If Holiday Havoc at the Joint is the musical equivalent of unwrapping your Christmas or Hanukkah gifts, then the last three bands that played, like December presents themselves, left varying degrees of satisfaction for those who received them.
Let’s start with Tuesday night’s big present, the bicycle wrapped in the shape of a bicycle. That would be Silversun Pickups from Silverlake in LA. The band’s jarring, noisy sound helped it break beyond corner bars a decade or so ago, and played live, a lot of the Pickups’ songs take on an even fiercer feel. Opener “Cradle (Better Nature)”—also the leadoff track on September album Better Nature—set the tone, allowing the four-piece to fill the room with loose guitar work backed by precise keyboards.
Unlike last time in town, the band featured bassist/backing vocalist Nikki Monniger, who missed a 2012 show in the same room because she was giving birth to twins. This time, her kids got to see momma rock out. Frontman Brian Aubert joked about how Monniger gets nervous playing new song “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance),” a more methodically paced tune than other Silversun numbers, but here both she and the song shined. Still, no matter how many new tracks the band puts out, it’ll have a tough time finding a better closer than early single “Lazy Eye,” here filled with glorious distortion while keeping its catchy vibe.
Then there’s the gift you might not expect to love that turns out to be more valuable as time goes on. A great book maybe. In Havoc terms, that would be Fidlar, another LA-based band, with a more traditional garage feel. “Drone” is an excellent example of the fast, dirty and surfy West Coast cuts the four-piece plays. “Cocaine” might be the band’s hardest rocker and was well-placed to close out the set, leaving the audience with a proverbial punch to the mouth.
That brings us to the present you really wanted that, played with a few times, left you underwhelmed. A video game that doesn’t live up to the hype. In this case, that was headliner Bastille, the English pop quartet that conquered the world with 2013 hit “Pompeii.” Bastille sparkled at House of Blues in 2014, but this time, the Brits got off to a rocky start, with an apparent lack of energy marring the set’s first third. The band did recover nicely—on highlights like “oldie” “Bad Blood,” new song “Snakes” and a “No Angels” mashup of The xx’s “Angels” and TLC’s “No Scrubs”—but the performance felt a bit overpolished, lacking in musical danger. The final five songs achieved a nice crescendo, but by the time we got there I was focused on the fun other presents I’d already received.