What happens when a next-big-thing becomes just a big thing? Judging by Smith Westerns’ performance on February 1 at the Black Cat, going from a ‘cool young band’ to a band that can maintain an audience’s interest through a forty minute set involves major growing pains and maybe even some whining.
The night began as Los Angeles’ Bleached opened the show with their angry-bored-punk-sisters thing and did I mention they’re from the valley? Bleached’s thumpy screeching girl rock was followed by Porcelain Raft’s wistful shoegaze aided by Mauro Remiddi’s smoldering intensity. Although the crowd seemed skeptical of Remiddi and his teutonic drummer initially, by the time the duo got around to the hypnotizing melody of “Tip of Your Tongue” they’d won us all over and probably broken the heart of at least one sound guy.
After the most comprehensive sound-check in music history Smith Westerns took the stage, frontman Cullen Omori wearing the red pants he announced he would be that afternoon via twitter, creating my new favorite hashtag #atleastnotyellow. The crowd of teenagers in flannel reeking of weed and just dying to spill beer all over me were barely able to contain their ecstasy as Omori sank in to their open arms like a king returning from decades in exile. I’m sorry to say the band’s entrance was the most exciting point of their set. After the initial rush Frontman Omori (as opposed to bassist Omori, Cullen’s younger brother Cameron) struggled against the crowd’s apathy, unsuccessfully requesting a moshpit and announcing the band’s ascendance to ”the big leagues.”
Before playing T .Rex-reminiscent “Be My Girl” frontman Omori announced the band was “Gonna play an old make out song,” continuing “so if you want to you can make out to it or you can also keep playing on your iPhones that’s just as much fun.” In that moment I felt bad for Omori and all other young bands playing to attention-deficient audiences and thinking to themselves “Marc Bolan never had to deal with this shit,” but as the underwhelming set dragged on it occurred to me that the audience wouldn’t be playing words with friends during the set if the band was giving them reason not to. Unfortunately frontman Omori seemed more concerned with keeping up his lip-bitingly adorable poses than with putting on an actual performance.
Even when the band played their last number, “Weekend,” their breakaway single which was undoubtedly a draw-factor for much of the audience, Omori rolled his eyes at the audience’s returning interest in the band’s set. After finishing up “Weekend” the Smith Westerns rushed offstage, no question as to whether or not there would be an encore. And to be perfectly honest I’m not sure who cared less, the band or the audience.
-Tiare Dunlap, host of Osmosis, Tuesdays from 8-9 PM EST on WGTB
Photos by Erika Charleston