Urban Lounge, SLC
I'd never been to a show at the Urban Lounge before, but the one thing I was told repeatedly about the venue is that the shows start late. And, true to the information I'd received, showing up at 9 o'clock means waiting for a full hour before the music begins. But time passes quickly as people shuffle for position and grab a beer from the bar - the atmosphere is relaxed and the setting quite casual. I'm curious about the opening act, April Smith & The Great Picture Show, as they've just recently crossed my radar. Having only heard a few songs and equipped with little information about the band, I'm eager to see what kind of impression they'll make to a crowd that I imagine is similarly uninitiated. The group is dressed to kill and each member look happy to be there, and after a sound check on a small stage crowded with instruments, they're ready to get things started.
Fortunately, April Smith and company waste no time and make good use of their opening slot, plunging right in to a set of jazzy pop tunes that win over the audience quite completely after only a few minutes. Smith's small frame belies a powerful voice, and she belts out bright melodies as the band transplants the venue back about 6o years with their classic, bluesy style. With each passing song the crowd loosens up a bit more, and eventually there's plenty of dancing and clapping along with the music while those on stage continue smiling and joking throughout their 40 minute set. The group's energy is infectious and their talent easy to appreciate as they play everything from a sassy, anti-valentines day song to unabashed love anthems, and it all ends far too soon even with the thought of hearing from Fanfarlo later (though it makes the parting more bearable). I'm thoroughly impressed; I make a note to check out more from April Smith & The Great Picture Show as soon as I'm home.
April Smith MySpace
Fanfarlo doesn't take the stage until well after 11, but the energy in the room hasn't dissipated - only increased along with the size of the crowd. The quintet, looking distinctly British against this very American setting, have a nervous energy about them and look somehow younger than I expected, but their music immediately makes it clear that their considerable musicianship and performing ability is going to make for a great show. Kicking off with "Drowning Man" and continuing into Reservoir opener "I'm a Pilot," the group's sound fills the room completely, making the club feel far to small to contain the anthematic choruses and gorgeous harmonies that characterize the band's style. Fanfarlo don't talk much, but they seem pleased with the good reception they're getting from the crowd and come across as warm and personable when they do speak. It's just obvious that they'd rather have the music do the communicating, and it indeed speaks volumes to this very eager audience.
Popular favorites from their debut album, "Harold T. Wilkins" and "The Walls Are Coming Down," are especially effective, though my personal highlight occurs when they play the beautifully melodic "Finish Line" halfway through the set and execute the song to perfection, and with that special energy you can only convey in a live performance. Their set feels a little short (probably 45 minutes or so), but they're quick to give an encore after a sustained and enthusiastic cheer from all of us, and given both the hour and the quality of the performances thus far, nobody feels much like complaining. I had entered this evening with high hopes and now found them surpassed as I headed for the door. One of my favorite up-and-coming bands from last year had more than lived up to my expectations, and I'd been given a fantastic introduction to an exciting new group as well. A memorable evening, to say the least.
(sorry, no good pictures from the show for you!)