Live Review: The Smith Street Band at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA

Australian pop-folk-punk quartet The Smith Street Band have recently embarked on their first headlining tour in the United States. On a snowy night in April (yes, I’m serious), they played to a sold out crowd at the Middle East in Cambridge.

Save Ends, a local band, were a late addition to the lineup, only announced a couple days before the show. They were able to play a few tracks from their new EP, Hug Your Friends, which was released in March. Unfortunately, as is common with punk shows in tiny venues, the audio mix wasn’t amazing, and for much of their set the vocals were completely drowned out by the instruments on stage.

Most of the audio issues were fixed by the time Worriers came to the stage, although a bit of guitar feedback colored their set. It was their last night touring with The Smith Street Band, but they were still able to give it their all and perform a rousing set. “Good Luck” was able to set a humorous tone, as lead vocalist Lauren Denitzio quipped that, despite the song’s lyrics, “I actually really like New England”. Denitzio was also able to draw cheers from the crowd later in the set, introducing the song “They/Them/Theirs” by emphasizing the stupidity of the gender binary.

Hard Girls, a punk trio from San Jose, were the last support act to take the stage. There were a few people in the audience who came specifically to see them, and they made themselves known by dancing and singing along to every song. The band seemed to be in good humor, cracking jokes between songs and making faces at the audience. However, things got serious when the band decided to address the issue of gentrification, something that is far too common in their hometown. They were able to transition well between a very serious topic and the generally upbeat tone of their set.

One of The Smith Street Band’s greatest strengths is their ability to balance quiet introspection with rowdy punk music. They made this clear from the beginning, starting their set with “Something I Can Hold In My Hands”, a song about lead singer/lyricist Wil Wagner’s love of playing music. The rest of the set followed this balance, dipping into stories of living with depression and smoking a lot of weed. One particular treat was a  solo performance of “My Little Sinking Ship”, a song Wagner wrote for his younger sister.

The band’s energy was high throughout the show, and it was a joy to see them play a full length set. The audience was so excited to be a part of the show and it felt great to hear so many people singing along. Even when the band closed with a cover of Nirvana’s “Drain You”, no one missed a beat. The band was full force and the crowd was dancing like their lives depended on it.. The Smith Street Band are an incredibly hardworking group and they deserve every bit of praise for their accomplishments.  If you can make it to a show on this tour, don’t you dare miss it.

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