I don’t see a lot of bad shows; I see a lot of shows, and there’s rarely no redeeming qualities in any of them. I don’t go see shitty locals, because there are too many good and great locals to see, and mostly my taste in music is pretty reliable when it comes to live shows by out of towners.
So I don’t know what happened last night with Chicago’s Smith Westerns, whose sophomore album Dye It Blonde is easily my favorite release of 2011 thus far. Maybe I overestimated the show — maybe I wanted too much from it, because the album is so catchy. I wanted to see the hipsters dance, you know? I wanted to be shaken and jazzed up. But instead the hipsters were wretched, and the band was just … boring. The sound was muddy — Patrick, who normally runs the board at the 506, told me that both bands had touring sound guys, and frankly, I don’t think I trust anybody who doesn’t know the 506 to mix in the 506 — and I couldn’t hear a single one of the jangly, swinging hooks that make the album so good; it sounded like grime and grunge and smear, and not in a good way. It was just noise. There was nothing discernible about their sound. Maybe they’re just a bad live band. Maybe they were just having a bad night.
Whatever it was, though, last night the Smith Westerns were bad. Boring and overly loud, no sense of the playfulness and clever writing that comes through on their albums. I hate writing that bands weren’t good live; I don’t like to be mean to musicians on the internet, because what’s the point? Somebody last night probably loved that show, so who cares what I think. But I love that album, and last night the band just didn’t live up to what I wanted them to be. I feel bad, but, man, the Cowboy and I walked out halfway through the set. I never walk out of shows, but last night I did, and I felt it was deserved. I thought the set was boring and not very good, and I was disappointed.
(I did get to have a nice chat out front of the 506 with the Frontier Ruckus boys during the opener’s set, though. Hi, guys!)
(ETA, 02/03/2011: Speakers In Code were far kinder to the bands than I was, so if you want another take, check them out — and note that they’re using my photos! I’m going to be doing some work for SIC coming up, so add ’em to your RSS reader of choice, locals, Chicagoans, St. Louisians.)