Smith Westerns Final Show-Lincoln Hall 12/23/2014

Cullen Omori at Schubas 4/5/2013

I barely made it to the venue in time to catch the beginning of the show-an uncharacteristic early start for a headlining act. When ticketholders would normally just start trickling in, Lincoln Hall was already packed. I tried to go in the first entrance and got stuck at the stairs, an impenetrable sea of fans between myself and the stage. I went around to the other side and settled near the bottom of the steps after discovering obstructed views at every turn down the ramp.

Cullen and Cameron Omori took the stage, the only remaining members of the band they founded in high school. They were joined by a new drummer named Matt and a guy named Adam on guitar (who wailed just as well as Max Kakacek ever did). The group rocked and rolled through the whole catalogue, playing tunes from Soft Will, Dye It Blonde, and their first self-titled record. They even played a tune Cullen said was going to be on his solo album he’s been putting together.

There was a lot of talk throughout the show. Cullen never seemed so affable as he thanked the adoring fans for all the support. He went so far as to say he wanted to cry, but he was too embarrassed because he didn’t want to cry in front of such cool people. He also had some great intros for songs, including “This one is a real panty-peeler” and “This song was written by a young man…when he was 17…or 18…” Mostly it was a fun show with a greatest hits feel, but it was also kind of sad knowing that this would be the last time we’d hear these songs performed live by one of Chicago’s favorite bands.

I took some short video clips that you can see on my Instagram. It’ll be nice to be able to go back and get a taste of that night again and again, hearing the quiet acceptance in Cullen’s voice signifying that this is the end. The people in the front of the audience may need a reminder of the night, as they were jumping up and down, knocking in to each other with reckless abandon. There were even a few crowd jumpers that dove from the stage. Cullen said he was fine with this, so long as you “don’t step on my shit and turn it all off.”

It was a fitting end for a fantastic band whose members will surely go on to make more great music.

In their memory, here’s a video from a show I saw them play last year at Schubas (this song hadn’t even been released yet):

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