Going Live: Silversun Pickups

Silversun Pickups1Photos Cred: Sara Collaton

Who: Silversun Pickups
Where: Sound Academy, Toronto
When: October 15th 2009

Clubs and basements aren’t terribly different. Both have cold hard floors. Both can be dank, trapping unwanted odors in their musky air. And both are pretty bitchin’ venues for rock and roll. So it’s no surprise Thursday’s three-part bill headlining the dreamy and overall loud Silversun Pickups at Sound Academy felt more like a party in a friend’s basement than a corporate sponsored event.

Australia’s An Horse took stage in front of a Toronto crowd that greeted them with as much enthusiasm as I have ever seen an audience give an opening act. I’m always amazed by two-piece guitar/drum acts and their ability to create a fresh sounds. An Horse continues that trend. Instead of banging out White Stripes garage rock or bluesy Black Keys tracks, the boy/girl duet set free some good-natured jangly pop. Breaking the fourth wall, the band took time to talk to the audience and joke about having the same haircut. It felt as if we were at a party, watching two people taking control of an underground jamboree, bouncing playful lyrics off each other.

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Cage the Elephant, whose slide-guitar backed diatribe “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” was an alt-rock smash over the summer, came out in full force despite their amateur sound. This of course was accepted by the audience, who I’m assuming were feeling the intimate basement vibe as well. A normal-looking quartet of guys from Kentucky played fast, loud and hard in the vein of the Arctic Monkeys while lead singer Matt Shultz convulsed on stage shouting unintelligible lyrics. Think Thom Yorke during performances of “Idotique” with less rhythm in the moves and voice.

Each member of the packed house reacted differently when the spine-numbing sound of Silversun Pickups were front and center. From the somber droning of “Melatonin” through what singer Brian Aubert would describe as “pure f*cking noise” in “There’s No Secrets This Year”, people could be seen fist pumping, spacing out, taking part in recreational drugs, shoegazing and flailing themselves around like Shultz did on stage just minutes before.

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Aubert seemed genuinely moved by the display, taking a long break to collect his thoughts and let Toronto know how beautiful they were. “This is one of our favourite spots,” he commented recollecting a past show at the Phoenix. “We always feel welcome here. And no, this wasn’t just lip service to the fans. When a man is nearly brought to tears as Aubert was, he usually means what he says. Usually.

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Something needs to be said for the sound that grounds the swooning guitars – an apt adjective culled from the title of their latest record, Swoon. Nikki Monninger’s bass lines during the cathartic “Panic Switch” gave the band and the audience some focus through all the guitar distortion. Chris Guanlao’s awkwardly set up drum kit created sonic explosions in the form of steady beats during “Well Thought Out Twinkles” and “Growing Old is Getting Old” . Why his crash cymbal seems to be an arm’s-length out of reach is beyond me, but it seems to work for him.

As the signature song “Lazy Eye” closed out the evening, I snapped back to reality. I wasn’t in a warm basement watching my friends bash out whatever they dreamt of on the spot. I was at a show at the docks of Toronto with strangers and it was bitter cold outside. The illusion and the show were over, all with my hearing surprisingly intact. Even though reality showed itself again, I knew images of tonight’s gig would graciously haunt my memory for weeks to come. In a delightful way of course.

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Find more photos HERE.

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