Back You are here: Home Reviews Live Review: The Smith Street Band @ the Zoo, Brisbane 29.08.2013

Live Review: The Smith Street Band @ the Zoo, Brisbane 29.08.2013

The Smith Street Band

It’s been a while since there has been a show in which every artist brings their A-game. It’s been too long since a show in which you leave completely content for what you just witnessed.

Even more inspiring is a show dedicated to variety. Playing last night at the Zoo, The Smith Street Band supported by Joyce Manor, Cheap Girls and Seahorse Divorce brought about a massively entertaining gig ranging from experimental to pop punk revival to the best in home-grown folk rock.

Starting was local chaps Seahorse Divorce playing music best described as heavy alternative, yet this description fails to adhere to the range and variety of musical inspirations that define their dynamic sound. Simply, Seahorse Divorce is the type of band that could very easily start a suicide cult, or a cult at least just to be a little less malicious. While it’s a shame they didn’t have quite the crowd to listen to their fruity, funky, mathy, proggy and everything in between sound, credit has to be given to how fiercely devoted fans were to their astoundingly tight performance. Seahorse Divorce plays music of a refined complexity. Yet despite apparent technical and instrumental proficiency, abstract time signatures, the 5 boys still manage to perform with apparent energy and a keep-it-fun attitude that absorbs the crowd’s attention. It’s a unique energy for the genre of music. While other progressive bands adhere to performances demanding a serious contemplation in order to inspire awe, Seahorse Divorce are able to construct equally abstract and occasionally confusing sounds without making you feel like an idiot.

First timers to Australian soil, US rockers Cheap Girls took to the stage next giving it their all in providing one of the best, most indulgently nostalgic experiences to be had in a long time. While Cheap Girls might sound a little generic at face value, it’s a poor misunderstanding. The band is flawless in their execution of strong pop punk tunes that speak to a younger, more rebellious age in us all. It’s music that echoes a time of teen adolescence, a time of first kisses and broken hearts. They’re energetic, melodic and fun to boot. With crisp and playful harmonies, dangerous amounts of power chords and intensely strong, albeit repetitive, drums, Cheap Girls are a total revival of pop punk in its heyday. The show was like watching the punk band you always wanted to be in high school. The music was made in garages and arguably constructed to channel that raw, unforgiving energy that reminds you of teen angst, of dewy mornings and of teen lust that dragged you through empty streets as the sun rises after sleepless nights.

It’s astoundingly appropriate that Cheap Girls would precede Joyce Manor with a sound and energy that bring to life that same feeling of teen angst. But by god did Joyce Manor up the intensity. For Joyce Manor, the aim of the game is keeping it short and sweet and leaving it etched in your mind. With songs no longer than a minute long, Joyce Manor pulled no punches, giving one hell of a fast paced explosion of pop punk flavoured mayhem. The band played with more energy than a young child recently diagnosed with ADHD and a stomach full of Skittles. And the crowd fed on the energy like second-hand smoke. Sweat was dripped, hands were swayed with apparent disregard, people were juggled and surfed in motion to the savagely, appropriately raw and enthusiastic strumming of guitars and smashing of drums. Joyce Manor represents undying proof that we never really grow up. It’s simply that with age we change – our feet grow longer, our shoulders broader, our breasts bigger – but out sensibilities remain at least a little more consistent. What we once channelled as dogma in our rebellious teen years still bleeds significance through the unrefined and totally indulgent adolescent energy Joyce Manor produce with such strong dedication and admirable enthusiasm. Though not exactly a stretch for the genre of music, Joyce Manor were as tight as David Beckham’s boots and equally capable of inspiring awe. Maybe not the best example. It’s a shame then that the raspy vocal harmonies didn’t have the spark or drive they could have had. Having said that though, it comes with the territory and the genre: this is a punk band not exactly requiring the astounding vocals you’d expect to hear on a Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder album. The simple truth for the band that Joyce Manor is, they sounded exactly content and everything was exactly as it should be. Credit has to be given to the Zoo because not many venues in Brisbane can so efficiently host a punk show and make it sound so damn good.

And then came the headliners, Australian born and bred and making us all at least a little more patriotic, The Smith Street Band jump on stage, and with burning anticipation and excitement begin to play. It’s common knowledge that a band that is enjoying themselves equals a crowd that is enjoying themselves and their hour long set last night is a howling testament to that. Basically, you would know you’re doing something right when you have the people behind the bar, the merch desk and the sound desks dancing along with the same passionate glee that defined the crowd’s reception. Not without its flaws, but it’s difficult to deny the intoxicating excitement that The Smith Street Band were able to muster. It’s the music every Australian hates to love, that folk-y rock music you were brought up in whilst driving in your dad’s car. Yet Smith Street Band makes it relevant, breathing new age energy into a genre, which quite frankly has been bled dry in recent years. Still, if anything, playing it and witnessing the flurry of hands of the front punters attempt to swipe the singers amusing, funny and yet humble lyrics virtually guarantees the fact that, deep down, we still love ourselves some good old fashioned folk rock. Astoundingly worth mentioning was the all-too-brief accompaniment of trumpet and trombone for The Smith Street Band’s more ballad-y numbers. These two horns just brought new dimensions to the music and, thankfully, weren’t lost in the mix. With strumming guitars and the most defined Aussie voices in music, Smith Street Band finished off a terrific show playing music they loved and, as such, we love in return. 

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