Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 15/4
Silversun PickupsPrevious Next
author TL date 31/10/16 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN
Hard-to-describe Californian' "indie rockers" Silversun Pickups have existed for over ten years, yet have only been to Denmark once, supporting Kaiser Chiefs back when that name didn't make you go "oh, right, there was a band called that once". So them coming to Pumpehuset now while touring their fourth album "Better Nature" is, well, sort of surprising, and sort of anxiety-provoking. Will they even play much of the material from their fine early albums? Do people in Denmark even know enough of them to come out? Venturing to make such discoveries, we arrive in Pumpehuset on a rainy autumn Monday:
Despite borrowing one of our characters, Pærish is not a Scandinavian band. Instead, they are, hurrr, from Paris. They have some promising tunes on Spotify, and whether people know of this or not, there's already a decent crowd gathered in front of Pumpehuset's smaller downstairs stage to witness them. Their set is loud, which doesn't make it easier to decide exactly what to call them: Shoegaze? Powerpop? Emo? There's even notes of 90's alt rock in there, so many things, from Basement over Cloud Nothings to Texas Is The Reason come to mind while listening. The boy on their banner wears a ZERO t-shirt, though, and they're supporting Silversun Pickups, so just maybe there's a Smashing Pumpkins reference to be made here somewhere.
Regardless, their music is first and foremost charming and inviting, sort of warm, nostalgic and buzzing, which draws you in and drags you along on small surprising twists. There seems to be a bit more tempo in the set than in their top tracks online, and some higher, more Superchunk's is vocals in one end of the frontman's delivery, and they seem like they're in the process of working more energy into their stage performance, jumping when they can find the time and moments without messing up. They're young, though, and despite attempts at bantering with the audience, it's clear that they haven't fully found their stage swagger yet, to that point where they make the whole situation more their own. Yet the tunes have promise, especially the upbeat "Then People Forget", and it figures that with more experience and perhaps some clearer mix and lyrical pronunciation, they could get even more than the casually benevolent applause from the crowd as it gets warmed up tonight.
By the time Silversun Pickups come on stage, Pumpehuset's downstairs is probably as full as possible without actually closing in on a "sold out" status, meaning one better find a good spot if one wants to see much of the band. Conversation confirms that the band played a venue of at least twice this size in England earlier this year, so there's some concern that they might not feel as up to it tonight. No such signs are seen as they come on, though, and start off with the new album's title track "Cradle (Better Nature)". Frontman Brian Auster is all smirks as he strums and brandishes his guitar like he's enjoying himself from the word go. The audience takes to the response refrain of "Better! Nature!" that's chanted along with the keyboard notes from Joe Lester, and things get off to a warm start.
"Well Thought Out Twinkles" and "The Royal We" from the first two albums "Carnavas" and "Swoon" follow, and it becomes clear that for all the atmospheric production and electronic touches of the band's albums, Silversun Pickups keep this show as organic as possible - although perhaps an impression being boosted by Lester's keys being a bit low in the mix. Auster's and bassist Nikki Monninger's playing competes evenly with Christopher Guanlao's drumming, though, and the dynamic between their instruments proves efficient in its own capacity, seizing the crowd's attention in sort of a fundamentally 'rock' way. Meanwhile' Auster proves in a mischievous mood on stage, ruffling the hair of several audience members in the front while, of course, singing out his characteristically child-like vocals, which are pleasanly textured when he raises them to the occasional bit of belting.
The crowd once more chimes in, calling back the "We want it!" shouts at the end of "Nightlight", proving familiarity with the new songs as well as the old, and Auster takes a moment, at first seemingly content with a typical "thanks for coming out", then taking another second to reconsider, only to kick into a longer, more elaborate story about how the group's only prior visit to Copenhagen has stuck with them ever since, prompting them to look forward to their return with anxiety - A tale that of course endears him further to the audience. Then he prompts us to stare intently at Monninger in order to pressure her to mess up her lead vocal parts in "Circadian Rhythm", which she does not, revealing that her sort of quirky manner hides seasoned performing routine underneath.
It's roughly smooth sailing from there, and on the trip that zigzags through the band's album the musical essentials do the talking, keeping folks grooving across the floor and slinging back beverages like it's somewhat later in the week. A (well warranted) request for the band to play (their best song!) "Future For Scenarios" is only met by teasing with bits of it being spliced on as intros to other songs that are actually on the setlist, marking that the limit to the otherwise good mood is that it (sadly) doesn't overtake the planned proceedings. "Panic Switch" goes over well and "Lazy Eye" ends the regular set to a bit of a rapture, though, and we get an encore including standalone single "Cannibal" and the very early song "Kissing Families", which seems to seal a mood of satisfaction that pervades the venue. That being said, on one hand, one wants to commend Silversun Pickups for their presence of mind and for their charming overall oddness, but at the same time, it felt like they got the job done in sort of a laid-back, minimum bells and whistles kinda manner. Their music has a unique atmosphere to it that felt a bit stripped back on the evening, leaving you to wonder if this is perhaps one of the few bands that would do well to mix in a bit more artificial supplements, or if perhaps the mix could've just been a little better. Whatever the case, make no mistake that Silversun Pickups warmed up everyone's gray Monday evening considerably and that there's no reason not to hope for a return sooner rather than later.