I went to see Silversun Pickups last night at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. I've been looking forward to this concert for a while. As you may know, I wrote near the entirety of WHERE CURRENTS PULL to Silversun Pickups. So they have a very warm and loved spot in me. But I have to be truthful here. I've seen them on every late night performance they've done, and I've never really been impressed. They always seem to be playing too fast, or are nervous or something. So I was excited, but not expecting it to be super awesome.
Lord, I love it when I'm pleasantly surprised. And really, I don't know if "pleasant" is quite the word. Sweet Jesus, that was a fantastic show.
I've gone to a lot of concerts. A lot. I'd put this in the top 5. No joke. The Aragon is literally a ballroom. An old dance hall. It was built in 1926 and has hosted the likes of Glen Miller and Duke Ellington. I never had a chance to go to those dances because I'm not a gazillion years old, but I have seen a few shows there- Nirvana/Mudhoney, The Verve, Death Cab For Cutie. I'm always amazed at how beautiful the interior is. The floor is wood, and the balconies are made to look like turrets. The ceiling is painted in swirls and sunsets and has LED "stars." Pretty freaking cool.
We got there late/early. Late because doors opened at 630, early because it was 7 and that's pretty early for a show. We missed out on the first band, but had a chance to see Against Me! play. They had a lot of energy and played a good, albeit long, set and, although the room wasn't full, their fans were loud. I think it set the tone for the night.
The crowd thickened after they left stage in anticipation of SSPU. As always, an obnoxious tall person stood directly in front of me. I don't know why this happens, but it must be fate or something. I'd like to see a venue organize the crowd in a general admission by height. I think it's only fair for the shorter people. Right? Although a plus for being smaller is that, after I freaked out with anger at the tall dude wearing a fedora, I was able to worm my way through to find an okay spot. And then they came on and the crowd exploded.
I think that the magic of an evening is equal part the band being "on" and the crowd being "on." It was one of those nights.
First let me say that Christopher Guanlao is the best drummer I have ever seen perform. Yes, I've seen The Song Remains The Same. Moby Dick is amazing, but John Bonham was fat. CG played like Animal from the Muppets. Seriously. And it was SO FREAKING GOOD! The show was, for me, worthwhile just to watch him drum. Even if the rest of them didn't play.
But they did and, damn, I was impressed. Brian Aubert is much more theatrical/dramatic than I expected. He'd hold out notes for a long time and look at the audience as if baiting them. "Oh. You're waiting for me to resolve this? Well, keep waiting." And he talked more than a lot of front men do. Lately it seems I go to shows and dude singing just wants to perform his art, or mumble something unintelligible. Well, not David Bazan, who openly invites the audience to converse with him, but he's a one-off. Anyhoo, BA talked to us. And he said how much they love Chicago. "We kind of are in love with your city. But don't worry. It's purely sexual." Usually I hate it when bands say this, but I actually believed him. Maybe I was swept up in the moment, but it seemed honest enough. And the crowd was really into it, so maybe it was the truth.
So other points of interest. Joe Lester is like that quiet guy that makes you nervous. You wonder what he's thinking. He seemed to have forgotten there was a crowd, and just made sweet sweet love to his keyboard. And at the encore, everyone left the stage (BA was still there, but on the floor and I couldn't see him) and he was just playing loud and creepy. Oh hells yes. Also. Everyone in the world loves Nikki Monninger. Besides having an excellent fashion sense, she is amazingly able to play bass, jump around in a dress, and rock out all at the same time. Really. I'm awed.
Yes, they played an encore. I hate encores. Just play a long show and take a moment to get a drink. Or play a short show and have me wishing for more. But they played one and it was okay, because they ended with Common Reactor, which was the perfect song to end with. And I ended up leaving still wishing for more.
Definitely my favorite show of 2010.
Listening to: Silversun Pickups "Swoon" Duh.
Oh, and I love Christopher Guanlao now. Maybe it's the drummer fascination because I'm writing about a drummer (Jeff), or maybe it's because he's absolutely amazing. Either way...