The Smith Street Band left the Melbourne crowd hoarse, sweaty and exhausted
A far cry from the pop-punk band they appeared as a few years ago, Apart From This have dived headfirst into “nu-grunge” and have absolutely mastered the loud/quiet/loud dynamic. Spinning is the set highlight as its slow intro gives way to a thunderous few minutes of guitar heroics.
Next up is UK trio Great Cynics. Singer/guitarist Giles Bidder and bassist Iona Cairns cut fine figures in matching dresses (Bidder is later voted best dressed in a quick crowd poll). The trio’s fun and lively folk-punk makes them a perfect support choice for The Smith Street Band. Their faster songs such as Waster and Whatever You Want get some people moving and easily win over this crowd who are largely unfamiliar with the band.
Seemingly appearing out of nowhere (or Toronto, depending on who you ask) around a year ago with a damn-near-perfect debut album, PUP have had a huge and busy year with multiple tours totalling more than 250 shows. Tonight’s set is full of the high-energy songs they trade in, including a brand new one they haven’t played before. Their sound goes all over the place, from almost pop-punk in Dark Days to the slow-moving heaviness of Yukon, and keeps everyone on their toes. The driving riff at the start of Reservoir signals one last chance for the crowd to go mental and they oblige – even Apart From This bassist Rat Head bolts out from backstage and executes a perfect stage-dive, much to the band’s visible delight.
From the second The Smith Street Band hit the stage, The Hi-Fi crowd is in full party mode. There are crowd-surfers, an inflatable kangaroo, a whiff of something illicit and, most importantly, there’s several hundred people singing along to every single word and loving every minute of it. The beauty of The Smith Street Band is frontman Wil Wagner’s lyrics – intensely personal and yet immediately relatable. Wagner knows this, so he steps away from the mic here and there to let the room full of willing voices sing for him. The trio of crowd favourites Sigourney Weaver, Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams and Young Drunk bring the set to a roaring close, but the encore of I Love Life caps off a fantastic night. There’s a mass stage invasion from the other bands on the bill (and a few of The Bennies). Everyone here, bands and fans alike, shout, “All I ever needed was something I could hold in my hands,” like their lives depend on it. A few minutes later, all make their way out of the room – hoarse, sweaty, exhausted and entirely in love with life.