As Christmas nears and the holiday festivities creep closer to their close, Alt AZ’s Ugly Sweater concert series had its final night this week with Silversun Pickups and support from The Wrecks and The Unlikely Candidates at Tempe’s Marquee Theatre.
While the opening acts have made appearances in the Phoenix area earlier this year, Silversun Pickups haven’t played in the Valley since summer 2017 and were highly anticipated if the packed venue was any indication.
That’s not to say there wasn’t excitement surrounding The Unlikely Candidates. The Texas five-piece has been playing sets built off their three EPs for a couple of years now, but it still feels fresh each time because the band is so lively. Between guitarist Brenton Carney’s hair flips and vocalist Kyle Morris’ refusal to stay on stage for more than a song at a time, there’s kinetic energy that immerses even the back of the room.
The Wrecks are the same way, bouncing around on stage so no matter who you’re watching, you’re far from bored. To their credit, they also really leaned in to the holiday theme and emerged in ugly sweaters and/or Santa hats, plus a sign adorned with multicolored Christmas lights. It was also the first time playing new single “Fvck Somebody” live, which frontman Nick Anderson introduced by asking who all had been in relationships they wished they could end but were waiting for the other person to make a mistake. “This one’s for you, you passive aggressive fucks,” he laughed.
Silversun Pickups also had new music to bless us with—they released Widow’s Weeds in June and are picking up their tour again early next year, so they not only closed out their year in Tempe but also their decade. And what a decade it’s been, as the setlist proved. “Panic Switch” from 2009, “Dots and Dashes (Enough Already) from 2012, “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)” from 2015, and the list goes on. Nikki Monninger let her sparkly shoes do the talking for her, but her shining moments were in her vocal solos that the crowd positively shrieked for. Meanwhile, Brian Aubert smirked at his bandmates and at the crowd but finally cracked a smile as he let loose.
The encore was when it seemed to sink in that this was a monumental show, and the band put extra intensity into their three-song return to the stage. Closing with “Lazy Eye,” they thanked the sea of fans and disappeared into the night, always leaving people wanting more.
Check out more photos from the show!
Story and photos by Taylor Gilliam