FolkWorld #46 11/2011
© David Hintz

Soaring in the Clouds

Smoke Fairies @ Red Palace, Washington DC, Aug 19, 2011. |

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.

First published @

Photo Credits: (1) Smoke Fairies (unknown).

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