Friday, August 19, 2011

Smoke Fairies - Ryan McLaughlin -- Red Palace - Aug 18 2011

Ryan McLaughlin - He is from the band Typefighter, but tonight is singing and playing the acoustic guitar. I hear traces of Meic Stevens with more intensity in the voice and less spookiness in the guitar. When you have a mic and a guitar, there are about three main areas you can distinguish yourself. Songs, vocals and guitar style. With McLaughlin, his voice is what sets him apart. It covers a lot of ground with an interesting timbre to it. His guitar work is decent but nothing to comment on aside from energetic playing. His songs are good enough to give a little bit more attention to than average fare. This was a good set overall although it faded a bit due to some awkward stage patter. That's another area of elevated importance when it's just one person and one guitar. But I have seen enough to want to see his band some day.

Smoke Fairies - Here's another of my failed estimates at guessing crowd numbers. This female duo has made a nice name for themselves in their native England, so I thought they would draw way more than 35 people tonight. I even saw them referenced in a novel I read six months ago. But in doing quick scans of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone I think I detect a lot less coverage than in Mojo or Uncut. Too bad, as a lot of trendy people missed out on a great dose of psychedelic folk music of the melancholic variety. While free folk has been a bit overplayed, I was really impressed tonight that this duo channels back more directly to the great UK psyche-folk scene of old. The most obvious comparison would be to the UK group Chimera (not the Netherlands band). The magical female harmonies of that band were scarily similar to that of the Smoke Fairies. The ladies rarely sang individually and the harmonies danced between close proximity and more complex variants. I did rather expect that, but was surprised how impressive the guitar playing and sound was. They both played electric guitar (aside from one acoustic guitar on one song) which created the spooky psychedelic undercurrent reminiscent of a band like Stone Angel. There dark songs were perfectly countered with their dry British humour. They took some polite digs at their stops in Nebraska and said they learned that American highway patrolmen don't particularly accept being called idiotic even when they are. And they told a story of seeing a dying whale in California and added that they were afraid their songs were not depressing enough so they added the whale story. All I can say is that the subject matter of the songs may be sad and the mood chilled, but the beauty is majestic and this 65 minute had me soaring in the clouds. The great vibes from this set will stay with me for some time.

Quote of the Night: From Mr. McLaughlin "There's a funny story about how I wrote this song..." and he played the song.

And there's a hilarious story I can tell that just occurred prior to my posting this blog entry...


Ben said...

From someone else at the show, a very astute and knowledgeable write-up. The crowd was actually twice the size of their last NYC gig, which was heartening, and considering how sharp they sounded last night, a real treat for everyone I am sure. As someone who did an interview with them for Slant, also someone who spent some time hanging with them and their manager talking about the ins and outs of the business and so forth, I can tell you, yes, places like Pitchfork out right ignore them, though they push for those outlets. It is unfortunate, but their fan base is growing; and they're persistent and patient all the same.

David Hintz said...

Thanks for the information, Ben. Sharp is a good word to use. Their music really penetrated deep into my head. It does appear that they have rolled up their sleeves and are willing to endure the road and build their fanbase up one city at a time. I am with you in thinking that all who saw them will happily come again for the next tour. Hopefully they will get some media help as well as their music deserves it.