The Smith Street Band
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The Smith Street Band

with PUP, Great Cynics, and Apart From This




It’s Sunday night in Canberra, which means the city is a ghost town. I’m on the fourth day of a seven day binge, and if it was anyone but The Smith Street Band my Sunday evening would consist of pajamas, a mini Parks & Rec marathon, and an early night. In short, I wanna die. I owe The Smith Street Band though. I've missed them on every trip to Canberra, and this has to be addressed.

It’s also my first time in Magpie’s. Walking down the stairs into that red carpeted function room I’m skeptical that anyone can turn that cramped stage huddled against the wall into anything other than a sad testament to Canberra’s lack of a decent middle sized venue.

Before the end of their first song, Apart From This have silenced my doubts and garnered my attention. Their guitar driven melodic rock reminds me of the Australia of the ‘90s. These guys are definitely from the same country that spawned You Am I and silverchair (you know, when they were a rock band). If you get the chance to see them in all their long haired glory, don’t pass it up.
London’s Great Cynics must have been reading my diary. A pop leaning power trio with a female bass player is exactly what I've been craving. They don’t come close to wearing out their welcome. A set of short sharp tunes with sweet harmonies that all seem to come in at around the two minute mark.

By the time Canada’s PUP take the stage, the all ages crowd is hopped up on smuggled in goon bags and ready for action. Between birthday celebrations for bassist Nestor and singer Stefan downing a sweaty shoe full of beer (an act he describes as “the most putrid thing I've ever done”) the band seem almost as loose as the crowd. Their music is anything but loose, and by the time they close with ‘Reservoir’ the heaving crowd is bouncing almost as high as the low ceiling will allow.

The Smith Street Band may be the hardest working band in Australia at the moment. Their tour schedule has few rest days, and after a drive from Sydney that saw their van (The Giggabago) blow a tyre, you could forgive them for being at less than full energy. The band don’t reflect any of this. They look as fresh as Will’s brand new guitar and play with the kind of hunger you only see in bands who are still on their way up. They are ostensibly here in support of their third full length Throw Me In The River but the set is full of old classics and fan favourites like ‘Sigourney Weaver’ and ‘Ducks Fly Together’. The centrepiece of the set is a song even newer than the album they’re promoting. The Tony Abbott tribute ‘Wipe That Shit-Eating Grin Off Your Punchable Face’ (side note: if you buy this song from their bandcamp page before the end of February all proceeds go to assist asylum seeker and refugee organisations).

There’s a lot of love in this room. The crowd know every word to every song, and they’re screaming them back at the band. The low ceiling doesn't deter the crowd surfers, and there’s barely a moment the seething mass isn't supporting at least two of its number high above the rest. By the time the set is over the crowd is drenched, and as we stagger back up the stairs to the deserted streets I think to myself ‘I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore’.
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