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ACL Fest review: Smith Westerns

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By John T. Davis

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 11, 2013

The Smith Westerns began with a bang, but ended with a whisper. The indie-rock quartet from Chicago took to the Honda Stage on Friday with a bristling array of musical hooks, arrangements that borrowed liberally from their punk/glam/pop roots and an infectious enthusiasm.

But 45 minutes into their hour-long set, after a metallic-flavored ballad whose name I didn’t catch, they exited. It seemed a little abrupt and arbitrary, at least to this observer.

Perhaps it was the crowd. Despite a highly-listenable set that drew in large measure from the band’s lastest album, “Soft Will,” the audience never lit up. Granted, lead singer Cullen Omori is not God’s gift to vocalists, but he’s got plenty of swagger to compensate. And guitarist Max Kakacek lit up the proceedings with solos that were by turns audacious, buoyant and piercing. It all came together in “Weekend,” a terrific pop rocker that begs for hit status.

But the crowd seemed curiously unmoved and oddly passive, albeit respectful. The Smith Westerns deserved better.