Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Time to Watch My Heroes: Silversun Pickups at The Paramount Theatre, Seattle, Sat July 31

On Saturday, July 31, I found myself at my friend Mandy's apartment where I was staying, just south of Seattle, my mind swirling with the realization that after 3 weeks of touring, in 24 hours I would be on a plane headed back to New York City for a week. It all seemed kind of strange - 3 weeks doesn't sound like a lot of time, but I had become used to life on the road. After over a week in Seattle, it felt more familiar to my brain than the metropolis I had been living in for the last 6 years.

But as the afternoon wore on that gave way to a bristling sense of excitement. My friend Corynne, the singer in the band I am in in New York City, Atomic Shotgun, had told me before I left that one of my all-time favorite bands in the world, Silversun Pickups, were going to play Brooklyn the final week before my tour was set to start. Unfortunately (I felt at the time), with all the various tasks related to packing for the tour and moving out of my apartment, there was no way I thought I'd have an entire evening to go to a show.

Almost as soon as I landed in Seattle, I saw posters everywhere announcing that Silversun Pickups would be playing The Paramount Theatre here on July 31st. Having missed them in my home city, there was no way I was going to miss them this time.

As I've told many friends over the last week or so, this band is really the only nationally successful band I can rightfully claim "I know them when..." I was in Maine visiting family in 2005, browsing at a record store, when I heard this incredible music over the sound system. I asked the clerk who they were (the first time I had ever done such a thing), and he told me it was a new band from L.A. whose first EP they were promoting in the store. I picked up a copy and proceeded to listen to it non-stop for days. The song "All the Go-Inbetweens" was one of the most beautiful, passionate, heart-crushing songs I had ever heard.

A few weeks later I signed up to volunteer for the CMJ Music Marathon festival in New York. The Universe very nicely arranged it so that I worked the club Silversun Pickups would play on the very night they would play it. I went to the Ace of Clubs, a great, small club I would later see my friends in Ruby Bullet play on more than one occasion, and there they were. This band I had heard on the record store sound system for the first time a few weeks earlier. Live in the flesh.

After that I saw them each time they played New York City, about once a year, and each time they had moved up the chain of the music business a bit and were thus playing a larger venue. They headlined at the Mercury Lounge in 2006, headlined at Webster Hall in 2007, then opened for Wolfmother at Hammerstein Ballroom in 2008. I missed them only at the All-Points West festival in 2009 (a fairly pricey ticket to see a slew of bands, to which I lacked the free time to devote in order to get my full money's worth) and at the aforementioned 2010 show in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

So needless to say I was pretty damn pumped to go see them on their home coast the last night before my trip to NYC. I got Mandy a ticket, but at the last minute she had to back out because something came up. I of course understood but was a bit sad for her - she was totally unfamiliar with Silversun Pickups, but I knew they were one of the best rock bands performing today.

Mandy, bless her kind and generous soul, let me borrow her car again, and I drove up the now very-familiar I-5 into downtown Seattle. I parked the car in a nearby garage and headed to the Paramount. I had timed it pretty well, and had only a short time before the headliners were set to come out on stage.

To say it was a great show and that I had a blast seems not enough to cover my experience. The band played an amazing show, and I knew every song by heart from listening to all 3 of their records constantly over the last few years. It was a bit odd to be at such a huge show by myself, but any weirdness dissipated immediately the moment they began playing. Not only are they a great band, but they have a strong but quiet confidence in what they do, matched with genuine humility as human beings and a profound aura of gratitude to all the people they know make whatever success they are enjoying at the moment possible.

At one point, frontman Brian Aubert (a real hero of mine not only for his incredible musicianship and songs, but also how he works a crowd of any size and conducts himself on stage) took some time to speak to the crowd, and after explaining why the music fans of Seattle were key in their early days to getting them to where they stand today, he shouted "Thank you!" to us about 20 times in a row - no exaggeration.

Another reason the show was such an incredible experience was the crowd. I'm not sure I've ever been at a large venue like that to see a nationally-known act and had the entire place completely fixated on the band the entire time, and cheering genuinely and deafeningly after every song. In fact, the band played 4 songs at the start without stopping to talk to the audience. When they finally did, Brian had to wait 2 or 3 minutes because the cheers from the crowd simply would not stop. There was a love and an amazing energy in those moments I'm not sure I have ever felt before watching a band play.

I continue not only to love this band for their music, but for how they present themselves to, and conduct themselves with their fans. It makes me thrilled for them, that they seem to be such genuinely nice and appreciative people, and continue to get so richly rewarded for their collective talents and hard creative work.

I left the Paramount on yet another natural high my tour has provided thus far, but also insanely jealous. I hadn't played with the band I am in, Atomic Shotgun, in quite a while, and I wanted to go play a show with them right after that. It was difficult to accept that I had a couple of flights, a couple rehearsals, and a week of waiting before I would get the chance. But boy oh boy, when I got that chance, was I gonna be READY to rock the house.

Obviously, I didn't play that night, I went to see somebody else play. So instead of my set list, I'll give you theirs. If you have not heard of this band I so encourage you to check them out. Their music is awesome, and if you become a fan and go see them live, you'll get the royal treatment I've been fortunate enough to receive from them every time I've seen them play.

Thanks to Silversun Pickups and for the photo above, taken at the show (I figured I wouldn't be allowed to bring my own camera in). As my intent is to promote both the band and this great Seattle music website, I am hoping it is permissible for me to use the photo here.

Silversun Pickups, Paramount Theatre, Seattle, Sat July 31, 2010
1. Growing Old is Getting Old (off their latest/3rd record, the LP Swoon)
2. Well Thought Out Little Twinkles (off their 2nd record, the LP Carnavas)
3. Sort Of (off Swoon)
4. There's No Secrets This Year (off Swoon)
5. The Royal We (awesome song! off Swoon)
6. Little Lover's So Polite (off Carnavas)
7. It's Nice to Know You Work Alone (off Swoon)
8. Future Foe Scenarios (awesome song! off Carnavas)
9. Kissing Families (awesome song! off their 1st record, the EP Pikul)
10. Catch and Release (off Swoon)
11. Panic Switch (off Swoon)
12. Brian Aubert Guitar Interlude
13. Lazy Eye (off Carnavas)

14. Substitution (off Swoon)
15. Three Seed (off Carnavas)
16. Common Reactor (last track off Carnavas, the only way to end a SSPU show)

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