Going into their show at the Observatory in Santa Ana, I really didn't feel like I understood Silversun Pickups. They're that slightly futuristic sounding band with the kind of unintelligible lead singer (Brian Aubert) and the quiet woman with a wonderfully sparkly dress who plays bass (Nikki Monninger). I had little to no idea what they were about, who their fanbase was, or what their music sounded like outside of what I heard on the radio.
After seeing them play through much of their "creepy" newer (and some of their older) catalog on Thursday night, I don't think I understand them any better, but I'm perfectly alright with that.
See, most of the packed crowd only sang the lyrics to the few Silversun Pickups singles that I knew ("Lazy Eye," "Panic Switch," etc.). While applause and cheers began and ended each song, such as early-set highlights "The Royal We," "Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)," and "Little Lover's So Polite," much of the crowd spent the time in between bobbing their heads and maybe muttering a memorable line from a chorus here and there. Although there's nothing wrong with letting the band play their own songs, it's a little weird to see a near-capacity venue with only a few dozen audience members actually singing along.
To their credit, Silversun Pickups sounded amazing (particularly when you consider it's the band's first show together in almost three years and a lot of what they played is off an album that doesn't come out for another two weeks). Every note was on point, every rhythm was on beat, and keyboardist Joe Lester does an incredible job keeping the wall of sound that backs nearly all of the band's songs going even when no one else is playing an instrument. Aside from how good they were sonically, Aubert seemed legitimately thankful and thrilled that people would still come to see them even after their unofficial hiatus.
As the band continued to the midpoint of their set with tunes like "Nightlight" and "The Pit," I noticed that there were a few things that many of their fans had in common. For one, at least 60 percent of the crowd was wearing glasses, which is way higher than normal for young adults anywhere outside of a Weezer concert. They were also generally terrible dancers when not sticking to their uniformed head-bobbing. The dance moves were reserved for only a few fan favorites, but could best be described as an epileptic T-Rex, or maybe a seal attempting to spin in circles while wearing stilettos. There's nothing wrong with dancing your heart out in any style at a concert, I'm simply making an observation.
The second half of the set contained some of Silversun Pickups' more popular songs, and thus more excitement from much of the crowd. With songs like "Catch and Release," "Panic Switch," and "Growing Old is Getting Old," some members of the audience switched from their customary bobbing to actually leaving the ground from time to time. At a few points, a semi-mosh pit even broke out a handful of rows back from the stage (because people will push each other around to just about any kind of music). As everyone in the room could've predicted, the LA-based quartet closed with "Lazy Eye" before returning for an encore. Plenty of people still didn't sing along outside of the "It's the room, the sun, and the skyyyyy" breakdown.
Silversun Pickups melodically played their way through three songs for the encore, closing the night out with "Kissing Families" and leaving everyone to wonder why "Well Thought Out Twinkles" was notably absent. Maybe they didn't have open sores and open jaws?
The Happy Hollows were awesome. Sarah Negahdari (who filled in with Silversun PIckups a few years ago when Monninger got pregnant) is fantastic, and everyone should go listen to them now.