It’s rather uncommon for an opening act not only to catch, but also, to hold, my interest at a concert. The only other times I can recall this happening was when Patty Griffin (now one of my favorites!) opened for The Dixie Chicks in 1999, and also, when a young, unknown singer by the name of Celine Dion opened for Michael Bolton in 1992. Yes, I just admitted I went to a Michael Bolton concert (Don’t judge! It was my first concert ever and I rather enjoyed it, even though my taste in music has changed dramatically since then).
That being said, I recently caught Jenny Owen Youngs at Hotel Café in Hollywood where the opening act was April Smith and the Great Picture Show. I had never heard of them before, but after five minutes of their performance, I had to ask myself WHY I hadn’t heard of them before. They were incredible. Fun, catchy, lively and loud. And even – dare I say? – a little Rilo Kiley-esque with a vintage flair.
If you haven’t heard of April Smith and the Great Picture Show yet, I suggest you jump on the bandwagon. Their song “Terrible Things” is currently being used in the season six promo for Showtime’s “Weeds.” Their fan-funded new album, “Songs for a Sinking Ship,” is full of ‘30s and ‘40s inspired music fused with jazzy vocals. Smith can’t be much more than five feet tall and 100 pounds, but when she hits the power notes, it’s hard to believe that such a fiery, growling voice can come out of her little frame!
The album kicks off on a high note with “Movie Loves a Screen,” which is full of energetic beats. “Drop Dead Gorgeous” is the best premise for a song I’ve heard in a long time. It’s all about dating someone who is devastatingly good-looking, but lacks the brains to even carry on a conversation: “Oh you’re so enchanting when your mouth closed/And with a mouth like that, who needs politics and prose?”
In “Colors” (my personal favorite on the album) Smith evokes the likes of Patsy Cline while singing, “I’ll wear your colors my dear until you’re standing right here/Next to the one who adores you, whose heart is beating for you.” The album takes a somber turn during the heartbreakingly poignant “Beloved.” Smith’s dynamic vocals are paralyzing in this deeply affecting, morose number. “Stop Wondering” features a playful piano as she flirtatiously muses about emphatically telling her ex that she is absolutely not thinking of him, even throwing in a comedic, “B*tch, please!”
The modern and quirky lyrics paired with nostalgic, old-fashioned melodies make for a musical genre rarely heard these days. “Songs for a Sinking Ship” could also be called “Songs You Want to Sing Along With,” or, “Songs You Want To Dance To,” or even, “Songs That Can Bridge the Generational Music Gap.”
I can’t wait to see this group live again and I’m curious to see what they do next.