One with the Music

On March 11, 2015, Fresno received a grand treat when four notable bands entered the Save Mart Center where so many beloved artists have graced the city. Bear Hands, Foals, Silversun Pickups and Cage the Elephant all coexisted and shared the stage very graciously for the eager concert goers. Although I was very uniformed on both Bear Hands’ and Foals’ discography and their entire band presence, I believe they put on sufficient shows. However, Silversun Pickups and Cage the Elephant truly stole the venue that night.

While Bear Hands was well known with the audience, their stage presence was quite disappointing. They opened up with “Peacekeeper,” which was nice introduction to their set. Their best song was arguably Bone Digger,”  with its catchy chorus “the lies, the lies, the bullshit and the lies.” The only lackluster element in Bear Hands performance was their low energy. This can be blamed both on the audience and Bear Hands themselves. While the viewers weren’t the most lively characters, the performers could’ve tried to put out more effort into hyping up the crowd. Regardless of their energy, their sound was very immersive as they executed their songs with great integrity. Lights only added to the immersion that their music produced. While their sound was very experimental, their theatrics were, unfortunately, not up to par.

Foals energy was much more prominent than Bear Hands’, and while I was not at all familiar with their work, I did find it very easy to not only listen but also become engrossed in their performance. They opened up with the  fast and aggressive track “Snake Oil,” which set the tone for the rest of their set. With only one slow and calming song, Foals continued a great show with raunchy alternative rock tracks. As with Bear Hands, the lighting of the show added to Foals more noticeable theatrics. The lead singer, Yannis Phillippakis, spread his energy with the crowd through stage antics such as group clapping and stage diving. These acts added to Foals performance and ended up livening up the audience overall. Despite my unfamiliarity with the group, I believe they put on a engaging and enjoyable show.

One of the bigger headliners and stronger performers, in my opinion, was Silversun Pickups, who came on shortly after Foals. Silversun Pickups, formed in the early 2000s, had a lot more track options to choose from than the former bands. They of course opened up with a track from their new album, Better Nature. Band members Brain Aubert and Nikki Monninger consumed and flourished in the spotlight together. While musically I found Silversun Pickups to be more dynamic in comparison to the previous bands, their onstage activities were mellow and spars. Their songs were definitely the calmest of the bands as they played their instruments to form a shoegaze sound that is so widely known.  They eventually concluded their ethereal performance, but not without leaving us with something to remember by playing fan favorite Lazy Eye” and closing their set with the last track of Better Nature, “The Wild Kind.” Complete a earthy sound and chill onstage vibe, the Silversun Pickups put on a memorable show and definitely earned their spot as second to Cage the Elephant.

Finally we had the creme de la creme, the main act, Cage the Elephant. The act was worthy of their title as the headliner for the Spring Fling Tour. As soon as Silversun Pickups left the stage, the anxiety truly began for Cage the Elephant as we all sat there eagerly waiting to see Matthew Shultz and the rest of his band embrace not only the stage but also the audience. The lights dimmed until blackness surrounded us, white light rose from above, and there they were, Cage the Elephant, soaking in the spotlight. Four albums had allowed them to play a wide variety of songs. You could easily tell with their opener, “Cry Baby,” from their newest album Tell Me I’m Pretty, that both Matthew and his counterpart, Brad Shultz, were not foreign to the fame. Matthew’s spirit resonated when the crowd was at its peak and latched onto his moxie. They played a plethora of fan favorites from “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” to some of the newer hits such as “Mess Around” and “Shake Me Down.” The guitars were perfectly in tune on most songs while on others such as “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” they sounded a bit imbalanced. Like a ball of pulsating energy, Matt bounced around the stage and gave the crowd exactly what they wanted with stage diving, crowd interaction, and just making his presence unforgettable. He moved with the music, and you could tell he had no jitters or anxiety due to his looseness that took over his body as he united with his sound. Not to be overshadowed by his brother, Brad Shultz was equally as impressive with his stage diving and both his aura and his musical being were astonishing. The existence of  two highly energized performers on the same stage almost made it seem like there was hardly enough vitality for the rest of the band members.  In addition, some songs, such as the classic “Sabertooth Tiger,” did not sound as impressive live as one would think. Yet they made up for this by playing hits such as “Spiderhead,” “Take it or Leave It,” and the encore song “Cigarette Daydreams.” These were some of the highlights off Cage the Elephant’s set list and phenomenal performance.

Spring Fling’s visit to Fresno, California was one for the books. The indie/alternative mashup was enthralling, entertaining, and splendidly accomplished its goal: to bring the music to the people with style and charisma.


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