Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Gig Review: The Smith Street Band at The Fighting Cocks, Kingston 10/7/16

When Melbourne's The Smith Street Band announce a UK tour I'm always very excited. Earlier this year when they announced their current run of dates I was so excited that I bought Emma and I tickets for two of their shows – one at the Underworld in Camden and one for the next day at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston. Support for both shows came from Apologies, I Have None and Woahnows, both favourite bands of ours. What a line up! I was quite tempted to also book a ticket for their show at The Owl Sanctuary in Norwich but then I remembered I have Fest to save my pennies for. The day finally came for the Underworld show (which fell on a Saturday night) and I was looking forward to a great night. I got to the station, boarded my usual train and disaster struck. The train was delayed indefinitely due to the emergency services being called to an incident further down the line. The delay was so long that we ended up missing the whole gig. If the Underworld didn't have such an early curfew because of club nights I wouldn't have but that's a rant I've already had! It was a good job I got excited and bought tickets for the Kingston show, which was the day after, or we would have ended up missing out completely!

The show at the fantastic Fighting Cocks venue was of course put on by the mighty Banquet Records. It happened to fall on the same day as the Euro 2016 final so the decision was made to put the gig on early, so people could also watch the football. Woahnows were the first band up. Despite it being quite early for a gig (4.30pm!) there was a very decent sized crowd gathered for the Plymouth-based three piece. Frontman Tim noted before the set began that he was setting his phone to count how many steps he manages to get whilst performing (although we never found out how many he did). Woahnows set absolutely flew by with their upbeat pop punk songs. Something I always enjoy about watching Woahnows is how happy they always appear to be when they're on stage. Being in a small independent band must sometimes feel like a real slog but you would never guess that when Woahnows play, it's like they don't have a care in the world. During the set they played one new song which was great and then a really fantastic cover of the Taking Back Sunday classic Cute Without The "E" (Cut From The Team). Hooray for Woahnows!

In case you haven't heard Apologies, I Have None have a new album out on the 26th of August named Pharmacie. Judging from the couple of tracks that have already been released, the album could top their classic debut London. The two new songs they played during their set in Kingston were actually highlights for me. As much as I love the songs from London and Black Everything, it's so nice and refreshing to hear new material. Even better to hear new material that's just as good if not better than the old school tracks. Love and Medication and Wraith got run outs and to me already feel like staples of an Apologies set. Of course I got a kick out of hearing tracks such as Sat In Vicky Park, Concrete Feet (which they amusingly had to restart due to a technical issue) and The 26, but the new stuff was just brilliant. I can't stress that enough. I only have one negative about the set and that was the lack of singing from the crowd. I don't know if it was because it was early or people just didn't know who they were but the crowd wasn't the normal rowdy, fists in the air, screaming along to every word rabble that I've gotten used to whilst seeing Apologies. Despite the subdued crowd Apologies, I Have None were as always brilliant.

Next it was time for The Smith Street Band. This evening's show would be very different to any other Smith Street band gig I've been to before as front man Wil Wagner would be sitting down. This was due to seriously injuring his calf muscle at a recent gig. Full credit to the man for flying all the way over from Australia to play this tour – he really didn't need to and everyone would have understood. What a man that Wil Wagner is. Despite Wil having to sit on a stool for the entire set it took nothing away from the show. A testament to just how good Wil and the rest of the band are at what they do. What was quite nice was that the set was more of a best of set, rather than one full of songs from an album that is recently released. It was nice to hear the band kick off the set with the absolute banger I Don't Wanna Die Anymore, an up-tempo track with a massive sing-along chorus. All of the stress and frustration of missing the night before was instantly forgotten. They tore through so many fantastic tracks such as I Can't Feel My Face, Surrender, When I Was A Boy (I Thought I Was A Fish), Throw Me In The River and Young Drunk to some fantastic reactions. It says so much about the strength of the Smithies discography that they can leave out classics such as Sigourney Weaver, Sunshine & Technology and Don't Fuck With Our Dreams and still have such a fantastic set list. There was also a nice treat for us in the form of new song, Death To The Lads, from an upcoming album that they're about to record. The song was great so I'm now very excited for the album. A special and personal mention has to go to the song I Love Life. A couple of years ago I was going through what was probably the hardest time of my life and was in a very dark and lonely place. This was also around the same time the Throw Me In The River album came out. I listened to that album a lot and eventually I began to drag myself out of that dark place. Then I met Emma and life became so much better and I was happy again. The song I Love Life has become an anthem for both of us. The lyrics in the second verse that go "I Love Life Such Fucking Much Right Now I Have To Pinch Myself, I Can't Quite Believe How Far I've Been Dragged Up From The Depths Of Hell" in particular mean the world to me. I should point out right now, as I probably should have much earlier in this review, that this was the first time Emma and I have seen The Smith Street Band together. Watching this song performed live with Emma by my side was an incredibly emotional moment for me and I had a very difficult time holding back the tears. This was another incredible performance from The Smith Street Band. I love life and I fucking love The Smith Street Band.