The Smith Street Band
October 19, 2016 at the Middle East
By: Isaac Shur
“Even when they’re far from home, The Smith Street Band knows how to connect with their audience.”
The first time you walk into The Middle East Upstairs, the size of the venue might surprise you. Smaller than its Downstairs counterpart, the Upstairs places hosts to shows that can feel more like friends playing music for each other than a band putting on a show. The Smith Street Band played into this feeling perfectly during their recent show there.
Before The Smith Street Band took the stage, Fucko and Sidekicks got everyone excited with their opening sets. Fucko’s three-piece band fell flat at times, an extra guitar might have helped them achieve a fuller sound, but overall, the Boston locals put on a good show with driving rock songs that got the crowd bopping their heads. The Sidekicks put on a surprisingly intense performance with tight guitar riffs and impressively high vocals from frontman Steve Ciolek. Both bands proved to be so much more than the mediocre openers that often plague shows at small venues.
When Smith Street frontman Wil Wagner gets on stage, it’s just him and a guitar, but as soon he begins to sing, the crowd is already singing along. Midway through the first song, the rest of the Melbourne natives join Wil on stage. Even when they’re far from home, The Smith Street Band knows how to connect with their audience. With his tattoos and imposing stature, Wil might seem like an intimidating guy if you ran into him on the street, but as soon as he gets on stage he pours his heart out into every deeply personal song he plays. The intimacy of these songs is reflected not only in Wil’s passionate performance, but also in the group’s tight chemistry. The four members clearly know how everyone in the band ticks, and although there were a few moments where Wil lost track and made a mistake, the rest of the band was always there to immediately get everyone back on the same page. The dynamic displayed by the band is impressive, and it’s something that can only come with close friendship, and of course, a whole lot of practice.
The Smith Street Band always encourages their audience to sing and clap and dance along to their songs. During some sections of their hit songs like “I Can’t Feel My Face” and “Surrender,” Wil would stop singing altogether for a moment and let the audience belt out the words that they all know so well, just another example of the deep connection Wil has with his music, and subsequently, his fans. When Wil is up there on stage, you can’t help but feel like you know him personally.
The crowd even got a sneak peek at some songs off of the new album, which the band just finished recording and mixing. “This one is a sad love song, very unusual for a Smith Street song,” Wil joked before playing a song off the upcoming album. During the new song, the crowd began to clap, after which Wil exclaimed how happy it made him to hear people clap along to the new song for the first time ever.
The Smith Street Band ended the night with their old hit “Young Drunk,” to the delight of the crowd. There was probably not a better way to end the show then the whole crowd singing and screaming along, all in perfect synchronicity. There are those that say pop punk is dead or irrelevant, but The Smith Street Band stands, and will continue to stand, as a perfect example of the pop punk spirit not only surviving, but thriving.