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Smoke Fairies, The Enterprise, Chalk Farm, London, August 11th 2010

August 18, 2010

This semi-secret Smoke Fairies gig was in the tiny upstairs room of The Enterprise, a Chalk Farm boozer that, as my old friend and compadre for the evening Mick the Banjo moaned, seems to have become part of the tiresomeness that is ‘Camden’. This is not so much the place as a grubby concept that encompasses overpriced teen-tribe clothing, unsmokable ‘legal highs’, squits-inducing street food and gangs of out-of-town youngsters aimlessly milling around wondering where ‘the action’ is. Early evening in The Enterprise can be quite pleasant, though, and we downed a few pints of Adnams Best before heading upstairs.

I was keen to see the support, who was the up-and-coming and highly promising young folk picker Ben Folke Thomas, a Swedish-born stalwart of Andy Hankdog’s Easycome Acoustic Club. He’s a big fella and carries his acoustic guitar much as the bear-like John Martyn did – at least when the latter could stand up, bless him. Ben’s style, though, is older school than John and reminds me more of the sensitive put percusssive picking of the late great Jackson C Frank. If you don’t know Jackson, listen to this:There’s a lot of Leadbelly in Ben’s playing too, and he’s an accomplished singer as well as picker. Dusty Part Of Heaven and Can’t Live That Way are delivered with an easy air, though it’s a brave man who gets up and sings the Southern standard Dixie.

Smoke Fairies took the stage to a big cheer from the packed audience and played pretty much the set I’d seen back in February. It was fine, but the sound was noticeably inferior, which blunted their edge. All the stand-outs were well-delivered, particularly Living With Ghosts, Frozen Heart and Gastown, but they still need to learn a bit of stagecraft. I’m not sure that it’s nerves that makes them appear stand-offish, but the more they play, the more that shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll be seeing them again for the album-launch show at Dingwalls next month, so it’ll be interesting to see if they approach that any differently. A good show, then, but one that could have been better… but, hey, that’s OK.

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