The Smoke – The Workers Club (09.10.10)

live- thesmoke
Warming the stage for lovely local lads The Smoke, were Tehachapi, an interesting choice of supports as these two bands are as musically compatible as oil and water. Tehachapi are a psychedelic post-rock group with heavy nineties indie and shoe gaze influences. Think Brian Jonestown and Radiohead with a heavy helping of Mogwai and illicit substances. 
The four piece are very good at whipping up a kind of magical atmosphere with the candle lit shrine they placed at the front of the stage with sparklers for the punters to play with as they listened to the instrumental mayhem and took in the kaleidoscopic audiovisual display on the walls and ceiling of the band room. 
Tehachapi seem to take themselves and their music rather seriously, with the band standing still onstage, looking rather disinterested in the performance aspect and more concerned with the music they were creating. They have an interesting sound, that would go down well under the influence of acid. Their live performance lacked the energy and intensity to make their mostly instrumental set entertaining to watch, however their musicianship and song writing abilities are top notch, and they are definitely a band to keep an eye on. 
For those not in the know, The Smoke are a five piece local act who formed in 2008 and released their debut LP Blood Orange in early 2009 to critical acclaim for their laid back, sixties infused indie pop. I saw them open for Hot Little Hands last year and was instantly taken in by their sharp, catchy tunes and vocalist Dane Robertson’s sex on legs style dancing. I’ve been curious to see what they’ve been up to since then. 
In short the answer seems to be not much. The band took to the stage enshrouded in billowing clouds of smoke and a dazzling lights display to plug the release of their new EP Cut Like A Crystal. Robertson is in his element onstage and definitely knows how to strike a pose which garnered him a lot of excited screaming from the teenagers in the front row.  
The Smoke ploughed through an hour long set playing favourites from the album “Good Morning Jack”, “Baby’s Got The Shakes” and “Blood Orange” along with new tracks “Cut Like A Crystal” and “Bury My Love”. Their music is generic in its construction, but enjoyable all the same. They play short, catchy pop songs that are fun to shake your arse to, but lack any strong hooks to make them memorable. 
Their live show was fun but disconcerting, which was the only drawback I had last time I saw them and they‘ve done little to improve since then. Robertson is a lively front man who owns the stage and is very easy to watch, but he does nothing to engage the crowd other than dance. There was minimal talking between songs, with the band barely acknowledging their audience, and whilst Robertson gave the performance his all, the rest of the band simply stood onstage, occasionally swaying in time to the music and looking rather bored. Their music isn’t strong enough to hold its own and the smoke machine and strobe lights were working over time to compensate for the meandering enthusiasm of the players. 
The Smoke are still a relatively young band finding their feet on the live circuit, so perhaps the aesthetic of their shows will improve with time. On the whole they are a fun band who have a fantastic front man and it will be interesting to see where they go from here.