It was another sold out show at Rock & Roll Hotel on Friday night as the club continued its recent run of strong indie buzz-band bookings with Chicago’s Smith Westerns. Between the sold-out show downstairs and the mega-popular DJ night upstairs, there was actually quite a long line to gain entry to the club. As I stood in the pleasant evening air, waiting to get inside, I could not help but overhear the chorus of whining from the privileged and entitled who felt put-out by having to wait in a line for 10-15 minutes. I didn’t hear a single person talking about the band most of us were there to see.* This was a bad sign that foretold of an audience more interested in talking rather than in actually listening to the music we had paid to see.
Once inside, the audience did indeed talk through most of the opening set by O.M.U., which is a shame because they are a fun band with some pretty great guitar playing. Duing Smith Westerns’ set, the drunken crowd switched from talking to sloppily singing along. This was a welcome change in audience behavior and indicated Smith Westerns’ surprising mainstream appeal. Their set was a mix of inventive indie-rock and platitude-filled, teen romance anthems. While I enjoyed the majority of their set, I was left with the distinct impression that Smith Westerns are a band at a crossroads.