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ACL Fest review: Silversun Pickups

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Chad Swiatecki

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 5, 2013

Roughly 10 minutes into Silversun Pickups’ third appearance at Austin City Limits Festival, singer/guitarist Brian Aubert wandered over to stage left, where bassist Nikki Monnington was laying into her chugging breakdown on “Well Thought Out Twinkles,” and delivered an appreciative pat to the back of her head. The reason why became apparent later in the set when Aubert told the several-thousand-strong throng in front of the band that the widely smiling Monnington had just rejoined the quartet after delivering twins.

So Monnington was clearly enjoying her return to the band that she helps propel forward with a brand of modern rock that takes its cues from My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins and a hodge-podge of mid-’90s college radio also-rans. Live, the band doesn’t so much construct punishing walls of noise (ala MBV) as spin cocoons of fuzz that listeners (or this one, at least) want to wrap tighter and tighter. That means that Aubert’s guitar and Monnington’s bass twist around each other in an innately pleasing fashion (my musician companion on the weekend opined that the Pickups’ songs are opening-band simple, but no matter) with Aubert’s kinda-buried vocals acting as sonic coloring more than storytelling device.

Before the band’s closing trio of songs - including alternative radio hits “Panic Switch” and “Lazy Eye” - Aubert said they’re closing the year-and-a-half-long tour for their third record and ACL Fest always comes near the end of those tours. At this point the Silversun Pickups have got the mid-day festival slot down to a science, knocking out 50 minutes of tight, melodic fury without a moment of letup. Hard to say if having Monnington back in the fold makes that even more the case - I saw them deliver an equally tight set in June at C3 Presents’ Orion Fest in Detroit with a substitute bass player - but the smiles all around on Saturday showed that as a unit they’re happy to be back to their normal.