Monday, August 9, 2010

Against Me! and Silversun Pickups at the Greek Theater, 8/6/10

After giving my ears a couple weeks off from the sounds of pounding drums, screeching guitars and the like, it was right back into the fold with two newer bands (for me, anyway): Against Me! and Silversun Pickups.  It was a strange match, despite my fondness for both, so I was eager to see how it would be received.  As it turns out, pretty well.

For Silversun Pickups, this was a triumphant homecoming; for Against Me!, a chance to showcase a new version of themselves for an expanded audience.  The latter went first (just after The Henry Clay People, who I missed), and because of the Greek's strict curfew they went on at the unfashionably early time of 8:05.  But despite the many empty seats, the band still put on a hell of a show.  Lead singer Tom Gabel bounced around behind his microphone, alternating between a smile and a snarl, depending on the song.  Against Me! has evolved into a much catchier hook machine, and they played a large portion of their new album, White Crosses, starting with "High Pressure Low." 

They still found space for some older songs, including "Don't Lose Touch" and "Sink, Florida, Sink," but mostly they stuck to newer material in the twelve song set.  From where I was, the only real complaints were the guitars not being loud enough in the mix, and the band not playing "Spanish Moss," only the best song, but also one I feel would have completely grabbed a crowd that was about half into it, and half politely interested.  Not that surprising, given the difference in sounds (and popularity) of the two bands, but that and the exclusion of semi-radio hit "Stop" seemed like a mistake.  One other thing of note: former Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay has apparently joined Against Me! on tour, if not permanently, which is interesting.  When he left, he alluded to wanting to move on from big, anthemic rock, but White Crosses sounds more like The Hold Steady than their own most recent album did.  (Hmm, I smell a future post topic...)

Silversun Pickups had no such crowd issues.  They were very much the home team, being from Silverlake, and the packed house went crazy when they came out on stage.  They smiled and acknowledged us, then went into the slow-building "Growing Old is Getting Old," from last year's Swoon, a song that culminates in a burst of noisy guitar that led perfectly into "Well Thought Out Twinkles."  After a few songs, lead singer Brian Aubert took a moment to apologize for the "glee that is fucking coming out of our pores.  We're a little excited."  The one-two punch of "There's No Secrets This Year" and "The Royal We" was wisely played together, possibly getting the biggest non-single reaction from the crowd.

To be fair, though, the crowd stood almost the entire time, and it did not go unnoticed.  Late in the set, Aubert again started waxing about being on the Greek stage.  "I see you guys trying to sneak into the pit.  I was that guy.  Keep trying, you'll get in there eventually!"  He then pointed out to the tree line all around the amphitheater, declaring "I know you people in the trees!  We've been the tree people!  We never thought it would kind of end up here."  His excitement, gratitude and sincerity were all very winning, and you couldn't help but be excited for them.  The end of the main set saw them explode into their two biggest hits, "Panic Switch" and "Lazy Eye," the song that started this whole ride.  It may have preempted some thunder from their encore, but it was a great sequence, looking around to see thousands of smiling faces shouting the words back at the stage.  Silversun Pickups took their big moment and rocked it convincingly; I'm glad I was there to experience it firsthand.

Against Me! Set List: High Pressure Low / Pints of Guinness Make You Strong / Thrash Unreal / White Crosses / Up the Cuts / I Was a Teenage Anarchist / Bamboo Bones / Suffocation / New Wave / Don't Lose Touch / Rapid Decompression / Sink, Florida, Sink

Silversun Pickups Set List: Growing Old is Getting Old / Well Thought Out Twinkles / Sort Of / Little Lover's So Polite / There's No Secrets This Year / The Royal We / Future Foe Scenarios / It's Nice to Know You Work Alone / Kissing Families / Catch & Release / Panic Switch / Lazy Eye

Encore: Substitution / Common Reactor

Photos by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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