The final 105.7 The Point Ho Ho Show concert of 2012 took place at the Peabody Opera House in downtown St. Louis Wednesday night. Silversun Pickups headlined the show, supported by Grouplove and Cloud Nothings. And if the Ho Ho Show series was supposed to have a grand finale, the folks at KPNT picked the right lineup to go last.

Unfortunately, the show did not start off with a bang. Cloud Nothings brought very little to the table and the crowd’s reaction reflected that. Maybe it was just the live translation that faltered. Maybe they’re really trying to resurrect Nirvana. Regardless, their set did not impress.

Despite the sluggish start to the night, when the lights came up for Grouplove so did every butt in the Peabody’s seats. The Los Angeles-based outfit ripped into their radio staple “Itchin’ on a Photograph” right out of the gate, and the set was off and running—literally. Only a couple of slower songs kept Grouplove grounded on stage; anything mid-tempo or faster had the four band members in front of the drum kit dancing, running and jumping almost non-stop. A Grouplove show is very high-energy, apparently, and they genuinely appear to be enjoying themselves and the music. Lead singer Christian Zucconi’s voice never wavered, however, as he and his band mates were note-perfect throughout the set. Grouplove is the type of band where every member is talented beyond belief, and they can switch instruments and singing duties at a whim in between songs. And that talent bleeds into every song they play in the form of perfectionism. Grouplove live sounds like Grouplove in the studio. And whether it was hits like “Colors” and “Tongue Tied” or album gems like “Chloe”—which evoked thoughts of the Stray Cats, and was sung by bassist Sean Gadd—Grouplove made it perfectly clear their goal was to make believers out of the crowd. And it worked.

Zucconi also did a great job interacting with the audience, remarking how the show was Grouplove’s first in an “opera house” and leading the entire crowd in a quiet count to 10 followed by a loud wolf-howl before the opening notes of “Close Your Eyes and Count to Ten.” And when drummer Ryan Rabin came out from behind his drum kit (with light-up drumsticks, mind you) for the thump-heavy and dreamy “Slow”—sung by vocalist and keyboardist Hannah Hooper—Grouplove brought the house down. They may still be a band on the rise, but with an increasingly strong list of songs and beyond entertaining stage show, they are a headliner waiting to happen.

With the bar set very, very high, Silversun Pickups had their work cut out for them. But they did not disappoint. The set opened strong with “Skin Graph” and “The Royal We.” The Pickups’ physical show was somewhat minimalist and probably designed for a slightly smaller stage, but their light show was mesmerizing. Rayed whites contrasted greens, purples, and eventually rainbows. But instead of relying on a light show to make their statement, it merely complemented the songs as they were played. From a couple dozen rows away, it also looked like bassist Nikki Moninger had taken on an image change, sporting shorter, darker hair. But frontman Brian Aubert stopped the show a couple of songs in to announce that the bassist for the night was actually not Moninger—who had given birth to twins just a couple days prior—but Sarah Negahdari from the group The Happy Hollows. The crowd gave Negahdari a warm reception anytime a song called for her vocals or a bass line to stand out, and she repaid the kudos with genuine gratitude and a more than ample job as a fill-in. In fact, her pixie-like presence and nearly incessant two-step throughout the set made it seem like she’d been in the band for years.

The performance rolled on through selections from each of the Silversun Pickups’ three albums, though the set list was heavy with new material from the group’s latest effort Neck of the Woods. “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” and “The Pit” were particular high points, along with back-to-back Swoon staples “Catch & Release” and the seminal “Panic Switch.” The set closed with “Lazy Eye,” which of course worked up the still-standing crowd. As an encore, they ripped through “Busy Bees” and just a little bit of “Kissing Families” leading into show-closer “Well Thought Out Twinkles.” It was a bit curious that the show didn’t end on one of the Silversun Pickups’ bigger hits, though it would have been tough to figure out which one to remove from its previous place in the set. And of course they could have played a little longer—a function of nothing less than putting on such a great show. They play to their strengths, though, with music and lights and not much else that may distract the audience from realizing what you see is what you get from the Silversun Pickups, and that’s more than enough.

Overall, anyone who complained about this concert either wasn’t there or wasn’t paying attention—or maybe left way early. The cliché “two out of three ain’t bad” does the final Ho Ho Show of 2012 a disservice; although Cloud Nothings left something to be desired, Silversun Pickups and Grouplove more than made up for it. And both acts are still on the way up. Catch them at small to mid-sized venues while you still can.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer covering music and St. Louis Cardinals baseball for InsideSTL. Follow him on Twitter at @birdbrained

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