The Smith Street Band
Astor Theatre, Perth WA
March 31st, 2018
Supports: Press Club and Bec Sandridge
Triple J darlings and indie kid favourites, The Smith Street Band are so beloved that they regularly sell out (or close to) gigs whenever they tour Australia. Tonight, their first trip to Perth, since the formation of their own label, Pool House Records, was no different.
Looking at the crowd, it became immediately obvious why The Smith Street Band’s shows are always at capacity, they appeal to a wide, diverse audience: people in their late teens, people in their 60’s and everything in between, hipsters, model types, punks, parents, trendsetters, drunks, surfers, bogans, the list goes on. A smattering of every middle class Australian group was represented by the crowd. This, befittingly, was also represented by those on the stage tonight.
First up were Melbournians, Press Club, a female fronted indie rock band, with dollops of punk thrown in for good measure. Singer, Natalie Foster, bounded on stage with unlimited energy, singing with a powerful alto voice that could soar over the loud and frenetic music of the band. From the first song, the crowd was very appreciative of the band’s vigour and stage presence. The setting of the Astor Theatre, with its amazing lighting and stage, certainly helped to amplify the band’s strengths and added to the atmosphere. Throughout Press Club’s set, more and more people were moving closer to the stage and engaged with the band, showing their admiration for the truly exciting up and coming Australian indie band.
After a brief intermission, Bec Sandridge came on stage supported by her drummer and keyboardist. Bec Sandridge is the embodiment of the 80’s, her platinum blonde hair, red lipstick, pleather looking glittery black and silver vest, made her look like a modern-day Debbie Harry. The music started with a very new wave, futuristic sound and continued in that vein for the rest of the set. Bec Sandridge’s vocals were impressive, the rock edge during the lower parts and the soft lyrical sounds of the high notes added in creating a unique and interesting sound. Add the fact that, although she said she was quite nervous and needed water due to dry mouth, she played with poise and assurance. The confidence seemed to develop over the set, as she engaged with the crowd more, telling us about how she wrote the song ‘I’ll Never Have a Boyfriend’ as a reaction to her mum’s response to that one time she had a girlfriend. Bec Sandridge’s sound, with the bombastic Queen riffs, synthesiser breakdowns and rolling drum beat, may not be for everyone, but she is certainly a rare individual in the contemporary music scene, and should be applauded for creating engaging and enjoyable music that is different from her peers.
Even before The Smith Street Band arrived on stage there was pre-emptive cheering. The crowd were so excited that by the time the lights went down and the introductory music was playing, people were already clapping, chanting and cheering. As soon as the light show started and the drums kicked in, seguing into ‘It Kills Me To Be Alive’ the crowd were jumping, singing and waving their hands in the air. The pure unadulterated joy of the crowd was intoxicating and this continued as The Smith Street Band launched straight from their opening song to ‘Birthdays’ and then ‘Surrey Drive’. The crowds singing was so loud, you could hear them over singer Wil Wagner at the back of the venue. It wasn’t until before kicking off ‘Your Song’ that Wil Wagner addressed the crowd, and if anything, this just set the crowd off into an even more frenzied idolisation of their indie leader.
This unrelenting passion from the crowd maintained throughout the entire show, and it was clear that it was having positive effects on both the band and any moderate The Smith Street Band fans, who were caught up in the fervour. Wagner talked a bit about his battle with bipolar throughout the show, emphasising the importance of getting through each day, and how some days are better the others, using songs such as ‘I Don’t Want To Die Anymore’ as a platform to discuss the issue of mental illness. As The Smith Street Band transitioned from one song to the other, each performance sounded exactly like their albums, the crowd’s devotion just seemed to increase. This culminated in the penultimate song ‘Young Drunk’, which they introduced before playing a few chords of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ then hurling back into ‘Young Drunk’. Adding the suburb of Mount Lawley was a nice touch to the song, which saw the crowd sing the chorus “tonight I’m getting young drunk” with clarity and expression that Wagner and the band didn’t even need to prompt them. Wagner seemed to enjoy the crowd’s response so much that he paused the song towards the end, stating that “we’ve played this song 10,000 times before and hearing the room sing the lyrics like this will make me smile till I die” [sic].
After playing ‘Passiona’, The Smith Street Band left the stage. However, the evening was not over. The crowd, immediately started chanting “one more song”. Promptly Wagner and keyboardist and percussionist, Lucy Wilson, returned on stage with Wagner chanting back “three more songs” and the crowd went nuts. Playing ‘The Belly of Your Bedroom’ before being joined on stage by the rest of the band, the night ended with ‘Death To The Lads’, which had the crowd chanting and recording every last precious moment on their camera phones, and ‘I Love Life’.
Never in all my years of attending gigs have I ever seen such devotion and passionate enthusiasm from a crowd, it was a sight to see and certainly amplified my experience. Even if you’re not a massive fan of The Smith Street Band, it is worth checking them out, purely for the electric atmosphere and the sense that anything is possible.
Review by Carys Hurcom
The Smith Street Band
The Smith Street Band – Australian Tour 2018
with Bec Sandridge and Press Club