Summerfest Day 5: Silversun Pickups and Cheap Time
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After the unwashed masses stampeded into the Summerfest Grounds on Saturday, the following day felt totally chill. Of course, the cool, breezy night helped. But it probably had more to do with the underwhelming lineup (and the fact that only thousands of people wanted to show up to work hungover and not tens of thousands) than anything weather related.
The bill offered some good-but-not-great acts like Social Distortion, Dr. John, and A-Trak, but we settled at the Briggs & Stratton Backyard to catch Silversun Pickups. Rather, we were mainly interested in catching one song, the band’s ubiquitous 2006 single “Lazy Eye.” To our surprise, Silversun Pickups are no one-hit-wonders, and have cultivated a bit of a remarkable alternative-rock career. Their last two records charted in the Billboard Top-10—whatever that means nowadays.
With that in mind, the turnout seemed a little weak, flecked with older fans and 20-somethings nostalgic for that one high school summer when “Lazy Eye” received consistent radio airplay. “We are not strangers to this festival,” lead singer Brian Aubert noted a third of the way through the set. It’s no surprise that the band has played here before, but, Jesus, last night marked their fourth appearance at the Big Gig, which more than explains the humble crowd size. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, dudes.
The wait for “Lazy Eye” was not terribly insufferable. The band sounded good and more impressively big—huge praise for the routine sonic wasteland that is Summerfest. The story of the night, however, would go to fill-in bass player Sarah Negahdari, who’s taking over for Nikki Monninger while she’s on maternity leave with her twins. Last night concluded Sarah’s stint, and her heart was visibly swollen from all the praise. Each time she stepped up to the microphone, tears welled in her eyes, and when chants of “Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!” rumbled from the audience, she almost lost her shit. It’s too bad, though. That whole sentimentality felt completely undercut by Aubert’s lame breast feeding joke earlier in the night. “This is literally what is happening to Nikki right now,” he said before he placed each hand over a pectoral muscle and squeezed while making suckling sounds into the microphone. That glaring misstep aside, Silversun Pickups put on a solid performance. And when the band eventually got into “Lazy Eye,” it was immediately obvious: Their other albums might have sold way more copies, but everyone came for this moment. [Kevin Mueller]
In The Red Records artists Cheap Time are the brain child of Nashville’s Jeffrey Novak, who’s refreshed the personnel of his glammy garage-punk trio every year or two since releasing the first 7-inch under the banner in 2007. The current lineup, featuring Ryan Sweeney on drums and Jessica McFarland, (also of fellow Nashville act Heavy Cream) on bass is anticipating the release of its new LP, Exit Smiles, due out sometime in the coming months. If the current garage-pop renaissance led by King Tuff, Jeff The Brotherhood, and Burger Records continues unabated, the release could mean the beginning of bigger things for Novak’s scrappy little outfit. Not that the band isn’t already well on its way: 2013 finds them hitting the road with both grunge pioneers Mudhoney and venerable punk staples Social Distortion, who they were supporting here tonight.
Of course, for an up-and-coming act, opening for a big-name band at Summerfest mostly means playing to passersby and a few diehard fans staking out their places for the headliner, especially on a slow day like this. But regardless of how many people were paying attention, Cheap Time put on a memorable show, burning through a set of speedy punk and quirky but impeccable pop. There were plenty of standouts, including “Kill The Light” (their contribution to Adult Swim’s excellent Garage Swim compilation), the title track of Exit Smiles, and even a cover of a tune by 1960s Swedish prog-rock group International Harvester. Just as entertaining as their playing was the between-song banter. Freely admitting to trying to stretch a 40-minute set into an hour, their self-conscious, time-killing discussion of everything from tattoos to funnel cake verged on performance art. [Thomas Michalski]