I was in Ireland earlier this month, traveling with my Philadelphia friend Kevin and his extended family. I had a wonderful time. I had the chance to hear lots of music, on the streets, pubs and on our bus.
Sunday, March 1, 2008
The Temple Bar (Barra an Teampaill) area of Dublin reminds me of a medieval Broad Ripple. Temple Bar is just south of the River Liffey in central Dublin. It is chock full of restaurants, pubs, art galleries and shops all tucked on a web of narrow cobbled streets.
The area has a lively nightlife and plenty of music, both on the streets and in the pubs. I saw a fun band on the street that was drawing a big crowd. They had a jammy Celtic sound. The name of the band is Slàinte, translates to ‘health’ and is also a popular drinking toast. I had no luck researching them.
We had just wandered in to the Aul Dubliner Bar when I heard the last few songs of Mick McDonnell’s set. It wasn’t until he was on the search for a bandage that we started chatting. I wound up trading a Hello Kitty Band-aid (doesn’t everyone keep one in their wallet?) for a most excellent CD – Still Here.
McDonnell’s band Sundrive has a great grown-up pop sound – actual hooks, harmonies and melodies that remind me of the good old days. It is one of those records that makes me smile even before I press the play button.
Mick and Steve Cranley met while working on a project for in 1997 and began collaborating and playing on each others recordings. They started writing together and recording as Sundrive. The first time they played public was to an estimated 100,000 people at the Party in the Park show in August of 2002. I look forward to following their career.
On the bus
This was my first introduction to the Saw Doctors. Boy was I missing out! Good rockin’ sing-along fun. The Saw Doctors are from County Galway, but ironically they were in the States when we were in Ireland. But I got to hear plenty of their music as we toured the coast of Ireland. In fact we drove through Tuam, hometown to three of the band members and stopped to take photographs of the sign for N17, the title of one of their songs. N17 is the road from Tuam to Galway. The N17 is the road a young person leaving the west of Ireland would likely take when emigrating. I’ve still got several Saw Doctors songs stuck in my head, in a good way.
Victoria Square, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Friday, March 7, 2008
I was blown away by Belfast. I honestly expected a war-torn shell of a town. Admittedly I was only there for four hours and I hadn’t done my homework. Three of us peeled off from the group and took a bus to Belfast center. Our first stop was Victoria Square the just-opened-the-day-before commercial, residential and entertainment center. It took six years to build the 800,000 square foot property. 100,000 people visited the center the first day and I’m guessing that just as many were there on day two.
The development is multi-level streets covered by a massive glass dome. Not only does it look Back to the Future-ish but it is environmentally cool. Sections of the roof are covered with moss and heather to attempt to reduce the carbon footprint of Victoria Square. The covering soaks up the rainwater allowing it to evaporate naturally over time and not overload the drainage systems.
The anchor store is the UK’s largest House of Fraser. The department store is quite swanky. I had a grand time wandering through the store and trying on clothes. I was at the counter ready to pay for a wonderful outfit. I remembered at the very last second that the dollar/pound conversion rate was two to one. It was not a $400-cute outfit, I sweetly said thank you and raced out of the store.
I met up with my friends at the Kitchen Bar. The original pub opened in 1859 and was the favorite drinking spot for performers at the Empire, Belfast’s famous music hall. It moved from the original site to make way for the construction of Victoria Square. We sat in the bar, wait, now that I’m thinking of it the whole place was probably bar- anyway, there was a band. A loud cover band, too loud for the space. I had to resist the urge to reach over and turn down them down. As it turns out cover band set lists are universal. “Mustang Sally,” anyone? It was the one and only place that I’ve ever wanted to hear “Brown Eyed Girl,” after all the fabulous Van Morrison was born and raised in Belfast.
I’m so glad that I got to explore a little bit of Belfast. I can’t wait to go back.
Secret Book and Record Store
Sunday, March 9, 2008
In my pretend life I walk around the city, wandering in to record and book stores with no time constraints. In my real life I usually hit the ground running with too little sleep , looking longingly at Luna, Northside Newsstand, Vibes and Big Hat Books as I wiz by on my way to work, or what ever activity I have planned for the day.
I got to have a pretend life afternoon in Dublin. I walked around the city popping in to what ever shop caught my fancy. I was excited to stumble across a Tower Records. Ireland boasts two of the handful of Tower Records left in the world. All of the Tower Records in the States closed in 2006 (tower.com is still alive and well). I had a blast browsing the record stacks. I’d smile when I ran across a familiar name and stopped myself from shouting out, “hey she slept on my sofa, or woo hoo I wrote about him.”
In my black jeans, boots, messenger bag and camera slung over my shoulder, I convinced myself that I was one of the cool kids. I think I blew that when after an hour of wandering around the store I made my purchase: The Monkees- The Works, A 3 CD Retrospective.
After leaving Tower Records I wandered down side streets and saw a sign for Secret Book and Record Store. Thankfully there were plenty of signs and arrows. I’m not sure that I would have wandered down that street or down a narrow hallway through that mostly empty building otherwise. Secret Book and Record Store sounded like my kind of place. And was it ever. If I ever opened a book store I would look just like this. I left any hope of looking like one of the cool kids at the door, with my exclamation of “Wow, this place looks just like my house!” And it does. Bookcases along the wall, books on tables and stacked everywhere. Quirky artifacts lined the tops of the bookcases. Tons of CDs in the back corner. Since I felt like I was at home I tossed my junk in the corner and started digging. I wound up with three books and as many CDs. I thoroughly enjoyed every second that I spent in there.
Second Friday, Second Helpings
Friday, March 14, 2008
The Upper Room
This was the inaugural Second Friday, Second Helpings songwriter night. PJ Christie, Lance Drake and Chris Haskett kicked it off. They took turns playing three song sets, sometimes joining in on each other’s songs. They combined originals with quirky covers. I giggled out loud when Lance played an Echo and the Bunnymen song.
Lance and PJ clearly have a great camaraderie. They have played in bands together and know each other’s songs. Big fun. Lance is Chicago based and was down for the show. I first met PJ when he wandered by Kipp Normand’s yard sale. PJ and his family relocated to Indianapolis after Hurricane Katrina.
Chris Haskett is a CATH coffeehouse veteran. I really enjoy his solo songs; he’s got a wide range. I was secretly hoping he’d pull out his harmonium and I was not disappointed. I’m not quite sure how a harmonium works, but it involves bellows, a keyboard and a pretty cabinet. And Chris makes it sound real pretty.
Thanks to Chris, PJ and Lance for playing and Jeff Sample for hosting the event. Second Helpings collected 50 pounds of rice and pasta and over $40 in cash.
The next Second Friday, Second Helpings will be April 11 at the Upper Room. I will preview the show in the next issue of the Gazette.
Saturday, March 16, 2008
Jeff Black warned us “this show moves real fast, so hang on.” Man was he right. He started out playing the piano and didn’t look back. Jeff has a very big and powerful sound- not your typical singer-songwriter. He filled the room. He also played harmonica, guitar and banjo.
He told a few stories between his songs, but his songs really were the story. You really felt like you had learned something by the end of one of his songs. I’m really glad that I had a chance to experience Jeff up close and personal.
A Keen Holiday
Saturday, March 29, 2008
6525 N. College Ave
9 pm, 21+
A Keen Holiday is a three-piece blues-rock band. They have been playing together for almost a year, and have released their first album a few months ago. Their sound is good old fashioned blues rock and roll. This show promises to be a good time.
Out and about: It’s almost Broad Ripple Farmers Market time again! The Market runs Saturday mornings, May 3 through October 25. Let me know if you’re interested in playing. email@example.com