LIVE: The Smith Street Band @ Stereo, Glasgow

By Irene Carson

Growing up and studying in Glasgow gives you a certain fondness for a Friday night ‘up the toon’ – especially if, like me, you’re now officially a soft southerner living in and around another big old messy town at the opposite end of our island.

The official Scottish holiday period kicks off a couple of weeks before the rest of the UK, so I was stoked to be headed for a Friday night out in Glasgow slap bang in the middle of the ‘Glasgow Fair’. A weekend where, due to the cancellation of this year’s T In The Park, TRNSMT Festival has emerged.

Attending gigs in London can mean an arduous trek across the city on tube, overground and bus. And anyone who ventures to London gigs on a regular basis will be familiar with that bittersweet feeling you get afterwards when: you feel pumped at the experience you’ve just had, then you die a little bit as you contemplate the journey home. Imagine, stepping off a train at Glasgow’s ‘Central Station’ and walking just a matter of yards to – what turned out to be – pretty much the perfect venue for any music fan and I couldn’t help feel even more so, for The Smith Street Band… A band whose passion, intelligence and humanity is a tonic for any weary traveller.

The Smith Street Band’s 13-date UK tour has now become a 14 date jaunt across the country over the last few weeks, thanks to an additional night in London this Thursday at the Montague Arms. However, don’t get too roused, as it’s already sold out and did so within hours, as their excited sound man proudly told me in Glasgow on Friday night. Their majestic, ancient battle bus was fearlessly parked outside this quirky venue on one of Glasgow’s grimy cobbled lanes. Renfield Lane is home to Stereo and as a location, is akin to Harry Potter’s ‘Platform 9 ¾’. You would easily walk past this sunless artery in the city that happens to be home to a vibrant vegan bar and restaurant and a bewitching little subterranean venue in the basement. The Melbourne four-piece are touring their new album, ‘More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me’, which was released in April via Specialist Subject. They’ve been on the road for a while in Australia and Europe and have clearly been working flat out, so the self-contained hospitality of Stereo must have been a welcome pitstop on a gruelling schedule.

Looking at their packed itinerary as they smash through the last few days of this leg of the tour, I assumed the band must’ve been as tired as their seasoned looking tour bus appeared, especially on such an airless summer night, but The Smith Street Band brought an incredible amount of stamina and energy to a super-charged set. So much so, they deserve their own genre: grafter punk.

The crowd looked hot and tired themselves but were 100 percent mesmerised by Wil, Lee, Fitzy and Chris as they powered through a generous set which perfectly balanced old and new tracks with a cheeky Nirvana cover thrown in for good measure. It’s so refreshing to attend a gig where nobody was chatting during the music and couldn’t help but give their complete attention to the band. Glaswegians love grafters and authenticity and that’s what The Smith Street Band bring. They play with such commitment to the moment that they managed to swiftly pick up the crowd, fresh out of a tough week of work to serenade them with a few tracks off the new album: ‘Forrest’; ‘Birthdays’ and ‘Song For You’.

They then dialled up the crowd’s energy with: ‘Young drunk’; ‘Get high, See Mice’; ‘I don’t wanna die anymore’ and ‘The Arrogance of the Drunk Pedestrian’ – showcasing the muscle and brains of these clever Aussies. I am officially in love with The Smith Street Band, not least because of their creative use of capitalisation of words in song titles.

Scots crowds are genuine. There’s no fake whooping if a band doesn’t deserve it and even if they love you, you still might not get it. However, what you will get, if you earn it, is their undivided attention and this crowd were clearly impressed with how tight and well-rehearsed The Smith Street Band were. There’s a strong work ethic to how they play. Those values were showcased beautifully when lead vocalist Wil Wagner explained the venue had a strict curfew due to the impending club night, so he asked the crowd to pretend the band had walked off and back on stage for their encore in order to squeeze a couple more tracks in. I’m sure a lot of people would love more bands to do that, but that’s another whole conceptual debate. It meant that the crowd got treated to an incredible version of ‘Throw Me in the River’ and Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’. It was a brilliant set and left me wanting more.

There’s a few days left on this tour. Catch them quick if you can and you will be treated to a night of grafter punk that is so engaging and uplifting you may arrive tired and hungry, but you will leave having had your body and soul fed the most nutritious things. It was the most awesome homecoming for me in Glasgow and a night I won’t forget for a long time.