June 29th 2013 (Before Westport)
Saturday Morning and I still miss John Peel. Nelson is struggling to leave. The Bees are disappearing and the news is dominated by The Stones at Glastonbury. I’m here in bed contemplating the Lions running out in Melbourne. I heard from Donnacha O’Callaghan. He reckons that Paul O’Connell should play with only one good arm. I really should get up and do my pre match routine. Stretch the socks pull on the jocks, put on the kettle, boil the tea; find the remote and away we go.
I did my Westport Festival preparations last night. I pulled out last year’s Galway Festival set list to check up on my outdoor festival routine. My last outdoor gig was London Fleadh 2010. Sandwiched between Dylan and Madness, we played merrily in the London rain before heading for the Mailboat. Festivals are mad yokes. All have their own magic, energy, eccentricity. Be it Electric Picnic, Glastonbury, Bealtaine or June Fest, Carnsore, Trip to Tipp, Lisdoonvarna, Ballisodare, Krumlin, Macroom, Millstreet, London Feis, Glasgow Fleadh, Leeds, Cambridge or Randall’s Island, they are all the same yet totally different. Tomorrow its over to Hill 16 for the Lily Whites and the Boys in Blue. Apologies to all you gentle souls who detest the ball games, who shudder at us muck-savages who get so excited by the spectacle. It began for me many years ago when Daddy took me to Athy in 1953 to see Kildare play Carlow. The “Boiler” White came on at half time and the seeds of hero worship were sown. Later he took me to Lansdowne Road to my first Rugby International where A.J.F. O’Reilly was the hero of the hour. He was magnificent that day as were Noisy Murphy and Gordon Woods. What a right wing bossman Lord Anthony turned out to be. I often saw Jimmy Eddery with the bit between his teeth on the Curragh. I saw Colm McCoy win his European title, Moorefield win their first Senior Championship. I saw Jimmy Conway at Fulham, Jinky Johnstone at Parkheid, George Best at Old Trafford, Giant Haystacks in Halifax. highlights for me were seeing Mike Gibson like a knife through butter, George Best, Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law in 1967/8, a Tony Hately hat trick at Craven Cottage. I saw Rod Laver at Wimbledon in the early 60s, hard to beat the glory of Mick O’Connell’s high fielding, Jimmy Cummin’s left half back determination, Babs Keating in his bare feet doin’ the double at the railway Cup Finals, Darky Prendergast saddling a double at glorious Goodwood in 1962 and me on both of them. I saw Mousey Connolly box for Ireland, Mary Flood swim to victory and Billy Burke ride Santa Clause home by 20 lengths at 18/1… Agh here, don’t get me started! Michael Devine has just pulled in for the trip to Westport. I better round up me plectrums and polish me clogs.
We had a grand drive across the country from Dublin to the Atlantic. Every town brings a flashback, harder to retrieve now that most towns have been by-passed… the Sun was wrestling with clouds all the way over, crossing into Mayo She Shines out again and hopes rise for a sun-blessed evening in Lord Altamont’s Garden… two big houses in one week. Lord Leitrim’s on Wednesday night in beautiful Lough Rinn and now tonight here in Lord Altamont’s. I’m feeling a bit like Turlough O’Carolan going around Ireland with his harp on his back to serenade his patrons. It’s all go here in Westport; Gondolas on the lake, buskers, clowns, exotic food vying with burgers. The Buena Vista are on stage, their tunes are floating on the air. The Water Boys are wetting their whistles down the hall and Steve Wickham has the rosin out… Jimmy Higgins pops his head around the door on his way to do a set with The Stunning after which he is gonna join myself and Declan for a rattle.
On the road home from Westport now, another gig done on the never-ending tour. It was outdoors tonight and it went off grand. The audience were well up for a bit of singing so we kept the chorus coming. I met up with Jack L, Steve Wall, Declan O’Rourke, Mundy, Steve Wickham, Mike Scott, and a Band from Ballinrobe who opened the festival earlier in the day. I met security guards from Kildare, Garda from all over, spacers from Sligo, hurlers from Horse and Jockey, Lords and Ladies, Barons and Brassers… not a FF TD in sight. The washrooms in Westport House were remarkable. First time I ever witnessed baby changing facilities in a men’s washroom, these are more enlightened times… (Perhaps a Padraic Flynn initiative when he was Minister for the Environment) Afterwards we made our way over to Matt Molloy’s which was packed to the gills and a mighty session of reels in the back snug with Matt himself at the heart of it all. This has to be one of the finest music houses in the land. I’d love to do an auld gig there sometime.
July 6th… One week later.
We’re back in the Rebel County for our 9th Year in The Marquee Theatre at the back of Pairc Uí Caoimh. They sang their heads off last night. The Girls and Boys, the he-males and she-males came in all shapes and sizes. After a glorious day of summer some of them had sunstroke, some a touch of Bulmers, some were in ecstasy and others in shock. We had pro-lifers, pro-footballers, beauticians, morticians, physicians, musicians, barbers from Kilrush, warblers from Kilkee… the Bishop was there in his Burka, Kenny Lee was there on his Honda, some of them were dreamers and some them were fools. My favourite song of the night was “Magic Nights at The Lobby Bar”. It’s great having Jimmy Higgins with us on stage – he is a prince of rhythm. He lays it down solid, he plays bass runs on the ancient drum, and he has honed his skills to perfection in a host of bands, trios and orchestras. I first worked with him 25 years ago when he was with Eleanor Shanley’s band alongside Robbie Overson. Since then he has been in The Saw Doctors, The Stunning, The Walls and he has paddled around the world in Riverdance. I encountered him again last year when I did some shows with Mairtín O’Connor’s Band. When I heard them play I became entranced with the possibility of singing with them. We hope to do a brace of gigs next year, Myself, Mairtín O’Connor, Shamie O’Dowd, Cathal Hayden and the aforementioned Jimmy Higgins.
The following day we made our way to Ballyvourney. After Féile na Laoch 2011I wanted to support Peader O’Riada’s next gathering in 2018.Peader and I decided a gig would do the job. The hall was full to the brim as Cór Cúl Aodha opened up and set the ball rolling. Seán Ó Sé greeted Declan and I backstage and gave us a great welcome. It’s many years now since I first heard Seán Ó Sé sing. It was truly memorable to be introduced by this man whom I have so long admired. Click HERE to read more about Féile na Laoch.
I’m nearly finished the next release. I have a title and the running order is slowly falling into place. Most of the tracks are mixed and the art work for the sleeve is finding its way. We hope for a November release. I have increased the number of press-ups, we are interviewing hair stylists, gonna get my teeth dyed, Louis Copeland is knitting me a corset, Bono is gonna design me a pair of spectacles, this could be the big one, gonna get the finger out big time, gonna be knockin’ on doors…
Two solo gigs in Knocknagoshel bate all. When I come back in the next life that’s where I’m gonna recommence. I hope to start off as a messenger boy in Myra McAuliffe’s Family Grocery. I’ll weigh the tea and sugar; I’ll sift the flour, clean the henshite off the eggs, bone the bacon and chaw the fat with all the dacent people…
A right good gig on Monday Night in Whelans. A great crowd gathered for our tribute to Philip Chevron. Click HERE for youtube clip …
That’s it for the minute. Keep coming back. A bit of feedback would be nice. I gather many listeners now prefer twitter and Facebook. I have certainly have noticed a fall off here but it’s a side issue. This is all about songs at the end of the day… songs and singing, listening and sharing…
PS On Friday 9th August the American Pianist, David Syme, will play in The John Field Room at The National Concert in Dublin. Over the past years we have been to hear David play on many occasions. Every summer he hosts wonderful house concerts on The Beara Peninsula, near Adrigole in County Cork. Happy to recommend (I hope to attend if at all possible)
PPS Martin Egan, my old companero and author of “Casey” has asked me to draw your attention to his application for the Arthur Guinness Projects funding (click HERE for info) Your vote could help him get funding for his project.