Summerfest Review: Silversun Pickups

Silverlake's favorite sons set the stage for Foo Fighters... and steal some of their thunder.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski


Milwaukee hasn’t had the biggest impact on popular music, but it’s made a dent. And a ding in that dent played that city’s massive outdoor music festival Friday night when the Silversun Pickups played Summerfest.

While Memphis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City and Seattle put out more mega-acts over past decades, Milwaukee offered up Liberace, Al Jarreau, Eric Benet, The Bodeans, The Violent Femmes and the guy who composed “The Chicken Dance” (seriously). More recently, Milwaukee native Jeff Castelaz's Dangerbird Records label served up the LA-based indie band, Silversun Pickups.

That LA-Milwaukee connection served up the Silversun Pickups to the Summerfest mainstage inside the Marcus Amphitheater before a crowd of 25,000 last night as an opening act for Foo Fighters.

Silversun Pickups emerged in 2002 out of Silverlake – a trendy art community nestled between Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. They’ve stayed with Dangerbird Records since releasing their first EP in 2005.

During their short set warming up the crowd pre-Foo, they played a 10-song series featuring a selection of tunes from their three studio albums. Unlike the more pop-centric, but hard-driving rock sound of the headliners, the Silversun Pickups offer up a more produced, mixed blend of echoing rhythm guitar licks, moody vocals and uptight rhythms tempered by atmospheric electronica.

The group has yet to have a massive breakthrough smash, but their set featured their three most successful indie scene songs – “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings),” “Panic Switch” and “Lazy Eye.”

I’ve always believed the test of any warmup band is how well they hold a growing crowd’s interest and enthusiasm while folks are settling in to see the headliners they paid to see. Do said music lovers squirm and repress boo birds – antsy for their heroes to push the usurpers from the hardwood? Or do they groove to the first band to tune up and plan to buy their songs – treating the headliners like dessert?

I watched the latter take place as the Silversun Pickups “picked up” a pile of new fans in Milwaukee.


Photo by Jason Campbell