Martin Square glimmered under strands of electric light bulbs and vinyl records suspended between lampposts as Seattle-based indie rockers Pickwick took the stage at Thursday evening’s annual KSPU Spring Concert.
The event occurred in conjunction with STUB’s annual Shapadooah street fair, which featured rides, games, food and a petting zoo.
Earlier in the evening, up-and-coming locals Laser Fox warmed things up with a sparkling synth-pop set in the retro-indie vein of Vampire Weekend and MGMT.
Pickwick’s bespectacled lead singer, Galen Disston, started with a casual “ ‘Sup.” The band launched into a gritty blues-rock groove that had the audience bobbing their heads and clapping their hands.
Disston thrashed across the stage, his long hair swinging as he wailed into the microphone.
Students showed off their retro moves on a checkerboard dance floor in the center of Martian Square. Others lined the steps, munching on cotton candy and popsicles despite the chilly weather. Disston congratulated the dancers and encouraged others to join.
“Everybody needs to get as loose as that back row,” Disston said. “Come on, guys, feel free.”
Guitarist Michael Parker wove a tapestry of overdriven power-chords and squealing leads on a Gibson hollow-body. Keyboardist Cassady Lillstrom enriched the sonic texture with a number of honky-tonk pianos and crunchy organ synths.
As the sun sank, the energy level rose steadily. Swirling multicolored stage lights played off the low-hanging tree branches.
The dancing gradually gave way to a mosh pit, and students began crowd surfing to the front of the stage.
“You guys might be a better crowd than UW,” said Parker from behind a tangled mass of cables and effect peddles. “I’ve got to give it to you.”
Pickwick’s dynamic sound explored everything from heart-racing rock anthems to slow-boiling blues grooves. The evening’s setlist contained selections from their debut album Can’t Talk Medicine. They also tested several new songs on the enthusiastic SPU crowd.
“Thank you, guinea pigs,” Disston said. “We were on tour a lot last year, so it feels good to be home in Seattle writing new music. We’re going to put out another record.”
The crowd erupted in cheers at the opening chords of the soulful “Hacienda Motel,” and many sang along to the lyrics.
Pickwick announced that they are performing with the Seattle Symphony this Friday.
“Raise your hand if you have season tickets to the symphony,” Disston said. “Now come get some free merch from our booth because you just embarrassed yourself.”
The band concluded their set with a simmering rendition of “Halls of Columbia.”
“Thanks to SPU for having us tonight. This has been great,” Parker said. “Good luck with your finals.”
The band departed the stage, but the audience wasn’t ready to retire. They took up a steady chant of “One more song,” until the band returned to the stage.
The audience surged forward, pulling down the decorative vinyl strands in their enthusiasm.
“You guys are definitely better than UW,” Parker said. “But don’t tell them I said that.”
At this, the audience roared with applause.
“It’s OK,” Disston said. “You can tell them.”
After three more numbers, including “Window Sill” and “The Ostrich,” the band again bid farewell.
“Come meet us at the merch table,” said a sweaty Disston. “I’m going to go there right after this without changing my shirt.”