September: April Smith and the Great Date [Fukubukuro]
January 10th, 2011 by Dan


I’d seen The Girl twice before. Once at an Orioles game, where we chatted more than we watched baseball. She was a friend of a friend and I didn’t expect to see her again. The next time I saw her was at my own house, during my housewarming party. The friend I knew brought her along with him. While her stay at the party lasted until the next afternoon, I would have still been reluctant to say that I really knew her, yet I had invited her out to see a band.

Without a doubt, I was being oversensitive, but I take my music and my recommendations (too) seriously. I was taking my date to see a girl-led, 1920s-style band playing music I guarantee she’s never heard before and whose musical tastes were described to me as rap/hip hop or country. New relationships are fragile creatures. Who knows what kinds of conclusions she might draw about me based on what April Smith’s live show was like. I’d never seen her live before, myself. She could very well practice human sacrifice each night. My point is that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

You may also remember that it was only months before during a concert I had experienced turbulence with another girl, but I had confidence in this show. I’d been listening to her CD for about two weeks and I was absolutely floored by her voice. It reminds you that in this world of auto-tune and pop princesses there are still legitimately powerful and unique female voices in music. April Smith isn’t about vocal trickery, she’s about vocal force.

We went to dinner at a pizza place in DC. I’d been there before on other dates with other girls and I knew they made solid sangria and a decent pizza. The Girl turned out to be an extremely picky and selective eater, which made pizza ordering difficult. Let me tell you, picky and selective does not inspire much confidence in me that she’ll be receptive to the brand new musical experience I was about to take her to.

I’ve realized this year that adventurous, receptive personalities are attractive to me. There’s a part of me that gets tired and bored of the familiar. Not so much so that I can’t appreciate it, but enough that I crave something new. It’s why I’ve been seeking different and disparate musical influences throughout the whole year and also why I stopped boycotting hip hop. It’s not really a deal breaker for me, certainly not on the first date, but I don’t know that I would be able to handle someone who stubbornly resisted change.

Sure, it’s human to be anxious and a little reluctant. I get that, but I’m just not afraid of it. That or maybe I just like an audience. The whole time I was eating bizarre foods I’d never heard of in Japan, I relished in the reactions of my fellow tour goers. If I could manage to freak them out with my food then I felt I had succeeded. Likewise, when we took the train to a part of town that neither of us had ever been, I was feeding off of The Girl’s inherent unease at being in a part of DC she’d never seen.

The venue was about as perfect as it gets. DC9 is a tiny, two-storey affair in NW DC (according to the street names) with plenty on tap and a stage upstairs. The Girl and I knocked a few back waiting for the opening act to finish her thing. I normally like to hear what the opener is like, but tonight I wanted to get to know The Girl a little better.

I think what I love most about April Smith is that she’s got a real personality that shines through her music. Whether she’s rebuking a jilted lover in “Stop Wondering”, stepping up to a rival in “Dixie Boy”, or singing about her long-distance love in “Colors”, she seems to avoid most of the tropes and lyrical cliches. I guess you’d have to be pretty quirky to settle on a 1920s sound for your band.

To my benefit, DC9 was packed enough that there wasn’t enough space for too much dancing. I can move, if forced, but dancing is neither my forte nor a favored activity of mine. Nevertheless, I held The Girl close and we swayed to the music. Her apprehension faded away the more she listened. My hunch was correct.

It was a Thursday and we both had to work the next day. When you combine that with the train schedule deadline, we didn’t have much time to linger after the show. The Girl was headed in the opposite direction that I was, but I waited with her until her train showed up. It would be so much more poetic if we truly did part ways that night, but I saw her twice more before we broke things off. On the train ride home I thought of the good night I had, excited for things that would never happen. Oh well, I still got to see a killer show.

April Smith & the Great Picture Show at Millennium Stage

8 Responses  
  • Eric Mesa writes:
    January 10th, 201113:34at

    Pretty interesting that concerts have turned out this way. At least you’re not a superstitious person or you’d stop going to concerts when you were dating.

    Also: Now I finally understand why you suddenly liked rap again.

    • Dan writes:
      January 10th, 201114:13at

      More on that (rap) later.

  • Eric Mesa writes:
    January 14th, 201110:42at

    Well, I finally heard Ms Smith. I like it a lot! I hope it’s not one of those things like Lou Bega where it’s a one (album) trick pony. I have always loved these older musical styles and it’s fun to hear them combined with modern sensibilities, lyrics, and subjects. So I hope she comes out with another album and I hope that other artists continue to explore older forms of music. Even groups that don’t go that far back like Cee Lo Green’s Neo-Soul which only goes back to the 60s it a breath of fresh air – especially when done right.

    • Dan writes:
      January 14th, 201110:47at

      “Songs For A Sinking Ship” came out in February and the band has been touring that album for most of the year. We’ll see if she comes out with anything new in 2011 or 2012

      • Eric Mesa writes:
        January 14th, 201110:52at

        Right now, I think my favorite song is “Wow and Flutter”. (If that’s the one about the cake) I like the lyrics. I also liked a surprise lyric in “Dixie Boy”

        • Dan writes:
          January 14th, 201110:57at

          “Wow and Flutter” is probably their best live song. She closes shows with it and all the band members play little solos. It’s pretty awesome.

  • Peachie writes:
    December 17th, 20158:24at

    I am trying find out what has happened to April Smith and the Great Picture Show?
    any idea?

    One great Album and they disappear?….don’ think so.

    • Dan writes:
      December 17th, 201511:52at

      April Smith had a baby and her activity slowed down, but I don’t really know if they’re still playing as a band. Their site isn’t plugging any shows.

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