Silversun Pickups at The Fox Theater: Live Review


I had been in a weird place when the show began. I had just cried about a girl, the screen on my iPhone cracked and a blood blister on my right pinky toe were all causes of deep distress. All these things considered I hopped on the BART train to Oakland’s Fox Theatre to hear Silversun Pickups.

This evening would be my first time enjoying the pleasing aesthetics of the renovated Fox. While the preliminary crowds of young adults in groups and awkward couples did not do justice to the attractiveness of the venue, the audience seemed eager to rock out when the lights dimmed to the opening efforts of The Henry Clay People.

In spite of my personal hang-ups, I was excited to witness The Henry Clay People upon a return to their native California. Floridian punk rockers Against Me! would follow in an attempt to raise the intensity. Both acts supported the Silversun Pickups, the Los Angeles based group coming off their second successful full-length album.

Photo by Macella Cousslins

I can’t say what I saw next really contradicted the assessments of boyish recklessness associated with the group. A posse of mostly mop-haired youngsters began lurching around haphazardly on stage as brisk power cords resonated. One of the guitar toting Siara brothers stumbled back into the keyboardist. I wondered if there was a method to the madness. After several frenetic ballads, the lead vocalist announced how good it was to be back in California. As a celebratory consequence, a whiskey bottle magically appeared onstage. With no need to clarify, he advised, “you guys are in for a sloppy show.” I rather enjoyed the ensuing hilarity while some impressive musicianship managed to shine through in the lead guitar play. Finishing the set up with the self-explanatory 2008 EP Working Part Time, the boys bellowed “we got drunk and called in sick / whenever we felt like it” to the amusement of the audience. The Henry Clay People conveyed a lasting indifference to their environment, albeit in a very contented mood.

The following performance from Against Me! brought amusements of its own. This group felt the need to up the ante and come out to a series of seizure-inducing stage lights to supplement wailing punk choruses. Someone in the front threw a mixed drink on stage, I looked around, and suddenly the Fox had turned into an Irish dive bar. I conspicuously retreated to a safe location once I realized I was among a bevy of large tattooed fans, sporting shaved heads and screaming song lyrics within inches from each others face. To the band’s credit, Against Me! pumped a lot of energy into the Fox, concluding their set with the definite fan favorite, “I Was a Teenage Anarchist.”

Photo by Victoria Smith

Unlike their brazen supporting groups, the Silversun Pickups opened to an ambiance of mysterious tranquility. The four-part band seemed to tease the eager crowd with hanging cords, emphasizing lead singer Brian Aubert as the point of focus. Showcasing their 2009 album Swoon, the band opened with the haunting influences of “Growing Old is Getting Old.” Aubert didn’t speak until after the band’s fifth song, when he acknowledged, “One of my favorite venues is The Fillmore…[but] this is fucking beautiful.” He later joked, “Our next record will be our greatest hits album,” suggesting the group is weary from much of the 2010 year spent touring. The indie rock stars catered to the audience, ending their set with top hit, “Panic Switch,” and the popular “Lazy Eye” from the 2007’s Carnavas.

The Silversun Pickups’ live performances truly emphasized the band’s characteristic style of frenzied chaos. Coupled with the unique vocals of Aubert, it’s hard to envision some dramatic sway from their last two full-length album successes in any future projects.

We all have our rough patches and bad days, yet I left the Fox feeling satisfied and lucky to be part of the event’s unique blend of alt-rockers and diverse fans.

-Joel Churnin