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Live Gig Video: Smoke Fairies play ‘Shadow Inversions’ on Village Underground’s rooftop

 
By on Friday, 24th July 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

If you live in London (hell, if you’ve ever seen a gig in London or entertained the idea of doing so), it’s likely you’ve heard of the unique art and performance space Village Underground in Hackney. The famous venue is now in the midst of filming a series of live sessions outdoor to the venue, such as on its own rooftop. Last week, the musicians du jour to grace their open air stage were the bluesy, psychedelic and at times introspective rockers Smoke Fairies, whose performance of ‘Shadow Inversions’ from their 2014 self-titled, fourth album. Check out the reverb and echoes from the Southern duo on this video below.

For more on Smoke Fairies on TGTF, go here.

 

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

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

 

Smoke Fairies / December 2014 English Tour

 
By on Friday, 14th November 2014 at 8:00 am
 

Header photo by Kamil Kustosz

London-based alt-folk duo Smoke Fairies have just announced a brief Christmas tour of independent record stores in England, supporting their seasonal album ‘Wild Winter’, which will be sold exclusively on CD and LP in Rough Trade record stores. The pair says of their take on the traditional Christmas album:

We have a love/hate relationship with winter and the Christmas holiday. When it was suggested Smoke Fairies make a Christmas album the last thing we wanted to do was make a classic, jolly, celebratory album that can only be played once a year. Sometimes winter provides us with a sense of togetherness and love and sometimes it leaves us feeling alienated, cold and playing a glockenspiel alone in a darkened room. It’s part of the year that will always be bittersweet and wild. We got together with our band, played around with the songs a few times then headed off to the studio to record them all live. It’s buzzy and raw and not one tinkling of sleigh bells can be heard.

You can stream the album’s first track, ‘Christmas Without a Kiss’, below the tour date listing. Pre-orders for the album and tickets for the following shows are available from Rough Trade here.

Tuesday 9th December 2014 – Bristol Rise
Wednesday 10th December 2014 – Nottingham Rough Trade
Friday 12th December 2014 – London Rough Trade East (with DJ Bob Stanley)

 

Live Review: Smoke Fairies with Marian McLaughlin at DC9, Washington DC – 5th September 2014

 
By on Monday, 8th September 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Appearances can be deceiving when it comes to English girl duo Smoke Fairies. Though they might be sporting flowing tresses and wearing simple white dresses on this night that seemed to indicate innocence, their music isn’t entirely dream pop as inaccurately described on Wikipedia. Or at least I think the label does them no favours, actually dismissing their craft. Their affinity for American style blues, which Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies picked up on when they spent a year studying in New Orleans, is what I find most interesting about their music. The last time I saw the pair perform, they were supporting a then unknown in the States Laura Marling, so I was eager to see and hear how their sound had evolved from that time 4 years ago.

Opening for Smoke Fairies was Marian McLaughlin, a local singer/songwriter who performed this night by herself. She released an album on her own this past January, called ‘Dérive’. McLaughlin began her set with ‘Heavier-than-air’, which she described as relating to the early days of human flight. I appreciate her willingness to tackle heavier subject matter than what is usual for this kind of music. The at times slightly more frenetic ‘Horse’ showed off her vocal talents, as well as her guitar-picking skill.

After the show, she had mentioned to us that when she can, she performs with a string quartet, but unfortunately the quartet was already booked out for that night when she’d arranged the gig. One has to wonder how much bigger of an impression McLaughlin would have made with them backing her. If you’re interested in hearing more, check out her Tiny Desk concert (with said string section) on the NPR Web site.

Watching singer/songwriters live is usually a dubious exercise for me. My usual problem with the genre is that the lyrical content is too banal, simple or devoid of emotion to capture my attention. Thankfully, in the case of Smoke Fairies, they have something in their arsenal that you would never guess if all you knew of was what they looked like. Live, the conclusion of ‘Misty Versions’ is swirling about in a psychedelic way, yet it’s organised chaos as the rhythm section comes together with the dreamy vocals (okay, yes, I’ll give you that) to create a juxtaposition of elements that shouldn’t work on paper but somehow do. In contrast, slow-burning number ‘Eclipse Them All’ comes across as sultry and almost a little dangerous. Later on the set, faster tempoed ‘Hotel Room’ proved the evening’s standout, recalling foot-stomping blues numbers of the past.

After the cut: Smoke Fairies’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Smoke Fairies with Marian McLaughlin at DC9, Washington DC – 5th September 2014

 

Live Gig Video: Smoke Fairies’ videographer shares a film of the duo recording for Upstairs at United

 
By on Thursday, 18th April 2013 at 4:00 pm
 

There are plenty of fan-made live videos on the internet. But how often do you get a really nicely filmed and made short film like this by a videographer who fell in love with a support act while working for another? It’s not fantasy, this is the real-life story of how Luke Norby came to make this inside peek in Smoke Fairies‘ recording process during a very special event. The duo – Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies – were only the second artists ever to be invited to record for the Upstairs at United series in Nashville, and now you can catch all the action from October 2011 in this film. Watch it below.

 

Live Review: Laura Marling with Pete Roe and Smoke Fairies at Iota, Arlington, VA – 16 May 2010

 
By on Wednesday, 19th May 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Good folk singer/songwriters show that they can play their instrument well along with singing to tell a compelling story. Iota is ‘the’ place for country / folk-type acts to play in the D.C. area (for example, the venue played host to Fanfarlo last December). So for Laura Marling‘s first appearance in the Washington DC area, what better place to see her than at the smallish club in the Clarendon neighbourhood of Arlington, Virginia?

Pete Roe, ‘discovered’ by London independent record label Communion probably as he was playing piano for Marling live in concert, started the evening off right with a short but enjoyable set of well-crafted folk songs. If you want to see true talent, listen to a singer/songwriter stand in front of a microphone with nothing but his voice and guitar. In the case of Roe, the warm timbre of his voice perfectly complemented his dexterity on acoustic guitar. Just gorgeous. His EP entitled ‘The Merry-Go-Round’ is set to be released on 07 June.

The second act to play, Smoke Fairies, seemed to be a mismatch for Pete Roe and Laura Marling. They’re a four-piece band fronted by two very fetching women, Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire, singing amazing harmonies. I say they were a mismatch because their songs generally are harder than what is normally considered ‘folk’ and at times even skirt the line for rhythm and blues, as in the song ‘Sunshine’. Blamire in particular shone with her mastery of the guitar, whether she was picking notes or playing slide guitar, making me wonder if she’s studied Jimmy Page’s style. For example, see their ‘River Song’, sounding like Led Zeppelin’s softer numbers, like ‘The Battle of Evermore’ or ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’.

People had been milling about, getting drinks from the bar, and quietly chatting during the first two acts. But when it came time for Laura Marling, everyone stayed put where they were as if children at school assembly. Marling came onstage, putting on one of several acoustic guitars, and looked over the crowd nervously. I was surprised to see that she was back to blonde hair, as all the promos she’s done for her current album ‘I Speak Because I Can’ (reviewed on TGTF here) she is a brunette. Come to think of it, this change in hair colour actually made her more human and less massive folk star, because no longer was she this mysterious woman framed by long brown hair – she’d turned into the girl next door, looking as innocent as a priest’s daughter.

I’ve never been a huge fan of her work but I was taken by the song ‘Rambling Man’ that seems to be a mainstay on 6music as of late. But I can say for certain that as soon as Marling opened her mouth I was bewitched by this woman. She stood in front of us, at first looking anxious, playing her guitar and singing about life and love effortlessly and brilliantly. She became visibly more comfortable as the night wore on, spurred on by the clapping, whistling and shouts of “I love you!” coming from the appreciative crowd. It seems to me that nearly every man I know in England is in love with her, and I can see why. She isn’t even of legal drinking age in America yet, but she sings with wisdom as if she has lived several lifetimes.

The title track of her Mercury Prize-nominated debut, ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’, is a simple, sweet, yet quite astute look on life, and newer tracks ‘Devil’s Spoke’ and ‘I Speak Because I Can’ are hauntingly beautiful. The highlight of the night for me was ‘Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)’, which Marling prefaced asking if anyone had been to England before (many people in the audience whooped delightedly to affirm this) and explained it was a song that she sings because she is homesick for England. I nearly wept. Not just because I miss England as well but because the song is just a gorgeous piece of music and live, it completely blew me away.


After the cut: more photos and Laura Marling set list.

Continue reading Live Review: Laura Marling with Pete Roe and Smoke Fairies at Iota, Arlington, VA – 16 May 2010

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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