A collection of impressions about a band
By Adam Gibson
There’s something happening out there, in the suburbs and streets and towns. You might not be aware of it. You might have absolutely no clue, lamenting the demise of the music you knew, the bands that once held sway. It’s all gone to shit. There’s nothing out there but kids with dumb playlists who are always playing on their phones doing crap that you don’t understand, and you firmly of the belief the soul has gone, the spirit of the country is up shit creek and reflected in crap music and scattershot, ill-formed opinions, What do they bloody well know?
But there’s a line out on Enmore Road. It’s a complete fair dinkum sell out. Believe it. You can’t get a ticket even if you want one. Callow youths with non-ironic ironic mullets, daggy surfwear caps pressed flat over long hair, looking like extras from some movie set on the day of the first Big Day Out in 1992, guys and girls in equal measure, sundresses and cut-off jeans on a hot March night, suburban kids, uni students living eight to a house somewhere south of Marrickville, battling 10,000th generation cockroach families and gentrification creeping like a werewolf along every street.
There’s something happening, right now, I can see it here and realise, true. This is a brewing, shouldered mass, clear-eyed and happy, inclusive, together, strong with anticipation. Not looking back in lament, not second-guessing, but surging forward like we did in that envisaged earlier scene of my own ’92, hungry for songs of their own, hungry for stories, hungry for words of the moment and a co-incidence of chords that hit upon a melody that ignites in unification, that coalesces into songs that they can and, most definitely will, sing. As if the future and present are exactly NOW, and they’re living it, whether you or their parents or anyone else likes it, or knows about it, or not.
The air is smudged with non-toxic smoke machine smoke, visual approximation of them old days but without the carcinogens. The Enmore’s ready, the old sprung floor begins to tremble under a mass of feet, a girl and boy of barely 18 grapple together in front of me, kissing hard as the first trickle of what will become a torrent of guitars begins, as if this is the first day of every tomorrow, while a tall 25-year-old, built like a footballer, grabs me in a headlock and screams HOW GOOD IS THIS?!
And it is good. It is absolutely, infinitely cathartic. The crowd a tightly pressed unit seemingly of one, pouring with sweat for the hour-and-a-bit set, screaming lyrics to songs that, if you weren’t there and weren’t aware, are already anthems. And they are. DEATH TO THE LADS! they sing, as loud as they possibly can, Wil Wagner confessing he is fucking amazed by the crowd, “the loudest one we’ve ever had”. This is Midnight Oil-wellian in the connection and local conscience, this is Mick Thomas/Weddings Parties Anything-esque in the folk singalong sensibility, this is Living End-like in the punk-vibe sneer. Crowd surfing and sing-alongs and even a mosh pit, going hard with, again, equal measure of male and female. “Music industry professionals, they can go and fuck themselves!” Too right, I’d say, the best line Joe Strummer never wrote.
There’s something happening out there, a band on tour with 32 shows across the country possibly just like this, a sense of beginnings and possibilities, Australian accents and stories and songs, about local lives and local events. The crowd pours out onto the unlocked night, sweaty and with possibly sore throats, alive to the sound of guitars and choruses still being shouted here and there. It’s good, it’s bloody good. As are The Smith Street Band.