Sunday, March 18, 2007

Chasing the Green Pound

Settle down everybody, pay attention. Anyone know what's significant about March 17th? Come on, it happens every That's right, it's the day of St Patrick, well done MacGowan, take a gold star. The day when otherwise sane and rational English folk decide that they really do enjoy a pint of Guinness, they always liked that Jack Charlton and that, well, any excuse to wear a silly hat, eh? Some of them may even be vaguely aware of who St Patrick , a catholic saint, was, although it's generally likely to extend no further than something about snakes on an island. A sort of mediaeval Samuel L. Jackson, if you will. What do they know of St. Patrick, who only St. Patrick know? 

Nevertheless, where there's a pub full of drunk culture tourists, there's a bunch of people who'll want to sing The Wild Rover very loudly and bang on tables (admittedly they tend to mumble through most of the verses - a bit like Rio Ferdinand in the national anthem - but when you only sing something once a year it's tricky to pick up the lyrics) and that's where we come in. When I turn up at the pub, Shev is already setting up the PA amongst a tumble of wires and leads, and a few guest musicians are standing in the middle of the confusion awaiting instructions. 

These are generally one or other of our natural states, and so is nothing to be alarmed by. I stand in the middle of the room and await further instructions, not having any setting up to do. I survey the decorations - a few Guinness promotional balloons, a huge Guinness banner, and a jauntily hung tricolour - and that's just family on the table to the left of the stage, sitting by the chalkboard that promises "Saturday night diddly diddly". If nothing else, the cartoon aspects prove that we've come a long way in terms of all getting along together. This wouldn't have happened under Thatch. 

The show gets underway and before long I'm summoned to my post and am playing the haunting traditional air of Thin Lizzy's "Don't Believe A Word" accompanied by Frisky Pat on gaffa-taped cardoard box, snare and assorted percussion, and TT on piano. We appear to have all indulged in the same degree of rehearsal. The theme of the evening is toyed with as I move to bass for a version of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams", included on the grounds that The Corrs once did a version of it, and after a few more singalongs we take a break for a band called Cara Cleibh to set up an run through their set of 'diddly diddly'. 

The group includes both Fiddly from SftBH and Seamus Hussey, who plays in an original band with me, and this gives me the opportunity to both see from the audience's perspective for once how much Fiddly enjoys his job, and how unhappy a drummer can look when confronted with the prospect of playing a cardboard box instead of a full kit. Both are enormously entertaining, as is The Cleibh's rumbustious set. They only play the Jack Charlton card once (there is, literally, a Jack Charlton card on stage for such a purpose) in deviating from their set of Irish songs, and so when we retake the stage (or, more accurately, corner of the pub by the dartboard) we are pressed to go further down the trad route, for it is by now approaching the 18th of March, and so we naturally kick off with James's "Sit Down". 

Somewhere in the crowd, an ex-captain of the Northern Irish football team is spotted enjoying a refreshing pint of the black stuff and grinning broadly. Odd - he was always known as a spectacularly right-footed player.... Shev is working the crowd like a craftsman, the jokes are getting longer, and after reinviting the band back on for a spirited "Brown Eyed Girl", complicated somewhat by the fact that we've tuned down a semitone and all six of them haven't, he invites us to leave while he and TT perform a quiet version of "Danny Boy". 

By now there are spontaneous tears and hugs in the audience, topped only when he invites his sister on stage to sing a Gaelic version of the national anthem. A clue for you all, it's not God Save The Queen. It's quite exhausting. Shev, who is only one generation away from actual Irishness (the Burton accent belies his roots), looks and sounds pleased, tired, and emotional. I've got the car, so I'm pleased, awake, and want to get the PA speakers past a throng of tired and emotional ex pats. As it were.

I get back home and idle away some gig-coming-down time on YouTube where somebody has been quite amusing, but not terribly kind, about SftBH. "Like inviting a bunch of brickies to sing with their Mum" is one comment. Since the internet generally is all about either accessing porn or being gratuitously and anonymously rude about people you don't know, I take the second option and decide to call him a c***.