Review: The Smith Street Band, The Cluny, Newcastle

The Smith Street Band frontman Will Wagner. Pic: Gary Welford.
The Smith Street Band frontman Will Wagner. Pic: Gary Welford.

The Cluny was subject to an Aussie invasion on Saturday night, as the venue played host to Melbourne punks The Smith Street Band.

To them, Newcastle is a city in New South Wales as opposed to North East England.

The Smith Street Band frontman Will Wagner. Pic: Gary Welford.

The Smith Street Band frontman Will Wagner. Pic: Gary Welford.

Yet they - along with compatriots The Bennies - were made to feel right at home by a devoted crowd on their maiden visit.

Openers S*** Present were also making their debut in these parts, and judging by the reaction there'll be plenty of clamour for for a return trip.

Led by frontwoman Iona Cairns, the Exeter quartet's brand of DIY-flavoured pop punk was ideal for listeners reared on locals like Martha and Pale Kids, and only grew in potency the longer they remained on stage.

The Bennies, for their part, had little need to win people over, with a small hardcore assembled and eagerly awaiting their appearance.

The Smith Street Band performing at The Cluny. Pic: Gary Welford.

The Smith Street Band performing at The Cluny. Pic: Gary Welford.

If you like your punk hyperactive, performed with manic buoyancy and tinged with dub, ska, rap, doom metal and God knows what else, it's easy to see how this five-piece could be right up your street.

Me? I hated it, but the 20 or so converts gathered at the front went nuts, so they're clearly doing something right.

Rather less of a marmite affair, The Smith Street Band nevertheless delivered their set with similar gusto - a storming approach which had sweat dripping from singer Wil Wagner's beard within their opening number!

Having enjoyed cult status in their homeland for some time, the quartet have reached a wider international audience in recent years thanks to breakout albums Throw Me in the River and More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me.

The Smith Street Band frontman Will Wagner. Pic: Gary Welford.

The Smith Street Band frontman Will Wagner. Pic: Gary Welford.

The latter has barely been out for three months, yet the faithful have already taken its songs to heart, belting out each lyric with a relish which defied what on the night was an unusually muddy sound mix.

Indeed, while The Cluny was far from full, those with tickets made their presence felt throughout, achieving the kind of catharsis normally reserved for crowds many times the size.

Coupled with a group in full flow, the momentum was often irresistible, whether the anthems were established favourites such as Surrender or fresh additions like Shine and Death To The Lads.

A big man blessed with a sizeable presence and an even larger set of lungs, Wagner bore all in the explosive de-facto encore Throw Me In The River, before tearing through a closing cover of Nirvana's incendiary classic Territorial P***ings.

The Bennies went down a storm with a small section of the crowd. Pic: Gary Welford.

The Bennies went down a storm with a small section of the crowd. Pic: Gary Welford.

As the feedback died down and punters began filing out, you already got the sense that this unfamiliar Newcastle will only be too glad to welcome The Smith Street Band back.

S*** Present opened the night's proceedings. Pic: Gary Welford.

S*** Present opened the night's proceedings. Pic: Gary Welford.