This is a band with gigs lined up at SXSW. This is a band with a song that was featured on NPR.org’s “Song of the Day”. This is a band branded as “One of 30 Bands to Watch” at Lollapalooza by Rolling Stone. With all of these accolades, you may be wondering a few things about these Brooklynites: Where have they been hiding? How have I missed them? And where are they headed?
The band’s stylistic choice of suits, ties and fedoras compliments the swinging nature of their music, a throwback to days when cigarette smoke hovered everywhere and things looked better in black and white. Smith is notorious for flamboyant dresses with short ruffled skirts, but don’t be fooled by her coquettish wardrobe, her pixie cut bangs or her dimples. This little lady is a rockstar and boasts a voice you will not believe.
The band’s music has an alluring balance and use of minor notes, crescendos and staccato rhythms. Likewise, Smith colors her vocals with an occasional cry or slide, and there is a strange Gwen Stefani-like shade to her sound at times, particularly in the haunting ballad, “Dixie Boy” (although I have no doubt that Smith could sing circles around Stefani).
The vibrant complexity of the songs is rounded out by Nick D'Agostino (like a contemporary mobster) on drums, Brandon Lowry on keys and accordion, Stevens on bass (both electric and upright) and Marty O’Kane on lead guitar and mandolin (played with uncanny vigor).
Halfway through the set, Smith declared: “I think it’s time to dance. I think a Charleston is in order.” And it was. Until, that is, Smith unleashed that extraordinary voice with its soaring resonance and effortless power, which instantly stopped you dead in your tracks, sending shivers up your spine.
At the end of the set, I overheard a man comment: She was on fire tonight! Which begged the question in my mind: When is she not? I have a feeling that any time April Smith performs, no matter how many times you’ve seen her, she leaves you thinking the same thing: Damn. Who is this girl and where did she come from?
Photo by Gavin Thomas from a show at the Bowery Ballroom