Acrylics Play Chicago With The Smith Westerns

Acrylics w/ The Smith Westerns, Mickey
Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL


The hometown, teenage (Grand)-Children of the Nuggets, Smith Westerns closed out a solid trio of bands on a potentially sold-out Saturday night at Schuba’s. In addition to being awesome and packing the first five or so rows with fans (rather, classmates) who know all their songs, the Smith Westerns allowed me to have an informal chat with three-fourths of the Acrylics fresh from finishing a tight seven-song set, which doubled my appreciation for the band.

It was only natural that Pitchfork came up in conversation, who first “played favorites” with the Acrylics back in October for their single “All Of the Fire,” and who recently named the Smith Westerns to fill the Chicago-showcase portion of the Pitchfork Music Festival (a position in past years held by Chin Up Chin Up, The Ponys, The Hot Machines, The Cool Kids…) “All of The Fire” is also the name of their strong five-song debut EP which graced fans of straight-up indie in late October of 2009 with reflective-though-intricate tunes equally tinged towards pop and folk.

The set took off with their non-EP single “Molly’s Vertigo, however, which is also backed with a music video, and the first of three songs that earned a star in my notepad. It can also be noted that every song sounded better live than their studio recordings. This was never truer than on a song that was called “Nightwatch” in their set-list – (possibly “Honest Aims”) – which took after the bridge with a tight instrumental jam. Lil’ Ivy & Avenue I – also really develop onstage.

Shared boy/girl vocalist groups too-often teeter the line of cheesy, and the Acrylics avoid this problem with having one or the other (typically the boy, Jason Klaubers – who sported the indie-appropriate Patrick Ewing cap) switch off on songs. I must admit that I wish there was more collaboration, the call and response most notably on “Molly’s Vertigo,” and during the breakdown of their live numbers was one of the most fun parts. The band, therefore, is weakest on songs like “Conseleyea,” which came fourth with a bland semi-emotional Oberst-esque slow song, which I’d have trouble placing as the Acrylics on shuffle.

As a music fan who places heavy importance on lyrics, I was surprised how often I caught myself focusing on the superbness of the drummer, who I witness break at least three drumsticks – pretty impressive for an intimate venue with fairly intimate music. I will try to get back to you on what the instrument the fourth instrument was called – a strange pedal-based sit-down plucking device – very cool.

For fans wanting more, lead singer Molly Shea also works occasionally with Girl Crisis, as she describes in an interview with BrooklynVegan as “the ongoing collaboration between various talented women in Brooklyn where we cover famous songs in a mostly a cappela arrangement and Bek Anderen films the performance on super 8 film,” and the band, mostly the drummer, has ties to Chairlift, also from Brooklyn. Though, while the band is only a band in Brooklyn, members come from as far away as Nashville and Australia, with roots to a RIP-project, the Standing Nudes.

The best part of the show was talking to the band in between sets, and watching the Smith Westerns from the side of the stage with them, who really seemed to enjoy them – taking pictures on an iPhone just like all of the high school girls. Conversation shifted from Miley Cyrus/Nashville to blogs and Pitchfork to SXSW, which the band recently came back from after seven shows in a week – sharing the stage with the Morning Benders. The band was very humble, couldn’t come up with anything too quote-worthy to add when asked, but had a lot of great things to say about being a band, performing in Chicago, and the structure of music in 2010.

Definitely a band worth checking out live – or if you’re unfamiliar with them and still reading this for some reason you should hustle over to their MySpace page. The EP is currently floating around the Internet, it’s certainly worth hearing, and especially if you can get the chance to say hola to them (Spanish for “hello”) do so, and because they are very very good people = purchase their EP (produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear).

ALSO – wasn’t able to catch Mickey, but I’ve seem the rock before. Awesome Chicago band is the same vein as the Yolks and Smith Westerns, “I Am Your Trash” and “She’s So Crazy,” should be heard as quickly as you can.

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  1. travis Rosenberg says:

    yo dude. it’s called a pedal steel guitar. Made famous by the stylings of speedy west, sneaky pete (flying burrito bros) and it’s a signature of country western music. listen to some patsy cline and hank williams and it will stand out. thanks for the rad write up.

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