Show Review: Smith Westerns @ Emo’s (2/7)

Emo’s was packed with bloggers, photogs and Austin Indie dignitaries on  Monday night for what many believe to be two of the biggest buzz bands coming to town in a month and a half for SxSW.  Read on to learn more and get a preview of two bands that every day party planner would be thrilled to have in their 4pm slot…

Nic Armstrong in one man show form started the evening off with his humorous demeanor and kick drum heel adding beats to guitar-pop songs.  Harmonica around his neck, Nic went through a set of several short but sweet tunes to fill his thirty minutes, winning the audience.  Nic will be back at Emo’s soon, band in tow.  I like him, go see him play.

The crowd built behind me during Nic’s set; I took an early spot at the stage to get the images below.  A tweet hit the wire that the show was sold out.  Buzz Buzz Buzz.  Before Yuck got things going, I scanned the crowd to tuning in to conversations, stories of friends too late to get in, blogosphere introductions.  Hype machine was in effect.

The stage was ready and Yuck kicked things off with “The Wall”.  I looked over to fellow photog/blog people and nodded in satisfaction.  These guys are good.  I did not get a set list.  I am fine with that; it was so enjoyable to just take it in.  The banter between tunes was light, fun, smiles all around.  Big black X’s were on the hands of two of the band members, this is new music from young artists that calls back the glory days of Dinosaur Jr. and Yo La Tengo, guitar driven goodness.  Songs like “Holing Out”, “Operation” and “Get Away” just make your face hurt from smiling at how good they sound in a setting like this.  “Milkshake” made my notes, a song not on the album, and will hopefully end up a B-Side.  Look for it.  There were quieter moments with songs like “Shook Down”, exposing their craftsmanship.  The feedback anthem called “Rubber” closed their set with lead singer/song writer Daniel Blumberg tweaking pedal knobs as his guitar sat in front his stack.  I’m spent.

But I can’t be spent.  Smith Westerns take the stage, the crowd presses forward a little more.  Cameras ready with settings in play for the already dodgy lighting and the lead singer says four evil words – “Bring the lights down?”  Sorry, I had no light.  But the music was great.

“Still New” kicked things off, a proper start to the set as an ambassador for their style.  “Dreams” followed from the 2009 release.  They meandered about their small but solid catalog.  The ladies had an affinity for the gents on stage.  “Only One” was the next song to hit me as a stand out.  It is a simpler tune – straight-forward, garage rock ballad if there is such a thing.  “All Die Young” was a crowd favorite from where I was now standing, having moved from the stage to the back of the room to get air and a new vantage point.  Beyond sold out packed, filled to the rafters packed.

The set wound down with “Weekend” and “Dye the World”.  The lack of an encore elicited an interesting reaction from a few crowd members. How quickly the public turns.  Perhaps by SxSW, Smith Western’s blogospheric ride will be over and I’ll have a chance to see them again without camping out at a day party or using an Xpress pass.

So there you have it, two of the biggest names in the not-yet big names category.  Who will blow up more at SxSW?  My guess is Yuck.  As a friend summarized during a come down Lone Star, they play nothing but singles.  Yuck won the night in my opinion, even though Smith Westerns are very, very good.

More photos can of course be seen over on Brian’s website.


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