This week I have been reminded of the inspirational power of live music. No matter how humdrum life feels, to listen to a live gig is to experience pure, one-off creation, happening right there before you. The act of creation is intrinsically exciting and, combined with the nuanced aesthetics of music (e.g. lyricism, harmony, evocativeness, ability to express emotions), often incredibly moving. Such a heady mix creates a simple and effective way to bring meaning to life when struggling to find it. No wonder music is of such huge, unifying importance to humans – have you ever come across anyone that doesn’t like music? Plus, attending a gig is a way of connecting with other people; with the musicians, through their music, and with the rest of the audience, with whom there exists a temporary bond of shared appreciation during the performance.
This reminder came to me on Monday night when, extending the pretence that I don’t have to work for a living, I tagged a trip down to Bristol onto the end of my holiday, to catch a gig at The Fleece (a famous Bristolian live music venue) with a friend. We went to see the Smoke Fairies, an intriguing and insanely talented couple of girls (who, I have found out, are childhood friends of a friend – weird) who seem to have turned ‘genre-defying’ into an earnest hobby. For a start, their band comprised a brilliantly motley collection of characters, each looking like they were in fancy-dress representing a particular genre or era, such that, when they first came on stage, I half expected them to do the YMCA dance. There was a Benni Bjorn look-alike in full seventies regalia on the bass, a folk-lite version of Dave Grohl on the fiddle and a rather grumpy looking Little Richard on drums, and their roadie looked like a hybrid of Legolas and Bill Bailey. Brilliantly bonkers.
But it was the eponymous fairies, Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies, who really stopped me in my tracks and prompted this blog entry; two sexy, sassy girls owning the electric guitar and bewitching the audience with throaty lows and crystal pure highs in the vocal range. They made me feel a bit hot under the collar, so goodness knows what the men were experiencing. Jessica was rocking the Blondie look with severe, asymmetric hair and intimidating eye-make-up. She was wearing what appeared to be a very small blanket, mysteriously pinned together – a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen (although, bad times for the men, miraculously averted on this occasion). Katherine, diminutive and intense, reminded me a lot of Natalie Portman, and has therefore possibly risen to the realms of girl-crush. She was so beguiling – an enviably haunting, pitch-perfect voice with an unbelievable range, a doll-like stature, which constrasted with her awesome ability to rock out on the electric guitar, a flawless complexion and an arresting face with delicate bone structure, heavy brows and glossy hair. Together, the two of them embodied an alluring mix of ethereal and gritty that fully lived up to the apt perfection of their band name.
But, as well as the visual impact, it was their two voices melding seamlessly together that really created the power of their unique sound. I am a huge fan of vocal harmonies, and these girls had it nailed. It was often hard to determine who was singing which part, so beautifully were their notes joined together, and I was watching avidly. Add to that some heavy guitar, poignant lyrics, heart-snapping fiddle and energetic drums and bass and you get – well, it defies genre… you get the Smoke Fairies, I guess. Definitely go and see them if you get the chance.
The Smoke Fairies (image credit: Beat Surrender)