SXSW Music Preview: Smith Westerns
The Smith Westerns are one of the latest bands to gain some overnight notoriety thanks to the indie king/taste makers at pitchfork media. Their sophomore effort “Dye It Blonde” out on Fat possum records received an 8.4 and the coveted “Best New Music” label when the site reviewed the album in mid January.
The Chicago based five piece is currently on the road supporting the album, with plans to play another taste makers destination for music at SXSW for their second time when the music portion of “south by” kicks off on March 16. The group stopped into Kansas City’s Record Bar on what is typically a quite Tuesday night February 22 to an atypical near full house for what many would call “a school night”.
References to youth are very appropriate when discussing the Smith Westerns. I was aware the group was young, most of them under 21 marked with the black magic marker X on this evening to make sure the bar didn’t loose their liquor license. This helps explain the number of younger girls that mixed with a crowd that was pretty typical for a Record Bar show.
For the uninitiated a typical Record Bar crowd is a decidedly hipster rich crowd drenched with irony in the facial hair stylings for the fellas and ironic apparel for the ladies et all. Eighties vintage especially seemed to be the go-to attire for most at the show this evening. I’ll have to confess at my quickly nearing parental age I felt a bit out of place, something I combat more and more as I seemingly cling to my youth through music and refusing to settle for the same old tunes I’m used to.
The Smith Westerns youth also leads me to believe that this is part of the reason that the power pop indie rock they produce with shades of glam and garage often lead to comparisons & influence by the Beatles, David Bowie, and T.Rex. Their songs are more often cheery, feeling like those first often fleeting moments of love when nothing is seemingly wrong with the world and its all sunshine days ahead.
“Dye it Blonde” has a layered sound that I wasn’t sure how the young band would pull off live. It appears they’ve added a fifth member to the touring line up. The initial start with “Still New” from their latest was a little rough. By the time the band made it to the third song of the night “imagine part 3″ all sound issues had worked themselves out and the band came together as a much better unit.
At the Record Bar the band came across a bit more rock and fuzzed out than they do recorded. The twelve song set comprised primarily of material off of “Dye it Blonde” with a few tracks from their self titled debut mixed in. This young band is not to be underestimated as appearances can be deceiving with their youth. Live they come across as a bit cocky but assured, all while having fun. “Going balls deep on 2011″ as lead Cullen Omori claimed. They can be a bit hard to pin down with such youthful exuperance but having fun is one thing they seem to be doing. Mixed with their talent and the notice they are getting, I believe Mr. Omori and his band mates will have little trouble obtaining their goal.