Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Smith Westerns at Detroit Bar, 2/12/11

Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention before, but Detroit Bar has really been bringing in some good shows the past year. They've always been an excellent local showcase, but since 2010 I've seen Surfer Blood, The Hold Steady, The Besnard Lakes and now Smith Westerns there, to say nothing of bands like Sleigh Bells, Autolux and Yo La Tengo that I missed. It has occasional sound problems, but it's small, it's loud, it's cheap and it's close. On Saturday, it lived up to every bit of that description.

Ok, so that sounds like a lede for a review of the venue itself, and that's not really what I'm here to talk about. So, Smith Westerns: they're good. Equal parts 60's pop and 70's glam, they have dancey/bouncey with a fair helping of shred down to a science, and this is only two records in. I listen to them, and I get a vision of Marc Bolan, Jarvis Cocker, David Bowie and Joey Ramone, all hanging out and nodding along to the music. Their latest, Dye it Blonde, is on the early list for top music of the year.

Like I said above, this was a typical Detroit show: crowded, loud, high energy and mildly plagued by sound issues. This time it was lead singer Cullen Omori's microphone cutting out a few syllables at a time, usually during the biggest moments. Because of this, the first few songs couldn't quite create the momentum they should have, but once they got it fixed the rest of the set sounded awesome. Omori gave off a real Ted 'Theodore' Logan vibe at times, with his goofy asides, long black hair and stoner laugh, but he was a charismatic frontman, and the band played really well.

The set was a bit briefer than I would have liked, but when most of your songs don't make it past three minutes you can cram a lot into a forty-five minute show. Most of Dye it Blonde was represented, with the band ending the night on album closer "Dye the World," probably the most overtly glam rock track, an epic-by-their-standards four minutes of fuzzed-out riffing balladry. Smith Westerns sound like they could churn songs like this out in their sleep, and I would welcome that.

Set List: Still New / Dreams / Imagine Pt 3 / Only One / Be My Girl / Tonight / End of the Night / All Die Young / Girl in Love / My Heart / Smile / Weekend / Dye the World

Photo by Mary Bell, OC Weekly

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