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Silversun Pickups play at the Aragon

Lizzy Schroff | Sunday, September 23, 2012


On Friday I made my way to the Silversun Pickups concert at the Aragon in Chicago. Stalling out in the middle of Chicago traffic and walking two miles from the parking garage in the chill and rain was well worth it. 

The Aragon is a fantastic venue. Originally built in 1926 as a dance hall, the Aragon mimics a Spanish castle with an elaborate staircase leading up to the main floor, white stucco balconies with red and gold roof and accents, and a starry night sky painted with galaxies and lit by softly twinkling lights. The stage is elevated several feet off the wooden floor, which has a standing room and balcony capacity of about 4,500.

The first opening band, Atlas Genius, came on at about 7:00 p.m. Atlas Genius is an indie rock band from Australia composed of brothers Keith, Steven, and Michael Jeffrey and keyboardist Darren Sell from England. The band released their EP “Through the Glass” this summer and has an album in the works for the future. They played all of their songs from their EP as well as a few from the future album, ending with their popular single “Trojans.” Having only heard “Trojans,” before seeing them in concert, I really enjoyed their short set and the crowd was definitely getting into them too. Lead singer and guitarist Keith Jeffrey played some great guitar solos and interacted well with the audience.

Next up was School of Seven Bells, an aloof, dream pop band from New York. They were a stark contrast to the more down-to-earth Atlas Genius, featuring lots of synth and vocal effects (not to mention the comment my friend made to me as they came out on stage: “I bet they’re all vampires.”). Seven Bells played a decent eight-song set, but some of the quality was lost in the massive amounts of synth and distortions, which left a bit of ringing in my ears at the end.

By the time Seven Bells finished, the crowd was antsy in their anticipation of Silversun Pickups. Finally, at 9:00 p.m.on the dot, the Pickups came on stage, building up to the hard-hitting chorus of their “Skin Graph” from their latest album “Neck of the Woods.” The Pickups played a great set list featuring songs from all three of their full-length studio albums. Their second song, “The Royal We” brought on the mosh-pit antics of some neighboring fans and got much of the audience jumping and head banging. They followed with “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” which had the fans belting out the chorus and several other songs from “Neck of the Woods.”

Lead singer and guitarist Brian Aubert took some time in between several songs to interact with the infectiously wild, screaming, sold-out crowd. Aubert commented on the crowd’s enthusiasm declaring, “Is it always this radical?” He took a moment to introduce bassist Sarah Negahdari of the Happy Hollows, who was filling in for Nikki Monninger. Monninger is due to give birth to twin baby girls this fall. Here’s to hoping that there are two more sick female bassists in the music world in 20 years.  

Despite Monninger’s absence, there was nothing lacking in performance from the band. Aubert was spot-on with his distinctive vocals, Joe Lester was in his otherworldly zone on the keyboards, Chris Guanlao rocked hard in a flurry of long black hair on the drums and Negahderi, overtly appreciative of the crowd’s positive response to her substitution for Monninger, was terrific on bass.

There were plenty of crowd pleasers for dedicated Silversun Pickups fans, but their energy and extremely engaging performance would get any rock fan on their feet. The ever-popular track “Panic Switch” was soon followed by their hit “Lazy Eye,” featuring a flurry of flashing multi-colored stage lights during the chorus that had everyone hyped up and screaming for more as the band left the stage.

The crowd chanted and stamped their feet for a solid five minutes before the Pickups ran back out on stage for an encore, rounding out the set with “Busy Bees,” “Out of Breath,” and “Well Thought Out Twinkles” before departing the stage. The concert was a fantastic whirlwind of face-melting guitar distortions, whirring, atmospheric effects and delectable bass lines and drumbeats. Whatever quiet moment emerged within songs was filled with the cheers and applause of an audience fully engrossed in the music. I couldn’t help but embark on the two-mile walk back to the car feeling like I was on indie rock cloud nine.

Contact Lizzy Schroff at
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