The Scene: While not quite sold out, the Hi-Dive was as crowded as I have seen it. Punk and preppy, it was a crowd that evidenced that a band that was about to break through into the mainstream was going to take the stage. By that I mean a crowd of people who aren’t regulars at the Hi-Dive and are in touch with what is going on musically in Denver. Maybe it was a magazine article or a friend from out of town that turned them on to The Silversun Pickups but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they came out and braved the somewhat dingy confines of the Hi-Dive to hear a band they probably didn’t know that well.
With the improvements going on at the Larimer Lounge it looks like the Hi-Dive may well be on the road to becoming the city’s best “dirty little rock club.” The grafitti and stickers in the bathrooms and the pieces of the ceiling hanging down took me back to the old Larimer. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing. There is a certain element that thrives in this environment and it is important for a city’s music to have it. Everyone may not love it but it makes for good stories and more imporantly, it often gives birth to great music. CBGB’s is the prime example. The birthplace of punk had it’s issues but none of them rocked the crowd or poured from the speakers.
Opener: The Kingdom! Their relatively short set of sometimes VERY short songs didn’t really do it for me. They seemed a little loose and as the lack of enthusiasm from the crowd evidenced, they seem to have some work to do before they start drawing big crowds on their own.
The Silversun Pickups: These guys seemed young, hard to believe they have been a band for 7 years or so. While they only have one album out, their dedication to their music shows clearly in their playing. They are tight as hell for any band . . . let alone a band that only has one album and is just starting their ride up. Their stops and starts were as a unit, not as indivuals trying to keep up with each other and the resulting shifts from loud to quiet were almost unnerving.
The Pickups raged through most of Carnavas during their 50 minute set and Brian Aubert handled his frontman duties very well. He worked the crowd with suggestive banter and humble thank you’s and Nikki Monninger dropped bass bombs loaded with attack and angst. I’ve got to say she looked far to innocent with her long curly brown hair to be playing bass and singing on songs like “Lazy Eye,” and “Future Foe Scenarios.” Her bass work often pushed it’s way to the front of the mix as her fingers danced dangerously on the fret board.
The bands classic metal influences reared their heads a couple of time throughout the night. For the second song of the set Aubert energized the crowd with his Hendrixian guitar riffs that make up the core of “Well Thought Out Twinkles.” As the set progressed the maturity of this band was apparent. From the structure of the setlist to the sound mix coming from the stage everything seemed right on the money.
Speaking of right on the money, drummer Christopher Guanlao sets and agressive and throbbing tempo behind his strange kit. I honestly have never seen a drummer play with his crash symbol set so high. While it was at least 2 feet above his head it became clear early in the night that his animated drumming style regularly brought the crash to within easy reach.
The Pickups have been packing clubs around the country and while this was their first stop in Denver our city didn’t let them down. I am sure there are most than a few new fans that would head out the next time they are in town.
Let’s hope it’s soon.
Stage Presence: A-
Set/Light Show: C+