Concert Review: Smith Westerns @ Paradise (1/29/12)

Image: Scene In The Dark

Bands: Smith Westerns, Porcelain Raft, Bleached
Venue: Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA
Date: Sunday, January 29

Act One Bleached – Bleached was one of the better opening bands that I’ve seen in a while. I like noisy and catchy rock and roll so it makes sense. They are definitely more rooted in punk rock than the bands they’re bound to get compared to: Dum Dum Girls and Vivian Girls. I was most excited for “Electric Chair,” which also happened to draw a nice crowd reaction. It’s too bad I hadn’t discovered that song until a few weeks ago. It’s an instant favorite. For a band that still hasn’t released a full-length, there’s a lot to be excited about. The other song that I want to mention is “Searching Through The Past,” which will get stuck in your head. It’s only a four chord jaunt with a vibrating guitar solo that was performed quite well in the Paradise.

Act TwoPorcelain Raft – Every now and then, I’ve seen shows that feature a Porcelain Raft type of band. It’s a rare thing, but it has happened. It’s the situation where I get this sense that I’m watching a band that belongs on a bigger stage or at least in a headlining capacity. The music was overwhelming in that it was sort of all over the map genre-wise, but just maintained this grandiose presence. I got vibes of recent Kings of Leon and Editors among others. Keep in mind Porcelain Raft is just a two piece, but they make use of pedals, keyboards, and extra drum and bass to give them a fuller sound. Listening to Porcelain after the fact on headphones is no comparison. Last night, I could feel my entire body vibrating from the shaking bass. All this said, Porcelain felt at home during their first performance in Boston and I’m sure the next time they’re around they’ll play somewhere with a nice sound system. That being said, I thought they were an enjoyable band, but I don’t think I’d see them again on their own. Just not really my thing.

Act ThreeSmith Westerns – The Smith Westerns are one of those bands that have probably proved themselves more divisive than at all necessary. They got their start as a high school rock and roll band, as I’m sure most know by now. They shortly thereafter opened on a tour for Nobunny, released their debut Smith Westerns on HoZac, and did some more touring. Dye It Blonde, their second album, is remarkably cleaner sounding with extravagant lead guitar playing and the addition of keyboards. So they stepped it up in other words. Live, they seem like they’ve been playing these songs for years. Just an extremely polished band. What stood out to me is just how they were able to transmit their raspy earlier songs like “Tonight” and “Be My Girl” into these powerful live songs that are just as awesome (if not more than) as the newer ones. Speaking of new ones, they played two new ones. One involving the word ‘star’ and the other…well I don’t remember. They were good; they reminded me of a band that I couldn’t help, but think of during the set: Girls. Both bands have similar set ups and that awkward (mostly for audience members) balance of slow songs and medium/fast tempo ones. I believe they played more than three-quarters of the Dye It Blonde during their set and followed up with a new song and “Dye the World.” Biggest crowd reaction: “Weekend”. My favorite was “All Die Young.” I love that keyboard intro. The most fascinating SW to watch was Max Kakacek. He is an outstanding guitar player.

Chris DeCarlo: What the fuck do you expect a KLYAM concert review without the showstopper, the main event? Didn’t think so. Glen summed up most of  my sentiments, but I thought I’d add a few musings that are worth noting. First off, like my co-conspirator, I have been dying to see Smith Westerns for quite some time now and so that made this show doubly special. Few current bands can I say the same thing for.  They more than satisfied all of my Smith Westerns hopes and desires. By the way, why did we stop doing those good ol’ fashion “Hopes and Expectations” pre-show posts? I guess we got lazy.  If I had made one of those, you can bet your sweet ass the hopes would have outweighed the expectations. They played just about all of the classics from both records; in fact I believe “Dance Away,” was the only cut they didn’t perform from Dye It Blonde (2011), correct me if I’m wrong.  The whole set, start to finish was invigorating, another rare feat for me, even amongst top KLYAM greats. The sound was amazing, which is what we have come to expect from the dise and it adds to the flavor of the Smith Westerns too. They have a polished sound and style, and proper sound amplifies that greatness. Lastly, brilliant, bubblegum pop flow aside, these guys are masters in the performance realm, making sure every nuance of each song can be appreciated by the audience, and with very minimal crowd interaction or wishy washy intervals, the songs simply seaped from one into another in a manner I’ve never seen quite matched before. There was no filler, it just hit you. My only gripe? People (self-included) became really content with just standing there, bobbing their heads, or at best awkwardly dancing in their own little way, which is cool, but there isn’t/wasn’t any unified, overly enthusiastic crowd response and that takes things down a few notches… slightly. I mean this isn’t Jay Reatard. As much as I’d love to see people dancing, moshing, babes sweating all over me, the whole nine, the music itself doesn’t really lend itself to such activities. OR maybe crowds are just lame sometimes? I don’t know, but I tend to think it’s more of the former. People want to just react naturally and not force it. With that being said, lack of audience participation should not be any reflection on the prowess of the band members, for they are easily one of the best and most mesmerizing bands I have seen in my life, and they’re my age! Now back to Glen…

Final Comments: This was a really good show. I got to appreciate a variety of musical chops in addition to a band that I’ve been meaning to see live for a while now. I’m interested to see what’s next for the Smith Westerns considering they’ve already opened for Arctic Monkeys, MGMT, and Yeasayer in such a short time frame.

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