You know when you walk Into the bar and there’s a photo of the owner standing with Ronnie Drew which in turn is next to a photo of the owner standing with Christy Moore, which is nestled against a photo of the owner with Noel Redding, which is just above the photo of the owner with Mike Scott that either two things are gonna happen your gonna feel like part of a tradition, like your walk to the stage is just you making your steps as part of your place in a long history of song, or your gonna psyche yourself out and feel like dropping to your knees wayne and garth styles and be on some “we’re not worthy” shit.
I am aware of the duality of man, the ying and yang, the mick and keef within us all, thusly all day at DeBarras folk Club in Clonakilty I found myself oscillating wildly between the two states mentioned above. However it must be said behind my heavy set 6’4, tattooed thug like frame I was packing it like the panicked fat freckled ginger kid I was when I started my performing career during Mrs Armstrong’s year two nativity play at Mairehau Primary. Jesus and I thought playing Jesus’ dad was hard! Trying going on in a place where they’ve seen it done a 1000 times and a 1000 times better than you’ve ever done it.
I cradled the whale bone carving my old neighbour Big Cliff gave me when I started this rambling life some years back, I edged the cowboy belt buckle my dad gave me when I was 7, I wished on the piece of Joe Strummers t-shirt hidden in my guitar and prayed that these talismans, this flotsam and jetsam of good hope and sound fortune may indeed be worth their weight in superstition.
I felt hopeful that at least the place would be empty. One of the better things about being an unknown band in a new country is that the ancient philosophical query “If a band fails on a stage and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?” is answered with a resounding intake of relief and “no thank god”.
Of course though as if to spite me the folk gods thought fit to pack the place out, hence there was only one thing to do and that was the best we could.
I would turn to my left and right and know that Big Jon, and Alice and Shanks would have my back and I of course would have theirs. So we went in folk songs blazing and man if we did not get it done. We left the stage to much kindness, the graciousness given to us chancers bringing the proverbial folk coals back to Newcastle as it were, was heartbeatingly uplifting. Of course we closed the bar and the lock in afterwards we traded Tom Petty and Warratahs songs for Gaelic poetry about stars dancing and more, our canon for theirs maybe?
We were welcomed, we were wowed by the response, somehow our rough edged stories of our little kiwi lives and land cut through and it was a sound exchange of and for the heart stuff. Sometimes heart stuff is the best currency in a cultural exchange. It’s been like that over the past 7 shows in six days and will hopefully be like that tonight in Bangor as part of the open house festival. Our show is sold out, imagine that! So we roll on Rory Gallagher seeing us right in the van. Hopalong’s at the wheel and I’m at the machine tapping this out. As Rory is roaring right now through the left speaker…
“As the crow flys I aint so far from you…” I being us and you being all of you, in our corner and in our hearts.