God bless Modified, Phoenix’s modest and ambitious art/music space, a venue that welcomes so many indie artists when other places won’t. But if there’s one downside to Modified, it’s the size – no bigger than a small, two-bedroom home. With its plank-wood floors and standard drywall structure, Modified wasn’t meant to contain the sound coming from Silversun Pickups and Viva Voce on Sunday night.
Put simply: It was loud. Not in a shrilly, obnoxious way. Just in that feel-it-in-your-throat kind of way. I expected that from Silversun, but Viva Voce’s aggression on the volume knob was a little more surprising, though not at all a deterrent to the set.
Silversun played after local openers LetDownRight, which created an unfortunate and awkward dynamic with the crowd size. We guessed about 80-100 were there for Silversun. By the time Viva Voce came up, the size dwindled by at least a quarter. It’s too bad because anyone who came for Silversun and left would appreciate what Viva Voce was doing. Oh, well. Their loss.
I ditched my earplugs about three songs into Silversun’s set for the full effect, not that it really mattered. Hell, you could see how loud it was: The main speakers were tipping back and forth like trees giving way in a thunderstorm. At times, the sound squealed off the ceiling, probably looking for a place to escape. But I’m not complaining. Silversun’s thick fuzz is a rush, a kind of empowering charge at those levels.
Songs like Well Thought Out Twinkles, Lazy Eye and Kissing Families translate better live than I could have hoped and leave an almost surreal hangover. And Brian Aubert is acutely aware of when to push his voice and when to pull it back – and it all holds up surprisingly well.
MP3: Silversun Pickups | Well Thought Out Twinkles
I made the mistake of saying to a friend: “I’d hate to be the band to follow that.” Because before I could write off Viva Voce, husband and wife Kevin and Anita Robinson had my full attention at the first thwack of his snare drum. I’m not sure I’ve seen somone attack a drum set like that; he doesn’t wow you with technical wizardry, but his aggression would be hard to match. And it manages to complement – not overpower – Anita’s soft-ish vocals. (There’s also a bass player on stage.)
Something very Incredible Hulk-like happens to Viva Voce from CD to live show. I’ve been listening to Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (Barsuk) for the past couple weeks, and I wouldn’t have expected the sort of raw and stripped-down punch that accompanies the live set. The heavy riffs reminded me of the stoner rock of Kyuss, but how do you account for those compelling hand claps? It was like taking part in a fuzzed-out, psychedelic Kumbaya campfire circle.
All I know is, my money’s on Viva Voce over Mates of State in the Barsuk Husband-Wife Indie-Rock Celebrity Deathmatch.