Concert Review: Silversun Pickups (for DC101-derland) @ The Anthem (12/7/22)

Silversun Pickups (Photo Credit: Claire Marie Vogel)

‘Nowhere left to go, stay with me.’ – Nikki Monninger

Organized by DC101 radio station, The Anthem hosted the first DC101-derland music festival since 2019 on December 7th, gifting DC a heady lineup to rock out to. The crowd steadily trickled in, and by the end of the second set, it was robust and lively, though not quite a sell out.

After the first act finished, the Silversun Pickups had the second slot of the five bands performing (TALK, Silversun Pickups, The Struts, Spoon, Jimmy Eat World). TALK impressed the spectators, dropping two crowd-pleasing covers by Bon Jovi and Collective Soul in the middle of one of their songs. The Struts are also fantastic showmen, with this live set proving the point with each emphatic rock anthem. I first caught them live at Firefly Music Festival in 2016, and have been a fan since. Spoon was also great, you can read the review of the show they played at the 9:30 Club earlier this year. I skipped Jimmy Eat World, because after 3-1/2 hours of music I was satisfied with the over the top sensory input I had just experienced. This review will focus on Silversun Pickups’ set, but we recommend all of these bands. 

Silversun Pickups has been touring for their sixth album, Physical Thrills (via New Machine Recordings), but their DC stop was only this shortened set, so we didn’t experience the weight of their new songs over the course of a full tour set. That option was available for us, but you would have had to travel to Baltimore or Richmond. They are an indie rock band from Los Angeles formed in 2000, comprised of Brian Aubert (lead vocals and guitar), Nikki Monninger (bass and vocals), Chris Guaniao (drums), and Joe Lester (keyboards).

At DC101-derland they performed eight fierce songs, only two from Physical Thrills. They also added one song from each of their five previous albums (2006’s Carnavas got two), now all standards on their tours.

From the vantage point of front stage right, it was a thrill (no pun intended – probably) to witness each band member dig deep and give everything they had for 45 minutes. I have caught Silversun Pickups live five times in the past 10 years (the last most notably was right before the pandemic lock down in March 2020), and I would be hard pressed to remember being more bowled over by a performance. Some of those at the front already knew the band, others less so or not at all (probably excited for another band), but by the end everyone in sight was there for it. The crowd at The Anthem had also doubled in size during their set.

They commenced with a massive banger, “Well Thought Out Twinkles”, that culminated in some serious guitar hooks. Despite the short set, Brian changed his guitar at least four times. Aside from changing the pitch, it wouldn’t surprise me if he had simply wore them out.

The two new songs they performed from Physical Thrills were “Scared Together” and “Alone on a Hill”. “Scared Together” starts with an unrelentingly funky reverb, and never lets you go long enough to catch a breath. In contrast, “Alone on a Hill” is a slow, wistful song made incredible by Nikki’s tense plea in each note of the lyrics. Nikki sings lead on a few songs from their oeuvre, but rarely so fully and I would argue never this amazing. It’s very good. During the recording process Brian encouraged her to ‘channel her inner Kate Bush.’ Nikki also sings in “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)”, which contains one of my favorite lyrics by them, ‘Nowhere left to go, stay with me.’

During the pandemic in 2020, I played a game that I called YouTube Roulette. Pick a song, listen, then pick another song only from the recommendations on the right. Preferably a song I hadn’t heard. There were a select number of songs that I somehow I played every time. Couldn’t help it. One of those was “Lazy Eye”, and of course that’s exactly how they needed to end this short, but epic set. When you throw in that languid, lingering intro, my brain and most of those brains near me by the stage (probably), got a kick of endorphins that somehow improved my mood exponentially.

For what appears to be a common theme to end their shows, they had a long exit strategy that allowed each band member to bid adieu stage left with great flourish. Brian out-lasted the others, mugging for the crowd, then slowly pausing under each spotlight to shred his guitar a bit more.

Go get yourself a copy of Physical Thrills, and if you have yet to experience Silversun Pickups live, do yourself a favor and check that off your bucket list as soon as possible!

Setlist

  1. Well Thought Out Twinkles
  2. It Doesn’t Matter Why
  3. Panic Switch
  4. Scared Together 
  5. Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)
  6. Dots and Dashes
  7. Alone on a Hil
  8. Lazy Eye

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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