ACL Aftershow Review: Cults and Smith Westerns @ Parish (9/16)

It’s a little late for ACL reviews, but after decompressing from the week I took a moment to write a few of my thoughts. Friday night in Austin during ACL weekend is an interesting one. The energy and presence descended upon Austin by visitors and the music brings a vibe that only SXSW and FFFF can trump. After the first night of the 3-day party at Zilker, a few non-fest goers gathered to catch a glimpse of two of the up and coming acts of this year’s line-up.  See more details after the jump. After a brisk walk from the Gingerman, dodging 4th-6th St patrons and folding chair wielders like Paperboy, we arrived at the Parish for the sold-out double bill of Cults and Smith Westerns. Each of which could surely headline the show outright and that question again arose time after time once the show began.

The supposedly sold out venue was remarkably empty leading me to guess that many double dipping fest-goers had hopes of making the show, but persistence failed or laziness/alcohol triumphed. Cults, following one of the festival’s highlight sets, began the show in their trademark way, long hair swaying to and fro to the music. The short set included all the hits as the audience would have expected  from eye candy, Madeline Follin and company, including ‘Go Outside’ with it’s bell induced intro, ‘You Know What I Mean’, with it’s pounding finality and exaltation, and ‘Oh My God’ following the bouncing ball. ‘Abducted’ exerted the most passion from the rarely excitable quintet, spare a fleeting smirk. Maybe it was the long day at the festival, the heat affecting the group of New Yorkers, or the rapid succession of shows, but it seemed that they couldn’t wait to get off stage, have a shower, and relax. The set seemed rushed overall, enjoyable as it were. I suppose the audience shouldn’t be overly surprised to expect this, though by the time Smith Westerns took the stage, it was audience that seemed worn out and lethargic.

Certainly the slower psych anthems of the Chicago natives was partially to blame, but the wind in the sails of the usually jubilant ‘Weekend’ was left listless and vapid. This was not to attack the band, who was certainly on their game for the evening, but could never seem to gather the energy to rope the audience back into the foray. In my past experiences with after-shows, rarely have I seen such an empty presence from both audience and performer. At least it was mutual, though I’m not quite sure who first affected the other. I’m willing to bet on the audience not holding up their part of the bargain following the hangover from the intermission. Regardless, Smith Westerns did their part much to the level that Cults represented their songs, true to form and not much beyond. Who can blame them after all? Why put effort into something if the response is so lifeless and unappreciated? Despite all the negativity, ‘All Night Long’ was a highlight as was ‘Smile’, though each one was nearly immediately forgettable during the walk home.

In the end, I can only hope that the response given to Cults and Smith Westerns during the festival was better and rarely have I seen a show where a lack of energy combined by all concerned parties bring about such results. Certainly, these two up and comers will be around in years to come and I only hope they find a way to escape the inter-connectedness of the audience/performer relationship. If this is not the case, it is my distinct hope that we were there on an off night.

-photo via Brian Gray

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