The Smith Street Band, Bec Sandridge, Press Club @ Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide 7/4/2018

It’s Saturday night in Adelaide, and Thebby is sold out. I’ve managed to snaffle a comfy couch up the back and I’m really looking forward to watching the bands tonight. I also have an excellent view of this beautiful theatre. (Side note: Dear Thebarton Theatre, please don’t ever ‘revamp’ this place. It’s wonderful the way it is. Thanks, love Carly)

I had heard Press Club mentioned on the radio before, but I don’t think I’ve ever managed to catch a tune…. whoa! They are full on! The band members playing instruments are tight and focused and casually professional. Lead singer Natalie Foster is raw and explosive, giving 100% at all times and performing as if she’s in a stadium many times larger than the room she is now in. Thrashing her hair around, jumping into the air and never missing a note. When she does stay still, she poses for the audience at the edge of the stage, making eye contact with eager and grateful onlookers, including a special, more intimate performance for one of the bouncers. He appears to enjoy this very much.

In my notes I’ve written Headwreck – A Game – Punk as

Have a listen, find the video so you can experience the frenetic energy of Foster’s performance.

There is much moshing and a few early crowd surfers having torches shone on them in discouragement. I’m sure that’s going to help…

Dreamy 80’s pop synths start up and Bec Sandridge enters the stage and opens with High Tide. I am momentarily worried that the bands have played in the wrong order, with Press Club being so frantic and unrestrained. Bec is energy of a different kind though, prancing on the spot on her tiptoes, daintily trotting across the performance space. Are the crowd appreciative? Well, I’ve just witnessed my first in real life shoey, so I’m gonna go with yes. I would not have guessed that Bec Sandridge would be the soundtrack to this experience. No judging… you do you, shoey guy.

Both of tonight’s support bands have played with the drums set to the side of the stage. I have to say, I am a fan. Drummers often get stuck up the back and this feels much more inclusive. I’m especially glad tonight as I get to watch drummer Francesca Adeline perform. The effortlessly talented drummer would have been lost behind the drums in a regular stage set up. Lewis Moody on keys is also enjoyable to watch, and that synth sound is awesome.

Sandridge is a superb songwriter and storyteller. You’re a Fucking Joke, she explains, is about flying to Scotland for someone you love, only to find that while you were on your way, that person has announced on Facebook that they are in a relationship. Not with you. Aah, love, what an endless well to draw inspiration from. Maybe I’ll take this story to heart and not buy that plane ticket I’ve been almost clicking on for weeks now… will we ever learn? At least its song writing fodder.

The final song for this group tonight is the much loved I’ll Never Have a Boyfriend, which is stopped after the intro so Bec can take a video of us to send to her mum to show her how cute we all are. Aw, thanks Bec <3

So far as the crew are setting up for The Smith Street Band, we’ve had three singalongs. The first was It’s Raining Men, by The Weather Girls. The second was well known by the rest of the crowd though I don’t think I’m trendy enough to know it, but the third received the biggest cheer and most enthusiastic chorus. Who knew I Wanna Dance With Somebody was still such a hit? Moments like this are so great. Sure, we’re all here to see some great bands, but a spontaneous group singalong to Whitney Houston is what makes nights like this really special.

The Smith Street Band open with Birthdays, a sweet song about mental illness and love. Many of their songs touch on these topics, Wil Wagner’s poetic and descriptive lyrics concerning life and love seeming to resonate with the sold out crowd as they enthusiastically shout his words back at him.

Or maybe not. Maybe they’re not really listening, they just like the way the songs sound. ‘Good evening, friends’ Wagner addresses the masses before him, ‘We’re not gonna be dickheads. We’re gonna keep our shirts on and look after each other’. Except that’s not what happens. There are shirts removed and circle pits starting, the mosh is rough and spilling over everyone in waves, reaching the back of the theatre. These are the same people singing Death To The Lads at the top of their voices, entirely without irony.

It must be a difficult situation to have playing out before you as you’re singing out your feelings to two thousand people. They’re clearly enjoying themselves, and you’re loving their pleasure, but such intimate, heartfelt lyrics are coupled with such boisterous and abrasive actions. In any case, there is total enjoyment of every song, each one greeted with ecstatic cheers. Something I Can Hold in My Hands, Surrender, I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore, Song For You, Passiona, Shine, Young Drunk, they’re all excellent songs, and the addition of Jess Locke and Lucy Wilson is welcome. Their harmonies gel perfectly, lifting and bringing some extra depth to these already powerful songs.

The Smith Street Band have been working hard, writing, touring and releasing albums for the last eight years. I get the feeling that if Wil Wagner could hug each one of us and say thank you, he would. There’s an invitation open to all to meet back at the Ed Castle for beers and the possibility of starting an indoor soccer team, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that place hit capacity last night too.

Despite some quite sombre lyrics, The Smith Street Band appear to be in a good place right now. Joyous anthem I Love Life, is a wonderful way to end the set, with the final lyrics referencing Something I Can Hold in My Hands, filling the old theatre at full volume.

Next time Wagner feels down, he says he’s going to think of this gig and the happiness it’s brought him. You’re welcome, Wil, any time. Come back soon.

Live Review By Carly Whittaker

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