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Grammy nominated, Los Angeles bred, indie-alt band Silversun Pickups graced the Hollywood Palladium with their Better Nature Tour on Saturday, August 13, 2016. A wall-to-wall audience filled the standing room only general admission area with mostly hip suburbanites and Hollywood dwellers of all ages gathered to experience a show that, in my 30 years of going to concerts of all sizes (stadiums to hole-in-the-wall dives), had possibly some of the best audio engineering I’ve ever heard. That, however, is an understatement because the performance itself was an audible feast that left everyone satisfied.

It went down like this: the house lights dropped, revealing a stage lit in purple Par Cans, draped with an over-sized, garage band style backdrop with Silversun Pickups screen printed on it in an almost 1980’s fonts a band like Bon Jovi might have used 30 years ago. It was an interesting irony that makes sense for a band that has successfully combined some of that 80’s pop with a well-crafted blend of modern synth, alternative-rock, controlled guitar solos, and pounding choruses and bridges that enthralled the audience to sing, clap, and pump their fists.

setlist-image-v1All references aside, when Silversun takes the stage, it’s anything but dated.  In a white light explosion, the first chords of Brian Aubert’s guitar erupt from the sound system with the ferocity of adult angst, throwback industrial, a pantheon of audible color, and almost a grunge sensibility. Perhaps that’s why they are so liked – they have successfully pulled from various genres to create something of a hybrid still very much all their own.

Whereas the band before, A Silent Film, shares a similar realm with Imagine Dragons, Silversun Pickups shares court with that loose, raw, rusty tone performed by bands like We Were Promised Jet Packs, My Jerusalem, and even Jack White when he rips a screaming solo.

Aubert’s somewhat effeminate voice blended with the band’s assaulting and riotous sound basically hooked the audience by their second track, Well Thought Out Twinkles. One song later, The Royal We owned the attention of every sweaty, tipsy listener and the rest was a mesmerizing dream-scape of orchestrated lights punctuated with the silhouettes of Silversun and Aubert moving in and out of shadows and light like a ghost on the stage.

Humor struck when Aubert insisted everyone stare at bass player Nikki Monninger which only solicited more laughs when the spotlight operator focused on her for an awkward amount of time causing her sequined dress to shimmer and sparkle as she lent her voice to most of Circadian Rhythm while plucking her Gibson Thunderbird.

By the time Silversun performs The Pit, the crowd has fallen in love, the group is bathed in red light, and I realize that drummer Christopher Guanlao performs with a Dave Grohl intensity and body language Grohl exhibited back in his Nirvana days. It’s probably just Guanlao’s long hair doing all the talking in that comparison, but it just goes to show how completely focused and animated he is as a drummer.

The beauty and charm of Silversun Pickups is in their sincerity, Guanlao’s shuffle beats, Aubert’s dark chords, Joe Lester’s melodic and organic playing on the keys, and Monninger’s charm and willingness to experiment on bass. On Panic Switch alone, there are these wonderfully controlled solos and a rich and almost-funk bass line with no unnecessary finger exercises. The songs are slow builds, enticing the concert goer with the hope that something big is about to erupt and surprise, and in the case of Silversun Pickups, no matter how many times a song has been listened to on Spotify or in the car, hearing it live, delivers even more surprises that just aren’t experienced until the moment it makes you smile. And on top of that, the engineering and mixing of the show was the icing that made the entire concert nearly perfect.

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