Emo pioneers Smoking Popes were in town (11/30) at the Lookout Lounge in support of their latest release “Into the Agony.” The band played an acoustic set at the Lookout back in May, but this time they brought loud, fuzzy guitars ready to play all the hits!
Like many fans in my age group, I was first introduced to Smoking Popes when they appeared on the soundtrack to the teen drama “Angus” starring a young James Van Der Beek (pre-Dawson’s Creek). That album had the best of the best when it came to 90s alternative bands and Smoking Popes were no exception. Their song “Mrs. You and Me” was definitely one of the standout tracks. Both the Angus soundtrack and the Empire Records soundtrack really helped solidify my love for 90s alternative music.
Joining Smoking Popes were three regional acts, A Summer Better Than Yours (Lincoln), Wrong Pets (Omaha), and Kansas City punk rockers Company Retreat.
Unfortunately I had a prior engagement so I missed A Summer Better Than Yours, but I checked them out on Spotify though and I liked what I heard.
I arrived just as Wrong Pets were starting their set. They had a fun, upbeat sound like a cross between The Strokes and The Ramones.
After Wrong Pets was Company Retreat from Kansas City. Decked out in Hawaiian shirts, these guys played loud and fast. They also had a lot of on-stage banter. I think the joke was that they were four guys who escaped from their company retreat (hence the shirts) and they were doing everything possible to avoid going back to the office. It was a fun shtick and the crowd seemed to enjoy the set. I saw several people towards the front bouncing around.
After Company Retreat I had the chance to talk with Smoking Popes lead singer Josh Caterer for a minute.
I mentioned that I’ve enjoyed his music throughout the years, but I was really digging the brand new album “Into the Agony.” Seriously, if you haven’t heard it yet hop over to Spotify or Amazon and give it a spin, it’s fantastic. Better yet, pick up a physical copy HERE.
After a quick stage setup, the guys from Chicago were ready to rock. The set kicked off with the first track from “Into the Agony” “Simmer Down.” It can be a bold move to go with a new track right out of the gate, but Simmer Down is probably the strongest cut on the album. It has everything you want in a Smoking Popes song; fuzzy guitar, punchy drum beats, a “whoa oh oh” chorus, and super catchy hooks. I saw many in the front singing along, myself included!
Keeping the good times rolling, the band played a string of hits like “Let’s Hear it for Love” and “Rubella”, before another new song “Amanda My Love.” The set covered a large history of Smoking Popes, but I have to say, I think I enjoyed their new songs the most. I felt like there was some extra oomph there that really shined through. When I do my year-end recap I’m sure “Into the Agony” will make an appearance.
Over the hour set Josh stayed fairly quiet, but before the song “Little Lump of Coal” he spoke about the rich history of American songwriting and songs that have been written about coal, citing Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and a few others. He went on to explain that Smoking Popes has released “Little Lump of Coal” as a single and all the proceeds will benefit The Natural Resources Defense Council. You can support their initiative by clicking HERE.
Towards the end of the set, Smoking Popes brought out the big guns with “Megan” and “Need You Around.” These hits really got the crowd going! Finally, the night ended with “I Know You Love Me” from the seminal album “Destination Failure.” Josh hopped off the stage and sang with the crowd. “Whoa oh oh oh, I know you love me”. The crowd sang along with smiles all around. Overall it was a great show. I’ll definitely catch them again the next time they come through!
Thanks so much to Josh Caterer for the guest spot!
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