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Smoking Popes
A Concert Review

November 27, 1996

The Metro

Chicago, IL

A Review by
The Dude on the Right
A while back I heard this song from a band called "The Smoking Popes." It was called "I Need You Around," I believe, and it sounded like they would be a cool band to go see live. Well, I missed a show here and there, and then it almost seemed like the band fell off the face of the earth. They had this one cool song, disappeared, and I'm thinking they've fallen into that "one-hit-wonder" category. Well, as it turns out, they ended up with a record deal on Capitol Records and have been hard at work putting together their "major-label" CD. I haven't heard it, but if it's anything like their live show I don't know if it will vault them past that "one-hit" category, but if you like music with a punkish feel to it, and maybe with a little more than the three-chord music that's been forced down our throats lately, I think you will probably like the Smoking Popes.

Arriving at the show I got their way early because I knew I needed to secure a spot in the balcony up front to grab some photos - a mosh-pit is no place for a photographer and his gear. It was a quadruple bill with four bands headlined by the Smoking Popes, and as I grabbed my spot I expected three lousy bands followed by a band I knew little to nothing about except for one song. Hmmm, why exactly am I hear? I was wrong, boy was I wrong, well, almost. This night I got everything from an alternative sounding band with nothing to separate them from any other alternative band of today (Kid Million), to a band that reminded me of Weezer but with an edge (Menthol), to a band that was more thrash than the previous "punkish" bands (Triple Fast Action), to the Smoking Popes.

Not knowing what to expect other than the fact the crowd was a moshing-style crowd, and hearing a little that the Smoking Popes are kind of a punk band, I eagerly awaited the band during the set break. The band took the stage and I think I saw what the record company may have seen. Here's a band that takes that alternative/punk feel of Green Day, mixes it with a singer who has a vocal talent, and adds guitar fingering to the music rather than the traditional chord flailing of punk. It was cool. And you know, it was cool even though the band didn't break any records in terms of putting energy out on stage. Somehow, and here's a talent, this band can play, keep the crowd interested, and not have to throw themselves all around the stage, well, at least not that much. They really didn't even talk to the crowd, and seemed unfazed by a cup of ice thrown on stage.

You know, I couldn't figure it out, but I found myself standing there almost mesmerized by a band while the mosh-pit was going full speed ahead. And you know, I still can't figure it out. I'm watching the lead singer dude singing with this evil-looking grin, kinda Eddie Vedderesque, and he even had a good voice to go with that grin, then I'm listening to guitar work transitioning from typical three chord punk to almost intricate fingerings, then I'm watching a shoe fly on stage and the band doesn't flinch, then I see moshers and surfers and everyone having a great time, and then there is a slight lull. What timing does the band have? Well, they kick into "I Need You Around" and the crowd is right back into this band even stronger than before.

Other than the one song, I really can't help out with a set-list for this show, but I can tell you this, I'll be looking for their CD when I perusing my local music store because this band should be more than a "one-hit-wonder." I don't know if they can make the big break-through, but if your looking for a band that can make a punk feel into a little bit more music, the Smoking Popes very well could be it.

I had a good time, the crowd had a blast, and it's TWO BIG THUMBS UP for the Smoking Popes.

That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right!!! L8R!!


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