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The Smith Street Band – Live at Garageland

Garageland at The Grand Hotel 26/09/2015 – The Smith Street Band, Jobstopper, Lucy Wilson.

I had heard of the Smith Street Band but could not have told you much about their music before last Saturday night. Looking at the bio on their Facebook page it simply states, ‘We are a band’. Not much help when looking for information for an article,  but after watching them play a sold out Garageland at The Grand Hotel (supported by local band Jobstopper and Lucy Wilson of The Sugarcanes), I have to say, they certainly are a band. A hell of a band. Being in the middle of a concert where you are the only person who does not know all of the words to the songs can be a surreal experience and it felt like the band, and the audience at large, rarely paused to take a breath. But more about that later…

Lucy Wilson started the night and to be honest, I was amazed at her voice. Playing a stripped down and in her own words, ‘naked’ set (acoustic guitar and vocals), her powerful voice rang clear with a sweet vocal tone that enabled even some of her sadder songs to still Lucy Wilson at The Smith Street Band have an uplifting quality. It was unfortunate, I have to say, to have a couple of her songs interrupted by loud bouts of cheering from audience members watching the rugby on the television in the bar. I don’t blame the venue as it was clear that that was what a decent portion of the crowd wanted but it was equally obvious that many of the other audience members were visibly frustrated by the interruption. (Lucy handled it like a boss by the way).

Next, enter Jobstopper. Despite struggling with a few technical issues, (amongst other things, frontman Will’s guitar strap kept breaking and I lost sight of him a few times as he had to crouch to sing and play without dropping his guitar, it almost looked like part of the act, it was well done) the two words that rang through my Jobstopper at Smith Street Bandhead throughout their set were, ‘infectious energy’, and I think that describes their live show quite well. As I looked around to see how the audience was reacting to the punk/ska stylings of the band, I noticed that everywhere I looked, every single person I could see was getting their groove on. That’s probably all I need to say, apart from my thanks to the friends of the band who constantly moved through the audience with what seemed like industrial grade bubble making machines, it was strange but fantastic at the same time, much like their set.

It was amazing to watch and to interact with the fans of The Smith Street band throughout the night. As someone who had not had much previous experience with the band (not intentionally, we just both been doing our own thing till now) it was interesting to see the Smith Street Band at Garageland 2depth of the personal connection that many of the bands supporters have. Phrases like, ‘paints a picture with words’, and variations on that theme were repeated by almost everyone I spoke to and after noting that you are the only person in the audience that doesn’t know all the words to the song, you realise that the lyrical link is a large part of the Smith Streets Band’s appeal. Musically the band was very strong and I heard someone describe their sound as ‘poetic folk-punk’ and that’s better than anything I can think of.

The Smith Street Band have been playing quite a few sold out shows lately and the performance was polished and tight. There was little to no banter as the band seamlessly moved through their set. Listening closely to the performance, I was impressed with the time and tempo changes throughout many of their songs, this enabled the vocal story underpinning the songs to come to life. A small example I can give you is frontman Wil Wagner semi-chanting, in a broad Australian accent, the simple, powerful and emotive line, ‘you don’t have to surrender’ above a rising band. That example accompanies a clear memory I have, of looking around and seeing that every single person in the crowd had their fist in the air and was shouting along.

It was also then, that I remembered this was their first show ever in Cairns. After seeing that first show I can completely understand why it was sold out. As they say, they are a band. A very good band!

Eli Birchall

Pics by Pappi-Razzi

The Smith Street Band Homepage

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