Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The morning that April Smith and her very own Great Picture Show were making a quick swing through Rock Island's way was all the way back in August of 2009, the day following her appearance at Lollapalooza. It was, as you can imagine, sticky hot outside, clammy with perspiration and yet, there in the Chicago press that morning were glowing reviews of her set - deemed to be one of the standout performances of the day and it had the whole tired bunch walking on clouds a little bit. The outside temperatures weren't bothering anyone. The atmosphere was chill and alive. The takes that they tracked that morning with us are now evidence of what those journalists at the massive outdoor festival saw the afternoon before - caught completely off-guard by a young woman from Brooklyn singing her rickety and feisty as hell cabaret/youthful blues, still piping with swagger and confidence and the attitude of someone who's never, ever going to get pushed around - not by a stupid and gutless man. It's music that makes you cheer wildly for the no good dogs of men to get the tar kicked out of them for all their low-down transgressions and carelessness that they really thought they were going to get away with. "Oh no you don't," Smith seems to stomp, glare and wail with every single song that she lays on you, reaching for heavenly notes with a devilish grin and shooting a look that's full of sex and ice. She's both of those things when she sings, this being whose every thought and move get their instincts and their structure from an incurable soft spot for the things that not only the heart wants, but that the flesh also wants. For these songs of love's betrayal and their stiff voice of response of not needing to have to put up with any of these flashes of bullshit that flame up and cause all kinds of nasty problems almost certainly cannot be the sole expressions of a tender definition of "love" as a negotiable or sensible notion - one that so often is poorly explained away as a heart's breaking. Not here with Miss Smith and the Great Picture Show, a talented group that follows the fiery demonstrativeness of its lead singer, who seems as if with every performance she could destroy all circuit breakers in the room, just popping the lights dead with her shattering sort of powerfulness and the conviction of her emotions. She quakes with these quivering thoughts of another and they are plumbed from her, coming from the tips of her toes and the very bottom of her belly's cavity. Hell hath no fury is a phrase that comes to mind as Smith bares her pointed teeth and sends lighting cuts through the moment, airing her grievances and warning that she's got the big bad wolf at your door, knocking and bound to get in and let the fur fly. She makes us feel as if all of these hurt feelings and stunted relationships tossed around here are part of some swinging party that could again lead to the same exhilarating circumstances that got us into this mess in the first place. An early evening of fevered dancing and panting might lead to more of the same, just a different kind.