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Live gig review: The Smith Street Band at The Corner Hotel

Smith Street Band

“I have to have my mic replaced half way through because I fill it with sweat and spit because I’m disgusting.”

“Why the fuck do we persist with this facade, we haven’t played ‘Young Drunk’ yet… we don’t really know how to do this encore thing…”

Such is the homespun honesty you get from Wil Wagner, frontman of the best band in Australia right now.

The Smith Street Band, or your friendly neighbourhood “Smithies” if you ask them, represent everything good about rock music.

Relatable lyrics detailing real life and all the general decrepitude that comes with it, respectable but non-flashy guitar work and an increasing preponderance for drum fills.

They make simple songs with an emphasis on lyricism, courtesy of Wagner’s keen turn of phrase and ability to talk-sing his way out of circles, and a shabby relatability that makes them feel like mates you just haven’t met yet.

Wil, we should say, is a guy with a passing resemblance to your ex-uni housemate’s shifty stoner friend who always crashed on your couch and ate your fucking cereal. We all had that housemate and we all knew that guy.

He also sings with an accent so Okker it might make some of you squirm a little uncomfortably, if you have chippy shoulders at least.

I didn’t squirm. I shuffled moderately. This particular gig was at Melbourne’s dingy The Corner Hotel, a staple of the city and a mecca for scruffy twenty-something white boys like me. Boys who shuffle moderately between sips of Fat Yak.

The locale was of especial significance for The Smithies, a local band that see a headlining set here as the definition of ‘making it’. “A dream”, Wagner called it… modest maybe, but nice to see it realised. There’ll be bigger fish to fry from here boys.

And why? because despite the humble approach and the DIY ethos, they’ve got fucking chops.

Ostensibly this gig was for the launch of the band’s new album Throw Me in the River. But these guys knew what the crowd wanted, and they duly doled out the hits from albums of EPs of years past.

Sunshine and Technology, I Can’t Feel My Face, Surrender, Ducks Fly Together… all got a spin, all sounded album-esque with a little extra looseness, and all were met with a mixture of rapturous applause and mute appreciation that they were viewing the culmination of a journey.

Even more interesting were the drunken, smoke-filled conversations with punters out the front, at the corner by The Corner. Slightly lost-looking, mid-20s guys and girls with a penchant for three-syllabled wordplay, left-leaning politics and tattoo ensembles all felt at home.

And people like them — hell, like me — don’t usually find that in sweaty rooms.

Wil’s Okker tones might hold this band back from superstardom, but I can tell you right now they’ll be regarded in years to come as important.

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