Live Review: Public Service Broadcasting with Smoke Fairies at Dublin Button Factory – 5th May 2015

By on Friday, 8th May 2015 at 2:30 pm

Early start times for European gigs always seem counterintuitive to me, but there is one major benefit for shows starting in the 7 o’clock hour: you aren’t left waiting ages for your favourite band to go on. Doors were at 7:30 at the Button Factory this past Tuesday night in Dublin, and less than 10 minutes had passed before the opening band, Smoke Fairies from London, took the stage, looking very rocker grrrl chic in figure hugging black and gold short dresses.

The duo released their fourth and self-titled album last year, and their set in Dublin was a nice mix of tunes from that album, 2012’s ‘Blood Speaks’ and 2010’s ‘Through Low Lights and Trees’. While album title track ‘Blood Speaks’ is a dreamier number showcasing the ladies’ fine siren voices, ‘Eclipse Them All’ from the most recent regular album is a slower burn; older and uber catchy track ‘Hotel Room’ proves to be at home with the newer set opener ‘Shadow Inversions’, reminding everyone of their bluesier roots.

Smoke Fairies at Dublin Button Factory

I feel very lucky to have the means to travel and see my favourite bands outside of America. Public Service Broadcasting are, from my impression, doing quite well for themselves in Britain, easily selling out venues across the country; and judging from the crowds that assembled to see them in March at SXSW 2015, their popularity is on the way up stateside too. On the recommendation on PSB head guy J. Willgoose, Esq. during my chat with him in Austin, I was able to include their show in Dublin on my current holiday, as he assured me the Irish capital were always “their best crowds”. If you are scheduled to see them play at a UK music festival this summer, have not seen them this year in the UK and wish not to have spoilers, stop reading.

Public Service Broadcasting at Dublin Button Factory

In addition to the curly-haired Wrigglesworth on drums and assorted percussion who has been with him even before the first time TGTF ever saw them play at Newcastle Cluny back in May 2013, Willgoose is now joined by jack of all trades J.F. Abraham on guitar, bass, tambourine and yes, even flugelhorn; in the back in a much less conspicuous location is the mysterious Mr. B., in charge of the visuals and one particularly important piece of stage equipment I have so far neglected to mention. PSB’s ‘pet’ for this UK/Irish tour to support ‘The Race for Space’ is Sputnik, a lighted, silvery sphere with lighted ‘legs’ that a child of a NASA scientist such as myself was all too familiar with in my younger years. In addition to the two large screens at the back of the stage and the towers of antiquated tellys at opposite sides at the front of the stage, Sputnik provides an unusual yet perfect focal point for the evening’s proceedings.

Rising up magnificently and totally unexpectedly from an otherwise non-descript black cloth-covered box centre stage, Sputnik is deployed and first appears, during initial relentless thuds of the song bearing his name, introduced by the now famous robotic voice from Willgoose’s Macbook saying, “this is a new one about Russians.” Within Sputnik is a coloured light display so that he can flash the letters “PSB” during ‘Theme from PSB’, images of ice skaters in action during ‘Elfstedentocht Part 2’ (“who would like to hear a song about ice skating and the Dutch?”) and a rolling display of the colours of the rainbow during ‘ROYGBIV’.

Public Service Broadcasting at Dublin Button Factory

Production values for a PSB gig have never been better, and this is great, because the band has never sounded better either. One could easily argue that their sophomore album ‘The Race for Space’ shows the band at their funkiest ever, and Wrigglesworth’s handiness with his drum kit along with various drum pads to ‘play’ xylophone is a joy to watch. Mumford and Sons may have ditched their banjoes but Willgoose hasn’t, proving there is a way to include the folk instrument into ‘ROYGBIV’ and contemporary music without causing an audience to fall asleep. Smoke Fairies, whose guest vocals graced PSB’s ‘Valentina’, took to the stage again to massive cheers as a live collaboration otherwise only available on record took place right before our very eyes. When it came time for the encore, we were in for another surprise: during ‘The Race for Space’ lead single ‘Gagarin’, their own astronaut in full spacesuit came out to funk out to the music. Ha! Brilliant.

A particularly uplifting moment offered up on ‘The Other Side’, chronicling the Apollo 8 mission and during which the moon was successfully reached and orbited in 1968, is super humbling given that we’re in the year 2015. We live in a time in mankind that the International Space Station is now a thing and the Cold War is over. Just decades before, putting man into space was considered a monumental feat, let alone having human beings living and conducting experiments up in the heavens.

Public Service Broadcasting at Dublin Button Factory

‘Everest’, which has become PSB’s closing number, was a bittersweet ending, given the recent earthquake in Nepal. The niche Public Service Broadcasting fits in our music business is a special one: for sure, they are for the thinking music fan, but their music reminds us of our own humanity, of our successes, of our frailties. Long may they continue to make us think and make us dance.

After the cut: Public Service Broadcasting’s set list. For more on PSB on TGTF, head this way. For Smoke Fairies’ coverage, go here.

Public Service Broadcasting at Dublin Button Factory

Public Service Broadcasting Set List:
Signal 30
Theme from PSB
Night Mail
Valentina (with Smoke Fairies)
Elfstedentocht Part 2
If War Should Come
The Other Side

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[…] written an excellent blog post about touring with musicians friends of ours (female), a tour I was lucky enough to catch in Dublin.) In the first chorus, the lyrics suggests as hard as Lewis tries to be loose and relaxed about […]

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