The Smith Street Band, The Menzingers, Grim Fandango - The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Written by Frances Vinall
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“I just got kicked in the dick,” The Smith Street Band’s charismatic frontman Wil Wagner explained ruefully. He’d just strutted back on stage for an encore, after hurling himself full force into the audience during the previous song.
His injury was unsurprising. For the past hour, the pit in front of the stage had been a churning ocean of bodies. Crowd surfers have been pushed afloat and sucked back under with regularity since second song No One Gets Lost Anymore, legs flying, arms reaching for the stage, ecstatic smiles plastered across their faces. Wagner wasn’t the only one going home with bruises on Sunday night.
“At least it’s not as bad as Brisbane,” he continued, telling the story of how he was kicked so hard in the nether regions by his adoring fans he was throwing up before the set had even finished. “This song’s dedicated to my dick!” he grinned, plunging into their final track.
With any other performer, such a statement would signify that they’re trying too hard to be edgy – but Wagner is so damn easy-going it just added to his charm. That’s the thing about the Smith Street Band. They sing about the kinds of things so many other people do (a great night out, heartbreak, cynicism,) but they do it without sounding like a car commercial.
There’s swearing a-plenty, but it’s never gratuitous. They always manage to perfectly sum up the experiences we all go through, that define our lives, without being cheesy or over-the-top. In a word, The Smith Street Band is honest.
Besides, there were plenty of other dedications throughout the night that had nothing to do with Wagner’s balls. One song was preceded by a lengthy spiel praising the Corner Hotel’s apparently unbelievably competent security team. Another was dedicated to “Nick the techie” for keeping the band well supplied with guitars and champagne, yet another went to their merch guy. Of course, there was plenty of genuine gratitude directed to the crowd. It was a big, believable love fest to all involved.
There was also a shout-out to Melbourne itself, the band’s home turf. Really, is there anywhere better in the world to see The Smith Street Band, than in one of the city’s most beloved venues? References to Australia’s culture capital were interwoven throughout their songs, making listening a special pleasure for those who have wandered the same streets. Wagner, and we, are immensely proud of this place, and it just seemed right that such a Melbourne-centric band had sold out The Corner two nights in a row.
Supports Grim Fandango (from Perth) and The Menzingers (from Pennsylvania) had to travel a little further. We’re glad they did. The former are disarming and a little daggy; spit flying from their vocalist to shower the mic and the crowd, their bassist showing off his high kicks at well-timed intervals. They seemed to really believe lines like “Fight like you don’t give a fuck!” but you’d still take them home to meet your parents.
The Menzingers are similarly likeable. They have a fairly low-key stage presence, simply playing and jumping around a little, but they still exhibited a condensed, tightly wound energy. Guitarist/vocalist Tom May was coiled intensity personified, while drummer Joe Godino thrashed the kit with a look of intense concentration on his face. They play the kind of punk that’s just happy to be alive, and by closer The Obituaries the Corner was positively glowing with goodwill, perfectly primed for the main event.
Every audience member left the gig on Sunday night buzzing. There’s a reckless air to The Smith Street Band. It makes you want to run naked into the ocean, or down a bottle of Jack and egg your neighbours house. You have to wonder what kind of adventures were had, after such an invigorating high.