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Live review: Silversun Pickups

May 1, 2009 |  3:10 pm


Sometimes it takes more than just music to heal.

Last night, a slice of the Los Angeles music community visited the dark basement space of the Echoplex for a benefit concert intended to raise awareness and money for children with cancer. All proceeds from the sold-out Silversun Pickups show, which was announced only three days in advance, went to the Pablove Foundation, an organization supporting cancer research and arts, music and play programs for young cancer patients.

The show was dedicated to one child in particular, Pablo Castelaz, the 5-year-old son of Silver Lake-based Dangerbird Records co-founder Jeff Castelaz and his wife, Jo Ann Thrailkill. Pablo was diagnosed with a bilateral Wilms’ tumor nearly a year ago, and is receiving treatment at Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles.

Dangerbird Records is home to many rising stars of the Silver Lake scene, including The Dears, Darker My Love and last night’s headliners, Silversun Pickups.

The benefit show marked a bittersweet moment for Silversun Pickups, whose newest album, "Swoon," recently debuted on the Billboard Top 200 chart at No. 7. Lines of people trying to get a taste of SSPU’s new songs stretched down the street.

But the atmosphere inside the ExPlex was more somber as Shirley Manson, frontwoman for '90s alt-rockers Garbage (and robo-boss from "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles") took the stage to introduce the band. Manson urged the crowd to think about healthcare reform and the uninsured in America.

Then the calmness of the crowd quickly dissipated when SSPU sauntered on stage. Blasting the crowd with the distorted fuzz guitar and tumbling drums of their post-grunge sound, they unveiled many new cuts from "Swoon." Singer and firebrand guitarist Brian Aubert wafted his effervescent vocals across the room on “There’s No Secrets This Year,” crafting aural spaces for both shoe-gazers and rockers alike.

The scorching set extended well into the night as the band pulled from their earlier albums and ceaselessly offered up a performance that had the intimacy of a show for friends and the professional chops of an arena gig. After all, just by showing up everyone at this benefit became, in some way, a friend of Pablo and kids just like him.

 “I don’t know if God exists,” Aubert said between songs, “but I know that the devil does, and the devil is cancer.”  

--Drew Tewksbury

Photo: Singer/guitarist Brian Aubert leads Silversun Pickups through a number. Credit: Drew Tewksbury