Image via The Smith Street Band
I love seeing shows at The Corner. The staff and management, the rooftop where I always seem to meet some of my favourite musicians, the band room and yes, even that support pole smack bang in the middle of it all combine to facilitate some seriously good times. In fact, in my mind that support pole puts whatever band I’m seeing on trial. If they play a good enough show to overcome its presence, bingo, mission accomplished. As I left for the train station from my structurally compromised flat, I knew The Smith Street Band with buddies Fear Like Us, Apologies, I Have None and The Front Bottoms were up to the challenge.
Starting off was Fear Like Us, a folk-punk group who provided a set of acoustic-flavoured tunes, while retaining a sense of heaviness through the vocals and a pumping rhythm section. Recently turning 10 as a band, Fear Like Us played a diverse and interesting set that was a great beginning to the night. They will be joining Smith Street again on the 6th of December for an underage show at The Reverence Hotel, go check ‘em out younglings.
Next up London outfit Apologies, I Have None; having had earlier in the year released the excellent Black Everything EP, tore up the stage with their heavy brand of pop-punk. It was hard to resist the energy of front man Josh Mckenzie, who showcased an impressive vocal range, complimented by dynamic performances from the rest of the band. Apologies, I Have None manage to play songs that are often depressive and dark, yet somehow uplifting, much of which I attribute to their catchy hooks and the mature pacing of the music. The song “60 Miles” served as a particular highlight as well as “Two Bombs In A Box”.
New Jersey indie-rock darlings The Front Bottoms were the final support act, coming on stage to perform a set of very cool and refined tracks. The vocals were intense without being overwhelming, the guitar work simple yet interesting. Combined with the impeccable technique of the bassist and drummer, their set was great musically. And yes, they shared the energy of all the other acts of the night. You know that tingle in your spine you sometimes get from wonderful things? The song “Twin Size Mattress” provided that for about 4 and ½ minutes. “Swimming Pool” and “Au Revoir (Adios)” had a similar effect. Hilarious band name, fucking good band. Have a listen to their most recent release “Rose”.
The Smith Street Band over the last few years have become one of Melbourne’s most beloved rock bands, putting out record after record of extremely accessible and honest music. The recently released “Throw Me In The River” has acted as the centrepiece of their current tour, the songs from which I was very much looking forward to seeing live for the first time. Particularly, I was interested in seeing whether they would complement an already well-established live show or feel more like add-ons.
Off to a blistering start, “Surrender” as the first single from “Throw Me In The River” successfully pumped up the crowd and immediately suggested to me that yes, The Smith Street Band are in top fucking form. This was followed by “Sunshine & Technology”, a high-paced anthem from their last full-length as well as two from the Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams EP. They played “Surrey Drive”, my favourite track from the new record, despite Wil confessing how difficult the main riff is and that if he got it right every time “Someone has to buy [him] something”.
Wil Wagner feels like a story-teller on stage, delivering lyrics adorned with love for where he comes from, while a pervasive sense of loss and heartache gives them true weight. What really makes The Smith Street Band powerful lyrically is the way in which they do not feel like just Wil’s stories, but rather the whole band’s and indeed, the audiences’. The result of this is quite important in terms of their live performance. Musically, I haven’t seen them play as well as they did this night, particularly the drumming – it was very solid. This is despite the fact that the last time I saw them they were on tour with Violent Soho where they felt more like co-headliners than supports. I think this speaks volumes about the quality of their performance at The Corner.
As The Smith Street Band finished up their set with “Young Drunk”, I couldn’t help but wanting to see more of them. To me they have really come to encapsulate the Melbourne rock scene – not just musically, but in attitude and spirit.
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia.
Sounds Like: A bit of The Menzingers, a dash of folk, but mainly a shit load of Melbourne.
Latest release: Throw Me In The River, October 31 2014.
Say what? The Smith Street Band went bush to record their most recent record, hanging out with producer Jeff Rosenstock in the small town of Forrest in the Otways.
Deaf, cold and drunk, Leo signing off.