Photography by Seshanka Samarajiwa
Since the 2014 release of Throw Me In The River, The Smith Street Band have coined the title of “relentless road warriors.” They’ve barely stopped – taking their critically acclaimed album all over the world to add a touch of international flair to their evergrowing allegiance of followers. However, having spent the past few months cranking out a follow up record, the Melbourne locals are ready to feed hungry fans some tasty new material. But before filtering out to finalize their much-awaited fourth release, the Smithies decided to give Throw Me in the River a celebratory final run of live shows.
The boys kicked off the Aussie leg of the tour at the sold out Metro Theatre on Friday night, supported by long time friends and label mates Luca Brasi, Joelistics and Jess Locke Band. With people slowly trickling in, mulling over both the merch desk and bar, Jess Locke started the night off.
The size of the crowd certainly exemplified her gravity as an understated artist. Personally, I was pleasantly impressed by her comfortable stage presence – effortlessly cool and laid back, but even more so, lyrically and sonically. The delicateness of her voice elegantly pairs with the sublime nature of her music as she sings of the mundane pleasures of everyday life, love, loneliness and everything in between – it resonates well. Her stripped back melancholic indie rock tonality is reminiscent of Cat Power and Laura Marling, while her slightly slacker aesthetic strikes some Courtney Barnett resemblance. Ultimately, Jess Locke’s live performance reaped praise not only by those present, but also by every band succeeding. Wil Wagner labelled her as his current favourite female songwriter.
Multi-instrumentalist and MC, Joelistics, took the stage next and was greeted by a slightly larger crowd. His setlist, integrated with political banter and tales of his experiences as a youth worker, was received fairly positively by the audience. The room particularly reverberated during ‘Hey Brother,’ conjuring movement and singing throughout. Feel good vibes were undoubtedly on the rise, only to soon be turned into vivacious roars with the appearance of Luca Brasi.
Touring in promotion of their newly released album, If This Is All We’re Going To Be, the Tassie lads got things running with a thrashed out performance of ‘Say it Back’. The crowd was ravenous right from the get-go, and Brasi was eminently feeding off of this erratic vibe. Nothing but appreciative of the appraisal given after each proficient punk tune, the band threw in some live firsts despite some expressed hesitation and nervousness – chiefly during ‘The Cascade Blues’. Nonetheless the venue was abuzz with a constant stream of crowd surfers and unruly enthusiasm. Arousing unparalleled reactions, people absolutely lost it during ‘Aeroplane’, and even more so during the ever popular, ‘Anything Near Conviction’.
Fairy lights soon lit the stage, and were complimented by a Throw Me in the River tapestry which boasted above. Eager anticipation encapsulated the room until frontman Wil Wagner took the stage in a Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap tee. An infectious acoustic medley of ‘I Love Life’ seamlessly transitioned into ‘Something I Can Hold in My Hands’, erupting a massive sing-along instantaneously. However, this remained true for the entirety of the show, I was probably one of select few who didn’t belt out every lyric to every single song.
A swift blaze into ‘Surrey Hills’ and ‘Ducks Fly Together’ had a mass of flailing limbs firmly placed between the stage and stairs. The inclusive blend of songs spanning across all their releases made for a truly satisfied room of die-hards and a surreal experience, from ‘Postcodes’, to ‘Tom Busby’ which of course was performed in accompaniment with Brasi’s lead singer, to the heavily acclaimed ‘Surrender’, – unsurprisingly it received the biggest response thus far.
A performance of an unreleased, hard ballad entitled ‘Death to the Lads’ delivered a tantalizing preview of what’s to come on the Smithies upcoming record. Heaps of angst, clever hooks and Wil Wagner’s reputable commanding vocals are sure to be expected. The track alludes to the groups of guys who go to shows/parties, take their shirts off to show their muscles, and act like complete fun-ruining assholes– to put it nicely. Suffice to say, the crowd loved this anecdote and were screaming “Death to the lads” by the second chorus.
It’s lyrically evident that Wagner earnestly reflects on the tumultuous struggles and obstacles he’s had to overcome in life, from depression to alcoholism. In doing so, he not only creates a connectivity between him and fans, but also cultivates a unique sense of community. An emotive tempo change arose with an unexpected performance of ‘Little Sinking Ship’, which was ensued by the equally powerful ‘I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore’, a song dedicated to those battling thoughts of suicide.
Indulging in their rougher tendencies, a frantic intensity aptly engulfed the Metro as headbanger ‘Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams’ took off. It certainly made for a pulsating, rapid shift. The robust temperament persisted into the raucous ‘Every Time I Get High I See Mice’ to the final melodic roller coaster of a track ‘Throw Me In The Fucking River’, which had the entire place shaking with unmatched, thunderous front-to-back singing.
As Smith Street exited the stage a relentless, beer and sweat soaked crowded demanded more, and more they received. A two song encore of ‘South East Facing Wall’ and ‘Young Blood’ made for a cataclysmic finale, leaving every attendee well and truly satisfied.
Their oscillating spectrum of talent is a clear indication of why they’ve achieved such a massive following. It’s never a bleak moment watching these guys perform, and the night was simply a definitive reaffirmation of this.