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Last Night: Smith Westerns and Yuck at The Loft

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Smith Westerns, Yuck
The Loft
February 9, 2011

Better than: the Black Eyed Peas halftime show...

Last night's impressive showing for Chicago's Smith Westerns and UK counterparts Yuck was especially significant considering it was not only a Tuesday, but a night where threats of a repeat of last week's ice and snow storm loomed ominously. With a nuts-to-butts crowd inside the comfy confines of The Loft, however, temperatures were surprisingly toasty.

As much as it has become a cliché that's been poked fun at mercilessly the last few years, the idea of the blog buzz band has not gone away.

Yuck, whose sound lies somewhere in the realm of a mid-'90s Radish being pumped through excessive amounts of fuzz while Phil Spector looked on approvingly from behind the sound board, sounded exceedingly more thickened up and appealing live than on record. Their lead singer possessed the vocals of a young-but-disenchanted Ben Kweller, with the outward appearance of a twentysomething Bob Dylan.

"This is our first time in Dallas," the young Dylan lookalike sheepishly uttered in the midpoint of their nearly banter-free set. But odds are it won't be the band's last; had they ended their set before the two sludgier numbers on the tail end it would have been perhaps the best seen  in town so far this year.

Until, that is, later in the night when Smith Westerns took the stage. After the first song, Smith Westerns frontman Cullen Omori commented on the feel of the night: "I can already tell it's going to be a good night," he said. And it really turned out to be.

But that proved to be just about the only articulate bit of banter by Omori on the night. And yet that kind of summed up, in essence, what it is to be such a hyped young blog buzz band -- a group of young players who write and are able to perform a batch of material that is seemingly mature beyond their years, yet lack the comfort or experience onstage to convince anyone that they are as well-seasoned as they otherwise sound.

That being said, Smith Westerns played a phenomenal set featuring material from both of their albums, mixing in '60s grooves with garage-y tones that actually managed to sound larger and more epic than their recorded counterparts, thanks in large part to their keyboardist doubling as a third guitar player for much of the set.

One small complaint: Their live vocals were more raw and slightly punk than the more lush, heavily reverberated Beach Boys-style fare from their albums.

Still, at this show, Smith Westerns more than proved they are deserving of the increased level of hype they've been receiving since their sophomore effort Dye It Blonde was released.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I only got Smith Western's latest album over the weekend, and haven't gotten to spend nearly enough time with it prior to the show. Needless to say, after last night's performance, it will go into heavy rotation in the coming weeks.
By The Way: Yuck's drummer had the most perfectly groomed afro I think I've ever seen.
Random Note: It's pretty much silly for anyone to attend a show at the Palladium complex and not stop off at Fuel City on the way home for some killer late night gas station tacos. This one's kind of a no-brainer.

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