By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Eventually PBJ finished and the Pickups loaded in and did a sound check. With a sound so thick with overtones and controlled feedback, Aubert was concerned with getting things right, and it didn’t help that the pedal setup that he’ll be taking on the road this summer was still being worked on back in L.A. The makeshift replacement made amazing sounds, but it’s not the exact one he spent the past three years perfecting.
I ended up in a little corner of the studio with a few other people. Aubert and bassist/singer Nikki Monninger’s vocals were being sent directly into the control room, then relayed back into the two’s headphones, so I only heard the three new Silversun Pickups songs as instrumentals, which was a fascinating exercise and highly recommended for judging the quality and inspiration of Aubert’s song structures.
Later Aubert acknowledged that the performance was as harrowing a gig as he’s ever done — and he’s done a lot of shows. It makes sense; the Silversun Pickups have been working on this stuff for a long time, and a lot of people are really looking forward to what they have come up with. To roll into Austin on the eve of Swoon’s release (April 14, to be exact), a day before playing at Stubb’s with Metallica, is to face a certain amount of pressure.
It’s a wonderful problem to have, though, ultimately. In Austin, there were 2,000 bands that would have killed to be in Silversun’s situation. But that only makes the moment feel more crystal clear, and powerful, and, yes, nerve-racking.
The next night at the Guitar Hero show, Aubert’s trepidation had dissipated (or at least he masked it well). The result was a confident performance; the band is obviously gunning to build on the success of Carnavas by constructing big-ass rock songs, filled with adventure (relatively speaking; it’s not like they’re deconstructing anything). The crowd, though waiting for Metallica, was with the Pickups the entire way, and the result was a successful introduction to the band’s new songs. Will the Pickups top the success of their debut? We won’t know until after it’s released. But the songs are certainly there.
Metallica’s parachute gig at Stubb’s last Saturday night was raved about nonstop, and I wanted to see how they translated the big arena show they’re used to doing these days into a more intimate space, so I stuck around to check it out. But their extended sound check, and the whole idea of them gigging SXSW, started to grate on me. As I waited, I started to get pissed; the goal was to check Metallica, then head down the street to the Southern Lord showcase and compare/contrast the big sellout band with the littler ones. But my reflex told me to ditch. As I was leaving, the doormen looked at me incredulously; thousands were standing outside trying to get a glimpse, and there’s me leaving, as though I’m exiting the frickin’ Promised Land or something. That only emboldened me; are Metallica that much more worthy or deserving of my time than the other musicians?
I texted L.A. Weekly freelancer Jeff Weiss, who was at Cedar Street waiting on Grizzly Bear, as I left: “Fuckn metallica is wasting my time.”
His response: “Isn’t that what they’ve done since ’87?”
LOL and yes, I’m outta here.
Emo’s Annex, two blocks away: the Southern Lord Records showcase, featuring Wolves in the Throne Room, Pelican, Black Cobra, It’s Casual and three other bands either on or affiliated with the Hollywood label. Southern Lord is one of the most respected and prescient metal labels in the world. Its bands, including label owners Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley’s Sunn O))) project, Japanese mantra metallurgists Boris, drone geniuses Earth, and legendary L.A. doom-metal band St. Vitus (whose early records were put out on Black Flag label SST), have pushed the genre in directions unimaginable in Metallica’s prime — which, for the record, was Master of Puppets.
They’re the real deal basically, and despite the clusterfuck a few blocks away, I glided straight into the tent, where two-piece math-metal yowlers Black Cobra, of San Francisco, were driving their sound into the skulls of a small but overjoyed crowd. Think about it: Metallica is playing down the street, and these dudes moshing seem giddy. It’s like knowing that the Beatles are playing at Hollywood Bowl but opting to go see the Dave Clark Five at Boardner’s.
Black Cobra: Loud. Fast. And best: One Gibson Les Paul, three amps behind him, and one simple but totally thumping Ludwig drum kit. No guitar racks here. No roadies swapping out bass guitars between songs. The band had 15 minutes to set up, another five for a sound check, and then they started, and the longhairs banged heads and flashed the devil horns. The pit was ferocious if tiny, but there weren’t enough people to really support any crowd surfing.