b) a well-rehearsed, good sounding band with enough material to get them through a very respectable 45 minute set, and (c) sporting a silly name. Here are some pictures:
I know virtually nothing about Minus the Bear, which is why they invented Google. I have learned that this group has been around since 2001, and has 6 albums and 4 EPs out. Holy crap! That’s more production than tons of bands. Their music is probably best described as indie rock, meaning it is rock, but has elements of experimental stuff like electronica thrown in. They have two guitars, a bass and a drummer, plus a dude who dances around and looks down at a pre-programmed computer thing the entire time and calls himself a “keyboardist.”
Their songs are instantly catchy and the hooks are quite sizable. You can grab hold right away and have yourself a good time. That’s what we did, and we all agreed, using a mind-meld called “group think,” that this band is pretty good.
But there’s almost always a gap between the opener and the headliner, and this show was no exception. Silversun Pickups took over the ample stage at the Fillmore and simply cranked out a very lively, very solid 1.5 hour set that had us all smiling. And this on a Sunday evening when Philly’s football team was crushing some wannabes from Dallas.
Let’s get out the essentials. SSPU is a quartet based in Los Angeles, a small city with large silicon and botox deposits, located on the West Coast. They include Brian Aubert (guitar, vocals), Nikki Monninger (bass), Joe Lester (keyboards) and Christopher Guanlao (drums). Only one guitar? Yup, and I still liked them. They are super-indie, with driving rhythms and ethereal, spacey effects jammed together around catchy hooks. Aubert has a high voice (I thought it was Nikki doing most of the singing, sorry, my bad), but it’s pure and tonal. They are good musicians, and they take their craft seriously.
At first, I thought that Aubert was some sort of diva as he kept getting a roadie to help him put on his guitars. But then I noticed that there was something wrong with one of his arms. Turns out that he fell off stage during a previous show and broke his arm, but he still figured out a way to play guitar and move about the stage. We all thought that he was grimacing at times, but he kept right on playing and moving about the stage. Man, if that’s not a “show must go on” kind of professionalism, I don’t know what is. Instant respect.
Nikki is cool, too. She hops about playing the bass and driving the beat, and has a nice manner. Like a lot of women in rock bands, she performs in a dress. Cool, right? I always thought women looked fly in dresses, and Nikki does for sure.
SSPU ripped through their best songs – Pins and Needles, Circadian Rhythms, Panic Switch, Lazy Eye – and had the joint jumping. Aubert has a fun stage presence, and his banter was about perfect, short and sweet, but funny and informative. He looked up at the balcony sections and asked them to keep engaged in the show and “not go all VIP on us,” and then he turned to the floor crowd and said that the floor was where it was at. WINNER! I’m not much for the VIP types – one side was actually ok with about half of them standing, but the other side featured a bunch of duds, all seated and looking like they were watching the latest Marvel comics barf movie. You know, dead look and the twitchy hand grabbing the phone to see if someone, anyone, had texted them in the last minute. I used to be a VIP – Very Intoxicated Person – at many shows, and I’m basically done with all that stuff. Here's a picture of your typical VIP crowd:
Enough of the VIPs. How about what was really happening? You mean there was a CONCERT on that stage?
I got some good pictures of the band, but I didn’t press my way up to the front like I usually do. The Fillmore is kind of big, and I was with a group who were reluctant to face the crush. I hope you like what I captured anyway.
Onward and upward. I don’t have any shows this weekend as I’m gorging on turkey instead, but oh man, next weekend is going to be trouble. I’ll pop some other worthy and classic stuff up in the meantime, and you put your computer on “sleep” but don’t log out. You’re not going to want to miss a damn thing here at BRP. Take a nap, I’ll be back. In the meantime, check out the SSPU website
Fill me in on who you have on your musical list right now. I’m outta here for now.
Oh, speaking of gobbles, VT won its in-state rivalry game with UVa for the 14th year in a row, and finished the season at 9-3. If they win their bowl game, never a gimme, they could put up back-to-back 10 wins seasons and finish in the top 20 yet again. Let's Go! Hokies!
Rock on, envious ones.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.