I've seen the future of SA rock and roll, and its name is Mercedes Smith.
Excuse me for ripping off Jon Landau, who in 1974 used the same line to famously predict the impact Bruce Springsteen would have in American music. Smith ain't no Bruce, but I couldn't stop thinking of the line when I watched her perform with her band Fiction, Friday at Hi-Tones.
The band went through every single song of their superb self-titled 2013 debut (plus one unreleased track, "Fixer") and Smith confirmed to be a natural. Yes, they all collaborate on the songs and the album is pure teamwork, but in concert, it's all about Mercedes—she's a natural performer with amazing stage presence and is in absolute control of her body; she's a solid singer with ample range, a decent guitarist (she has a mean right hand and couldn't care less about using the wrong fret 'cause she knows it's not about that), and she didn't beat around the bush, throwing bombs from the get go.
While new bassist Tony Sidari and drummer Christopher Doyle kept a firm groove without unnecessary fireworks, Jessica Bartolett and Smith (who can both play lead and second guitar) engaged in a magic counterpoint all night long. Fiction has very few solos (mostly by Bartolett, who is subtle but precise); what the band does, though, is let Smith and Bartolett play off each other, with Bartolett usually laying a countermelody to Smith's wild trips.
My only suggestion for the future: I don't know if Bartolett is shy or what, but get her out of that ridiculous corner she plays at—at least during the "dueling guitar" parts, Tony should go to the side and Bartolett should be right next to Smith to let the sparks fly.
The band is currently working on a new album I can't wait to hear. Until then, check them out at arewenotfiction.com.
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