Thur 16 June Mullingar .......Not a bad night by any standards. Felt tired and disinterested all day, but once I got out of Dublin and on the road I felt better. Good audience, good vibe, chatted to some local guys afterwards and Finbar and Lucila from Celtic Ninja Construction were kind enough to give me a place to crash after we dropped off for a bag of chips on the way to their house. Ended up reading the tarot for Lucila at about 3am. Slept for a few hours, and got to see the two Ninja videos in the morning, one which was shot in Argentina.
Thur 7 July Dublin....Linda Lucas is support at The Belvedere on Gardiner Row. She plays a great set, but it's not really an ideal place for a gig....too big...too empty, but I need the money. Simple as that. Earlier in the day I made several phone calls, scoring a few gigs in the process, including a nice one in New York. (I'll be there in September)
Been listening to The Radiants, a lot of Ann Peebles and I've sort of got addicted to Urge Overkill 'Goodbye to Guyville'. It's got an incredible guitar sound. I was in Sweden for a couple of gigs last month and I didn't get around to writing anything in this diary about it, but as usual I picked up a lot of records...The Stones 'Stripped'...Hank Williams, Warren Zevon, an old rock 'n' roll compilation, Green on Red, Charlie Rich, The Cramps.....they're all on the turn-table a lot these days....
Sat 9 July Frank Rynne (and un-named guitarist) are support tonight. I know Frank from his day's fronting The Baby Snakes, before they moved to London. An acoustic set from Frank tonight, although he had expressed a desire to bring down his Vox AC30, the one he got from Jeffrey Lee Pierce, but it seemed like too much hassle. Our own set was good, but not as on the button as two weeks ago when we were here at the Mezz. Good crowd though, considering the Oxygen Festival is on this weekend. A lot of familiar faces, some old friends...a lot of hand shakes.
Liis from Tallinn, Estonia shows up. Hadn't seen her since our last trip to the fine Baltic country, when (her then boyfriend) Max tour managed us on our adventures down south, and boy did we need a tour manager. We were in pretty bad shape after Estonia. By that point we were out on the road for only three weeks, but we'd been burning the candle at both ends and 14 gigs in Finland lay ahead, mostly one night stands !! Those were (not) the days and now they're gone.
After the gig, have a few drinks, get paid, change into a dry shirt and go for a late drink to Carnival with Åsa and Liis where we hook up with Steve Wall, Ollie Cole, Daniell and a few other folks.
Sun 10 July Not big on Festivals, especially something like Oxygen, but when I get a call from my old friend Jona Cox I change my mind. These days Jona is taking care of The La's who are playing Oxygen, so I'm on the guest list. Armed with a bottle of vodka and accompanied by Miss Kärrman, I make my way out to wherever the fuck it's happening....a big field in the country ! (I later learn it's actually Punchestown Race Course)
It's real hot, 29 degrees Celsius, so a few beers are required. Meet up with Jona at the mixing desk while the La's are on. Later, we're all backstage for beers and a chat, Åsa is up on top of the tour bus sun-bathing, I'm on the phone organizing transport for a gig in Tramore. The only dilemma of the day is the fact that soul brother number one, Mr James Brown is on at 10 o clock, the same time Foo Fighters are on. What is one to do ? As the Foo FIghters are on the main stage way off in the distance and James Brown is booked to appear on a stage right beside where I'm at, the decision is made. I'm in the toilet when James' van pulls up, so I don't get to see him close up, but Åsa gets a kick out of being within a few yards of this living legend. We watch the gig from the side of the stage and it surely is some show. Wonderful stuff. I was blown away.
Sun 17 July I have great neighbours. They never complain when I stay up playing records until dawn. Sometimes on my own, sometimes with a bunch of merry pranksters. They never complain either when I'm doing work with my little home studio. Spent the last few days working on a bunch of new songs, putting down electric guitar parts....very loud....using my Marshall Valve State and my new acquired Fender amp. Got a lot done in three days, drank some wine, made phone calls, scored a few gigs, got a few things in the pipe line. Life is good, most of the time.
Paul (who was at a gig last weekend) is a man of his word and sent me a copy of The Ramones documentary "End Of The Century." I watched it the other night and enjoyed it immensely. Phoned up Jack in New York to check if he'd seen it yet (I thought he had) and I was right. This evening I needed a lie down after dinner and was awakened by my missus playing The Racketeers on the stereo. Every now and then she does this........and I don't really like it. Don't like having to listening to my own records as all I can hear is half finished songs, badly played parts, stuff that needs to be remixed. I'm reminded of dreadful record sales, being ripped off by assholes, being banned from venues, people being hospitalized in Finland, armed border police, broken bones in South East Asia, badness in the Baltics and too many hours spent on the ferry. But then I think of the songs we got right....the stuff that still sounds good, that would knock the shit out of a lot of the current pretenders. I think of the great folks I've met along the way, the mad mad times from Donegal to Dattingen.....the rolls of cash in my pocket coming through Dublin airport. The fact that I'm here at all is a bit of an achievement, and I think of what adventures lie ahead. As Vinny O'Connor's swirling organ drifts through the air I know I'm going to sleep good tonight. See you out there........
Sat 20 Aug Walking around in the rain at 5am carrying two guitars (Damian had the other) is not the glamorous rock 'n' roll lifestyle I had envisioned for myself when I was 18. Trying to get a taxi on a Saturday night is not always easy. Eventually I thought to myself, fuck this, went back to the Hotel and got the guitars locked up and had another late drink. Eventually made it home. The following afternoon Steve (my driver for the day) who I'd never met before arrives in his jeep. Steve plays bass in Chris's other band Communal. Throw my bag in the back, hop in and drive to the scene of last nights crime. Pick up the backline, Chris and Brian are in another wagon, and off we go, a bright sunny day, bound for the South East. See my first I Pod. Had no idea what the thing was.
Four hours later we're sound checking in Tramore, a sea-side town down south. Sounds alright. Last time I played Tramore was twelve years ago. The guys grab something to eat, I'm not hungry. Have a drink instead...I am thirsty. All in all, not a bad gig. A bit of hard work never killed anybody, as the saying goes, although I think there may not be much truth in that. I'm sure hard work has killed a LOT of people. Sleep for a bit on the way back, arriving home around 5am. Have a drink or three, crash out around 7am.A few days later I was in Waterford for a show in an Art Gallery, and then one with Anto White, who is a much better singer/songwriter than a lot of the current crop.Today, my office job. Get gigs in New York sorted and a phone call from Spain brings good news. Last time I was in Spain was 1986. I'll be there again in two weeks time.
Tues 23 Aug Dublin........Recording is never easy, even listening back to stuff that had been put down a week ago. Some of it sounds a bit rough, so I manage to get a few good vocal takes. One on a new song 'Gone Again' and another vocal on 'Five Pointed Star'. Been listening to a lot of Deep Soul, stuff that's re-issued on Dave Godins series entitled Deep Soul Treasures on the Kent label. Doris Duke, Jimmy Robins, The Knight Brothers, The Incredibles. Also Green On Red, 'Thirteen' by Big Star and The Pretty Things are on the stereo a lot.Got an email today from Wally at the Beautiful Music record label to let me know who's been playing us on the radio in Canada. Apparently five or six different DJ's on CKCU have been playing tracks from Exit Hellsville. So that's good news.
Also got some email saying something about that Hard Working Class Heroes festival that takes place this weekend. Nobody I know whose playing is getting paid, so what sort of a 'festival' is that ? There's too much of that these days, and it makes it harder for those of us who are in it for the long haul, not just to impress girlfriends or family members. Those of us who remember what its like to get paid. Thankfully I wont be around. I'm off to Sweden bright and early tomorrow morning where I WILL be getting paid and generally treated like royalty....and proper order too. Then onwards to Spain for a few gigs. See you out there......
Mon 29 Aug Just got back from Sweden via Copenhagen. Met Donal Lunny in the Airport and we had a chat. Last night in Lerum we watched a great documentary on one of my favourite writers-Charles Bukowski. Actually only caught the last forty minutes, so we missed most of it. Seemed to be put together by one of the Swedish channels. So I've got seven hours in Dublin before I'm off again. Enough time for dinner, a shit a shower and a shave. Going to Spain in a few hours. Gotta dash...............
Tues 30 Aug Three hours sleep, taxi, bus and airplane in that order. Arrive in one piece at Sevilla Airport. Mado picks me up. We drive through what I imagine Mexico would look like. The occasional Hacienda in a vast expanse of dead land. A lunar landscape of 37 degrees Celsius. White-washed bodegas where they make the famous Andalusian sherry. After an hour or so we arrive at Mado's Mansion. It's siesta, so there's not much happening. A few hours pass and we go to the beach. When I say we went to the beach I don't mean we go swimming and chatting up senoritas. We find a table about 100 yards from the sand, order tapas and a drink or two. I'm surprised to find Alan is actually off the booze. He seems content with non alcoholic beer. My beer is real.
Later we organize getting extra posters printed and ramble around El Puerto de Santa Maria. Get something to eat and meet a lot of people. I haven't a word of Spanish. Later I get to see Mado's band, with Mercedes on vocals. They do a set in Barsito, a tiny little bar down a side street, and they're great. Mercedes doesn't want to do 'I shot the sheriff' so I give it a go. Realizing I haven't heard the record in years I can't remember the words, but Mercedes prompts me and we all have a good time. She downs a few large (very large) whiskeys and isn't feeling too good afterwards.
Thurs 1 Sept El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain......Last night we played a short set in Barsito to promote our proper gig in the town on Saturday night. A quiet night in El Puerto, not a lot going on. We had late drinks in a club where it was mostly hip hop or flamenco influenced dance music. "Lick my neck, lick my back, my pussy and my crack.." goes the lyric to one tune I heard tonight. Classic. Got to bed around five a.m. last night.
Up around 10, and hopped on the bike and got bread, fruit, yogurt and wine in a local shop. Cycled off into the wilderness, horses grazing in the fields on whatever little grass they could find, past the Booty Bars (brothels masquerading as hotels) past the poor folks farm houses, past the derelict factories and apartment blocks, ghosts from the Franco era. Democracy is here but they're still under some of the influence of the old days. Even the feudal system has left it's mark. Rehearsed for a while, listened to some records, stories, tall tales, more wine, something to eat locally, sangria.......Si, Si Senor...perfecto...
Fri 2 Sept Rota.........Drive to Jerez, a local town. Have a look around, see some cool snake skin cowboy boots at the right price, but it's siesta so everything is closed. I got a new pair of western boots anyway a few weeks back so I'm content with the current state of footwear. We call to visit Nacho. He sorts me out with a glass of beer and a PA for tonight's gig. Later we rehearse using Nach's PA, and the sweat is dripping off me all over my Epiphone acoustic guitar. Sounds good though.
After checking emails and we hit the road for Rota, I almost nod off on the way, but manage to stay awake somehow. Pat, who runs the bar, is a sweet guy and makes me feel welcome. There's a big lighthouse right beside the bar which is handy as I've a terrible sense of direction. The gig is great. Alan joins for the latter half of the show. Sell a few cd's and have a few drinks.
Sat 3 Sept El Puerto de Santa Maria.........The ghost of Count O'Reilly presides over Cadiz. A lot of Irish moved here during the Flight of the Earls. They were accepted and even allowed to inter-marry with the Spanish Royals. Many made a precarious living as mercenaries while others got into the wine/sherry business. The name Garvey adorns the wall of one of the biggest Bodegas in the area. Over in El Puerto it's a hot and humid evening, the sun slowly sliding down the arc of the globe.
Milwaukee is a big barn of a place. There's a disco bar out front, then a big spooky courtyard, and at the back a big room where the gig is. The stage is a decent size, but the PA needs re-wiring. Luckily we've brought our own mixing desk. The sound is good and a nice crowd arrive. Tequila and pineapple juice for refreshments afterwards. Lots of photos are taken. The whole town seems to have gone mad tonight. A lot of folks are well out of it. Well, it is Saturday night.
Wed 14 Sept New York.......It's always good to be back in one of the best cities in the world. Great to see Jack again, and it certainly doesn't feel like six months since I was last here. After he helps me drag my bags and guitar up four flights of stairs, we phone for some Chinese food. Within an hour we're back on the subway bound for Brooklyn. Then it's a few blocks on the bus and a short walk down lonesome deserted streets. The occasional car drives by. Knee-high grass and weeds sprout from the cracks in the sidewalk. I expect to see tumbleweed roll by. We hang a right on ghost town and down past the enormous sinister satellite dish we find Sonny's Bar.
Megan Van Dusen is playing a show and we grab a few drinks, say hello to Megan and enjoy the evening. Sonny's is the sort of place you'd expect to see a bunch of pirates drop in for a drink, sit in the corner and not bother anybody. The place apparently only opens Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. What they have against Thursday beats me. Megan's songs are great and the audience really pay attention. I get thinking to myself, I'd like to do a solo gig here sometime.
Thurs 15 Sept Manhattan, New York.....While out on a ramble I get this melody swirling around in my head. After visiting Kim's wonderful record store up on St. Marks, and a few other places, the tune is still in my head. Back to base, grab a guitar and start getting it down. I get two verses and reckon it doesn't need a third. Another slow slow song, but what can I do? I have too many real good slow ones at the moment waiting to be recorded. The next LP should have a bunch of good rockers....there's at least five I can think of off the top of my head, but three slow songs is enough on an album, unless you're going for the full-on laid back vibe ala Nick Cave's 'Boatman's Call' or Bonny Prince Billy's 'I See A Darkness.'
We take a short walk from Stanton Street, up past Broadway to the pool hall, meeting a few of the guys from Dublin band The Radio along the way. They're in town for the CMJ Festival. Nice to see them. I tell them I had no idea such an event was on. CMJ is one of those industry get togethers. Lots of gigs nobody gets paid for, A+R men are supposedly on the prowl for hot new acts ........you get the picture. CMJ is of no use to me. Most of the time I don't feel like I've anything whatsoever to do with the music "industry".Of course, Jack beats me at pool. I win one game, he wins four. Later, my gig at the Sidewalk Cafe is not well attended, but I enjoy myself and I entertain the good folks in attendance to the best of my ability. The sound engineer tells me how great I am, and how cool I am etc. So I suggest, next time I'm back he should get the booker to put me on at perhaps 10pm on a Saturday night, as opposed to 8pm on a Thursday.
Sun 18 Sept New York........Haven't been shopping much. Picked up two americana compilations and The Warlocks wonderful "Surgery" album. Jacks been listening to a lot of the White Stripes and The Stooges. Bumped into Leagues O Toole on Houston yesterday and we rambled up Lafayette together. A few years ago Leagues gave Long Time Gone a great review in the Dublin Event Guide."An accomplished and rich sound, augmented by the liquid boogie of a Wurlitzer, a mournful fiddle, and the dexterous pen of Mr. Dowd....they come close to cruising with the harmonic country-rock of The Band. On other occasions the simply rely on a fantastic vulnerable voice, and are the sound of a band both touching the heart of this city and following it's lineage to America and beyond." He's right too you know ! That was when the Dublin Event Guide was still a great paper. Now it's crap.
Hot and humid. 82 Fahrenheit during the day, it only drops to 77 at dusk. Tonight's gig is at the Swift Hibernian Lounge between Lafayette and Broadway on 4th Street. A good crowd, some nice folks. Sound is ok. I do the show, have a few drinks, get the money, all is as it should be. Didn't get around to doing the song I wrote last Thursday, which incidentally is called "Don't Walk Away". I don't feel fully comfortable with it yet.