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Coachella 2009: Silversun Pickups -- When Silver Lake fame goes global

April 18, 2009 | 11:01 am


In a world driven by tweets and blogs, everybody likes a good old-fashioned over share, right?  Especially the one doing the over sharing. So here goes:

My band, the Movies, came of age in the very same Silver Lake indie rock scene as the Silversun Pickups. When we moved to town from Boston in 1999 (and played at Spaceland for the first time for all of five or six people), we played with Brian Aubert's then-band Sad Monster (if memory serves me right). Soon he moved on to form the Silversuns with his then-girlfriend Elvira on drums and Kennedy (of Kennedy and the Unicorn fame and, later, just Kennedy of "Your Mama" fame) on guitar.

We played lots of shows at Spaceland, the Silverlake Lounge and the Echo together as part of a swirling and ever-evolving group of hardscrabble bands including Rex Aquarium, Irving, Earlimart, Let's Go Sailing and many, many more. We drank a lot together, and we dreamed that one day one of our bands would break out. Nobody really knew which.

And then it happened, seemingly overnight to those of us who were watching from the sidelines, the Silversuns (who had never released any recordings) put out the EP "Pikul" in 2005, (which contains a cover of my band's song "Creation Lake"), following it up a year later with the full-length album "Carnavas," and they just blew up (selling well over 300,000 records).

Last night, watching them headline the second-largest stage at California's most important music festival (after Leonard Cohen no less!) was a sweet experience, admittedly tinged with wistful pangs. The most interesting part for me was the fact that they looked, sounded and acted like rock stars. "When did that happen?" I wondered. I remember Brian being slightly shy onstage during the early Spaceland days, hiding behind his hair while he developed his signature high-pitched singing voice. Now he was comfortably bantering with the audience and singing with all his might. Success, it seems, brings the very best sort of confidence.

As the band struck the opening notes of "Well Thought Out Twinkles," the riotous crowd lifted bare arms into the blue light-tinged desert night sky and the guy next to me screamed, "You're hot, Nikki!"

When Aubert joked about sitting in a hot tub and drinking Champagne backstage while Leonard Cohen played, I almost believed there was such a setup back there. When they played "Lazy Eye," the whole audience sang along and was thanked prolifically by Aubert. "You've been so good to us, and I don't know when you're going to realize how lame we are, but you haven't yet."

No Brian, not lame, just achingly real. For me at least.

-- Jessica Gelt

 Photo of Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images