Photos by Mark Pantoja

Silversun Pickups sounded great Wednesday night at the Fox, and I say that without hesitation, despite the nearly 10-minute-long equipment malfunction that took lead singer/guitarist Brian Aubert’s guitar out of action.

The band handled the awkward silence that ensued pretty gracefully, noodling around for a bit before playing a guitar-less version of “Three Seed”, a sleepy number from their first full-length Carnavas, which ended up sounding pretty cool anyway. Bassist Nikki Monninger and drummer Chris Guanlao held things down while keyboardist Joe Lester’s twinkling synths floated on top. Everyone was showcased in a way that the band’s often busy compositions don’t normally allow. Aubert has a really unique voice—one I think is very intriguing—and it was a rare treat to hear it standing a little more on its own rather than embedded in a massive wall of noise.

So yeah, Silversun Pickups really did sound fantastic. But, I need to get something off my chest: the L.A. quartet’s focus on newer and slower tracks was not entirely satisfying.

SSPU’s latest album, 2012’s Neck of the Woods, has its moments. Album opener “Skin Graph” is a catchy song, and they opened with it at the Fox. But Neck of the Woods is sleepier in general, lacking many of the heavier moments and more interesting dynamics of Carnavas and the band’s second album Swoon.

At least eight or nine of the band’s 14 songs on Wednesday were from Neck of the Woods, which—I’m not gonna lie—was disappointing. SSPU seemed more focused on playing these slower songs (even “Three Seed” is one of the more down-tempo tracks from Carnavas), as if they were intentionally avoiding the heavier material until the night’s closer, the killer Carnavas cut “Well Thought Out Twinkles”.

So yeah, I’m pissed they didn’t play more of their earlier, heavier, and more compelling work like “Little Lover’s So Polite” or “Future Foe Scenarios”, both off of Carnavas. Maybe that’s unfair of me. Maybe I shouldn’t be second-guessing their set list. But I’m still listening to Carnavas as I write this, just to get the fix I didn’t get on at the Fox.

But it occurs to me that, if the secret of being a successful band is to always leave them wanting more, then maybe Silversun Pickups are actually geniuses, sating me just enough to keep me coming back.

School of Seven Bells opened, and I went in expecting lots of glassy synths, which were indeed in abundant supply. There were even lots of glassy vox on top, and the vocal harmonies were flawless. Lead singer Alejandra Deheza has a jerky way of dancing when she’s on stage, which I found distracting at times, but if you’re into 80s synth ballads, then boy did you miss out.

You can grab a free Tour EP with live tracks from each band on the tour, including SSPU and School of Seven Bells as well as Cloud Nothings and Atlas Genius.

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