Chicago-based Smith Westerns released their sophomore album earlier this year. Since then, they have played with TV on the Radio, Cults and Yeasayer, in addition to international festivals including Austin City Limits Music Festival, Fyf Fest, Leeds Festival, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. The guys were dressed like they were straight out of “Dazed and Confused,” and the smiley face-patterned banners behind them just reinforced this thought. They were fun – I sang along and danced. Their hair flew in their face as they strummed popular singles like “Weekend,” “Smile” and “Still New.”
During the 30-minute set change, I scanned the crowd. Unfortunately, this took away a lot from the show. I was behind a young fist-pumping boy and constantly trying to hold on to my standing room, only with mild success as chains of high schoolers tried to squeeze by. The musically-oblivious bystanders seemed to give more applause at times for the roadies doing soundcheck than the Smith Westerns received, but that may have been in my head.
A hooded figure in a golden mask finally came out on stage and hit notes on a keyboard to set the mood for the show. The lights reflected gold beams off the mask into the crowd. The rest of the band came out on stage and began their first song with a blast of energy and great reaction from the crowd. One thing I instantly picked up one is that an Arctic Monkeys show’s core is the strobe light – which is amazing, unless you have epilepsy. Luckily I do not, so I could stay. A bit theatrical at times, the band performed with special effects like lights, flashes and smoke. One of my personal favorite moments is when they paired a past-picking guitar riff with an intense strobe-light-only light show. It created the illusion that electricity was coming from Alex Turner and his guitar and filling the room. The crowd went especially crazy for “Fluorescent Adolescent” and “Brick by Brick.” At about 10:15, they played their “last song” and went off stage while the crowd chanted their name and screamed with approval of the show.