Friday, December 4, 2009

Concert Review: Smile Smile at Emo's

Smile Smile live at Emo's (photo by Sarah Vasquez)

Thursday night at Emo’s, in the midst of all the Red River history performing that night, was a quiet young indie duo no one seemed to recognize. Dallas, Texas’s Smile Smile was the indie pop break between a line-up of power pop heavy hitters like Cruiserweight, The Riddlin’ Kids and their touring mates, Bowling for Soup. It was all an interesting experience to say the least.

As I arrived at Emo’s local pop punk and Red River icons, Cruiserweight, were finishing up their set. I know Stella Maxwell’s voice anywhere, as I have seen them so many times over the years here in Austin. They did a great job of pumping up the crowd only for Smile Smile to bring them down shortly thereafter.

As Smile Smile took the stage, I wasn’t surprised to see the teeny pop punk kids give them funny looks, as if they were thinking “Where’s the rest of the band?” or “Are these the kids from Juno?”. What they didn’t know, besides who they actually were, is that the two have an interesting history which would come out in the music they were about to play.

Smile Smile lead singer/guitarist Ryan Hamilton and pianist Jencey Hirunrusme were in a relationship when they started the band. They recorded their first album, Blue Roses, when they were still together. Their relationship eventually lead to an engagement and then to a break up. Despite the break up, the two carried on with Smile Smile and have a new album coming in February of next year. The duo’s music they performed Thursday night reflected all that.

They opened their set with the upbeat “Anymore”, perhaps as an inside joke amongst each other. Hamilton’s indie rock angst mixed with Hirunrusme’s sad sweetness make for an interesting dynamic on stage. Can you imagine writing songs about an ex, singing them to her and then performing with them in front of hundreds of strangers? I can’t. You’d understand if you knew my exes. My break up songs would be totally post-rock or punk.

All of their songs pretty much had that ended relationship sort of theme. After Anymore, they went into “Beg You to Stay” and “Sad Song” towards the end of their set. Both tracks belong in a heart wrenching break up scene on a CW show or a Focus Film. That Ryan Hamilton is a sad dude, or was when he was writing.

His hurt and sadness still shows a little here and there on stage, as Hirunrusme had to have the audience tell Hamilton to stop yelling at her. The young girls standing in the front gladly abliged. She may have been playing around, but underneath it all was a plea to stop the hurt. It was in her eyes even though she tried to hide it with a smile and her hair. Being so close to the stage, it was plain as day to me. Hamilton even snapped back just a little, just enough to not sound like an angry jerk. He said something to her about going too fast or her impatience as she hit her iPod, which was attached to her keyboard, too early.

Smile Smile live at Emo's (photo by Sarah Vasquez)

Other than that, they nailed their set without being booed or having people walk away. Sure some were talking and texting during their slower stuff, but the pop punk crowd was won over with Smile Smile’s indie version of the classic Blink 182 cover, “Dammit”. It was the most memorable moment for me other than their little lovers quarrel. The only thing I was left wondering is whether or not the duo will sustain long enough to support their album, “Truth On Tape”, which is being released on February 16, 2010. I hope they do. Even though I wasn’t too crazy about them personally, I can see a lot of people really liking their music as a way to help cope with the rough relationship patches in their life.

To better understand this dynamic and check out a couple of live clips, watch this video:

Smile Smile set list from their Emo's Austin show on December 3, 2009:


Beg You to Stay

Tempo Bledsoe



The Attic


Sad Song

Truth on Tape

For more on Smile Smile, visit the following links:

Smile Smile on MySpace

Smile Smile official website

(Review written for and published on

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