The Smoking Popes @ Turner Hall Ballroom
May 7, 2010
Its unfortunate the crowd was sparse because the
Popes delivered an energetic set that remembered why they were able to grab the
spotlight in the mid 1990s with their pop-punk sound, at times reminiscent of
The Popes, the core of which includes the Caterer
on guitar and vocals, Eli on guitar, Matt on bass—were joined by drummer Neil
Hennessy (also of The Lawrence Arms).
Like-minded bands So-So Radio and The Friendly Lens opened with short
sets mirror imaging The Smoking Popes’ sound.
The Popes launched with “Let’s Hear it For Love” and
ran through their catalog, including material from their latest album, It’s Been a Long Day, as well as newer
songs like “Welcome to Janesville.”
For most of the night, the audience had been sitting
around like kids at a high school dance, but they began to show enthusiasm and
danced to the catchy “Waiting Around.”
Strangely, one audience member thought the Popes
also needed a harmonica player. Dressed in a cowboy hat and vest, he stood by
the stage playing along, until he had a heated conversation with a large bald
audience member, causing security to intervene. It was an odd confrontation in
an otherwise ultra mellow crowd.
Josh Caterer had a very public conversion to
Christianity, but he was only vocal about it in one of the songs he sang, and
revealed a more secular Popes philosophy to the crowd halfway through the set.
“We’re happy to be alive and playing music—a great
combination,” he announced optimistically to the crowd. He also played a few
solo songs in the spotlight on acoustic guitar, including “Pure Imagination,”
from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate
The Popes saved their most famous tunes for the
encore, the punk rock love songs “I Know You Love Me” and “Need You Around.”
Photo by CJ Foeckler