REVIEW: SMOKE FAIRIES AND SEA OF BEES AT BRISTOL FLEECE (02/02/11)
A sudden surge of interest in floaty folk twosome ‘Smoke Fairies’ saw Bristol’s Fleece unusually and completely packed for a Wednesday night. Perhaps the demise of Jack White’s current band has sparked interest in the Sussex duo who signed to his Third Man label in 2009, perhaps their ‘Through Low Light and Trees’ album released in September 2010 has been a slow burner: whatever the reason they have pulled a large and seemingly devoted crowd.
The heavy folk influence upon this band is soon clear as the gentle, slow pace of the set carries the crowd from song to song unhurried. Blamire and Davies’ vocal harmonies weave each piece to its conclusion, building atmosphere rather than a crescendo. ‘Gastown’ demands silence from the audience with its intricate and quiet vocal lapping, evocative of the great lakes of Vancouver from which the song takes its name. It is hard to garner much from the lyrics as each song is so heavily indulgent that they are buried beneath layers of harmonies and steady guitar. In fact, by the time the set reaches ‘Erie Lackawanna’ the listener could be forgiven for thinking they are listening to a film soundtrack as the only clear lyrics burst through at the chorus ‘I can see a wrecking ball coming for the house, I can see a wrecking ball gonna tear it down’. A shame considering the historic rail road it conjures so well with the steady roll of guitar. These intriguing moments carry the duo through to the dark and mournful ‘Living With Ghosts’. Here the bands blues influence brings a tedious set to life, its steel guitar backs a throaty lament to a lost lover, the dominant vocal in this case from Davies, who brings a mature and weightier tone to the song as well as long awaited understandable lyrics. The commercially viable and probable hit single ‘Hotel Room’ closes the set and lifts the pace, waking the crowd before a pleasing encore including an excellent intertwining of blues and folk in ‘Frozen Heart’, slide guitar and folky tones coming together to produce the sound at the heart of the Smoke Fairies. The audience are left delighted and perhaps a little sleepy.
Extremely worthy of note is support act ‘Sea of Bees’ , namely Jules Baenzinge, who’s endearing stage presence is only surpassed by the effortless charm of her stunning songs. One could be forgiven for thinking that much of the audience in the Fleece were present only for her, given the amount of autographs and handshakes doled out at the close of Baezinge’s set. The delightfully uplifting ‘Skin Bone’, taken from ‘Songs for the Ravens’, is a song so delicate and wistful it immediately implants itself on the brain. Along with the heart breaking sincerity of ‘The Woods’ the Californian songstress performs a set that leaves some wondering if the billing should have been reversed.
Words: Helen Brown
Photo: Steve Palmer
by 247 Magazine