Live Review: The Smith Street Band, Andrew Jackson Jihad, The Sidekicks, The Sugarcanes

17 September 2015 | 3:45 pm | Oli Ashley

"Smitties showed everyone that thoughtful songwriting and fuck-off anthemic punk rock need not be mutually exclusive."

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Nothing exciting happens in Hobart. Cold, windy weeknights see smaller turnouts. Poetic, lyrically orientated music lacks energy. Punk rockers are shitty lyricists. There's a litany of similar statements that bands like The Smith Street Band and Andrew Jackson Jihad were only too happy to enthusiastically disprove on Wednesday night at Brisbane Hotel.  

The Sugarcanes' consummate gentle pop-rock seemed as appropriate a way as any to usher in the evening. Frontwoman Lucy Wilson may be diminutive in stature, but her songs stood tall in a live setting. Their summery sounds may have stood a little separate from the remaining acts, but the crowd seemed quietly appreciative of the band's accomplishments. Next up, The Sidekicks really warmed the crowd. One could easily be fooled into slotting them firmly into the straight-up punk-rock category, but their set comprised just enough external influences to keep things interesting. An energetic exposition with shades of grunge and a dash of country helped maintain keen interest. 

Andrew Jackson Jihad's set was equal parts interesting and divisive. They seemed to send a small portion of the crowd to the bar and the rest into an absolute frenzy. Almost every song in their set was about a hatred of something: a hatred of their frontman's brain, a hatred of modern America, a hatred of love — all this packaged in an upbeat, manic, blues-infused, punk-rock style. You wouldn't think this sort of contradiction would translate well in a live setting, especially when you're looking at two guitarists pulling some of the most glazed and frustratingly amused facial expressions you'll ever see, but it worked well.

The Smith Street Band then took to the stage and Brisbane Hotel erupted into a frenetic and chaotic scene. From opener It's Alright, I Understand to encore Young Drunk and a selection of tracks from their three studio albums in between, they aptly demonstrated why their reputation is built so solidly on the foundation of their live show. Beer-swilling crowd-surfers abounded as Smitties showed everyone that thoughtful songwriting and fuck-off anthemic punk rock need not be mutually exclusive. Frontman Wil Wagner gleefully and triumphantly dedicated the protest track Wipe That Shit-Eating Grin Off Your Punchable Face to the outgoing Prime Minister, much to the delight of all present. 

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The show wasn't without technical difficulty, which was nonchalantly brushed aside. When you have punters smashing into foldback wedges, knocking over mic stands and kicking lighting rigs you have to expect a few causalities. It may have been a shitty, cold and blustery evening but no one could possibly have regretted getting along. The show's gradual descent into carnage was a sight to behold and a glorious assault on the ears.