Last Night (and Picture Show): Smith Westerns and Sundress at Dada

Smith Westerns, Sundress

September 14, 2011

Better than: High School Musical.

"Sorry, you guys," a flustered Cullen Omori, the band's 21-year-old frontman and eldest member, appealed to the crowd. "All our shit just broke. Simultaneously."

He and the rest of his band crouched on the stage floor, fiddling here, plugging and unplugging there. It took a moment or two, but, finally, they gained their composure. And, soon as they did, they launched into their next song, the very-"All The Young Dudes"-like "All Die Young." 

Suddenly, here they were, looking all grown up and talented -- everything they aim to be, really.

Omori and his band co-founder, guitarist Max Kakacek, are the sources of that talent -- particularly Kakacek, who, starting with "All Die Young" and continuing on through the night, proved himself a budding guitar hero over and over again. His play isn't all tones, as is the impression one might get from cursory listens to the band's recorded material. Kakacek is a player who leans on tones, yes, but his play itself walks a clever line between tasteful and flashy. Omori, meanwhile, had his own moments. He swooned in time with his music, flopping his long hair about and proved a fine showman, bouncing along in time with the music, compelling his audience.

But, clearly, this is a band that gets phased: Later in the set, when young female fan jumped on stage from the all-ages crowd to dance along with the band, Omori shyly ran to the side of the stage, awkwardly hiding as he played on, waiting for the girl to return to her spot in the audience. 

"This isn't a punk show," he said, not even half-kidding, after the song came to its close. "So don't do that."

His statement was met with a few boos. But, for the most part, this band was well-received, and rightfully so. Wearing their glam-rock-meets-garage-rock influence on their sleeve, the crowd danced along for the set's entirety. It was deserved; "Weekend," the lead single off of the band's phenomenal 2011 Dye It Blonde release shined, as did fitting set-closer "End of the Night."

The night's true highlight, however, came during the simple, but infectious "Be My Girl," a single released in 2009 that Omori told the crowd was one of the first he and Kakacek wrote together. Lyrically, the song is sophomoric (the chorus: "Be my girl / You're out there in this world" on repeat), and, musically, it's something of an early indicator of the clear power-pop aspirations. But it's that very transparency that makes it so effective live; the Smith Westerns are a young, talented band, and, in another world "Be My Girl" is their "That Thing You Do." 

Surely, Smith Westerns will have better luck moving forward than the Wonders ever did. Hell, they already have in a way.

Earlier in the night, Denton's Sundress -- often considered a young band, but the elder statesmen on this night given that their members just graduated college -- pleased the crowd with their shiny, swirling psych dabblings.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: Dye It Blonde is one of my favorite releases of the year, and, though I caught both bands at SXSW back in March, I've been kicking myself for missing Smith Westerns' February show at The Loft with Yuck, another band whose 2011 release I highly enjoy.

Random Note: There were somewhere around 200 at this show, I'd say. The band will be playing to ten times this number, easy, this weekend at ACL.

By The Way: I hate to harp on the band's age, but look at these pictures. They look every bit as young as they are.

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