Review/Photos: Smith Westerns, Yuck, Nic Armstrong at Emo's in Austin, TX; 2.7.11

words by Stephanie Emilienberg photos by Randy Cremean

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Smith Westerns, Yuck, Nic Armstrong at Emo's in Austin, TX

Emo’s was packed and the anticipation was high for Yuck and headliner Smith Westerns. The latter already have a killer debut album and a just-released second LP behind them, so Yuck had a bit more to prove with a notable heaping of blog praise but an unreleased first LP to their name.  The crowds milled around and excitedly chatted while trying to warm up, but everyone sealed in tight and drew to the front as the main opener appeared.

Yuck were a really nice surprise, sounding better than any of the recordings I’ve heard. Their guitar work was the most technically impressive part of their performance, but their vocals worked together well and Daniel, guitarist and lead singer of the London quartet, assuredly led the way. The band began with “Holing Out”, bassist Mariko’s smoky voice assisting while bursts of noodling guitars shot forth. Every song of their set was a natural extension of the previous one yet sounded different enough to capture your attention all the way through.

As the crowds choked the room, bundled up figures reaching back to the exit doors, Yuck glided through “The Wall”, one of their best and catchiest tunes, the prettily fuzzy “Georgia”, switched gears with the slower, lovely ”Suicide Policeman”, and returned to usual form with the next song earnestly singing about “making a milkshake of my mind”. “It’s good to be in Texas!” Daniel said smiling. “We’ve never been here.” The audience reception to their engaging and promising set assures that this won't be the last we see of them here.

Smith Westerns by Randy CremeanThe Chicago quintet of Smith Westerns were greeted with a healthy smattering of applause as they took the stage, quickly launching into “Still New” , a neat curtain of hair encircling front man Cullen’s baby face.  The band then segued into the jackhammer fast earworm “Dreams”, putting forth impressively strong walls of guitar crunching. The crowd knew they were in for something a little extra special when Cullen announced, “This bitch is unruly!” before whipping into “Imagine Pt. 3”, a toe tapper of a song with hooky guitar riffs and a love-weary message.

Red lights washed over the stage and cast a darkroom glow over the band as they wove through  “Only One”,  “Be My Girl” (which oddly incited an audience member to whip his jacket overhead like a lasso), and the swaying “Tonight”, keeping up the evening’s precedent to devote relatively equal time to their two albums’ worth of material. Smith Westerns gave it their all, pouring their hearts and energy into the latter portion of the show, which included the T. Rex-worthy “Girl In Love” and Dye It Blonde standout “Weekend”.

During the short lull before their last song, the audience erupted in loud applause, and Cullen promised they’d be back soon, closing out their fantastic set with the title track from their latest album. Once again, we didn’t need the promise that they’d be around to see more of us because, without a doubt, their talent will ensure we’ll be seeing more of them for at least a good while.