The Smith Street Band brings powerful Aussie punk to Chicago

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Hailing all the way from Melbourne, Australia, the Smith Street Band swung by the Beat Kitchen this past Saturday night as part of their North American tour.

The punk band has been joined by a variety of bands over the course of their tour, and in this case had support from the Gunshy, Signals Midwest and Hard Girls. All three bands put on strong performances, with Signals Midwest stressing how happy they were to be playing the Beat Kitchen for the third time in twelve months and Hard Girls encouraging positive energy (“Everyone turn to someone new and tell them they rock”).

The punk rock quarter from down under took the stage around 7:45 p.m. and frontman Wil Wagner began playing “Something I Can Hold In My Hands,” the opening track of their 2014 album “Throw Me in the River” to start off their set. Wagner and company (Lee Hartney on guitar, Michael Fitzgerald on bass and Chris Bowburn on drums) kept the hits coming, with the crowd of Chicago punks soaking it all up. Each song brought about a sing-along louder than the previous one, with plenty of movement from the pit. Cheerful banter was integrated throughout as well, including a light-humored “break-up” that occurred near the end of the set.

Halfway through the set, the rest of the band moved to the side of the stage as Wagner began the “No One Gets Lost Anymore” acoustic track “My Little Sinking Ship,” a sentimental song written about Wagner’s sister. The crowd joined Wagner word for word, with the heartfelt meaning behind the song resonating with many. The next song brought back the high-paced energy with a song that Wagner said was intended for dancing, titled “I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore.”

The band closed with a pair of powerful and optimistic songs, “I Love Life” and “Young Drunk.” The former featured a breakdown that built to an outro filled with lyrics like, “All I ever wanted was to leave this world more beautiful” shouted over chain vocals from the crowd. “Young Drunk” culminated in the biggest sing-along of the evening. Near the end of the song, the band dropped out as Wagner sang about how he had “finally found a home, in a handful of people I was lucky enough to bump into.” In a crowd filled with members of one of the best punk rock scenes in the country, that particular line held much more meaning.