Archive for December, 2014

Live (or where I swear and philosophise at the end of another year)

imageThroughout my blog posts I have mentioned many facets of playing music from the bands I was in, the jams that I love and the recordings I have made. However, I have never mentioned the lifeblood of music: playing live! Now there is a reason for this namely I have played the guts of 300 plus gigs and that makes it hard to pick which ones to write about! After much thought I have decided to concentrate on three important gigs that have meant a lot to me and in doing so might give my readers an insight to the joys of harnessing all that energy and putting it into (at times) a cohesive performance.

Where to start? Well at the beginning is always good. Twenty years ago I had just turned seventeen and I was itching to play live as I had been practicing for nigh on three years. The band was Mythical New Underground, the sound was wibbly-wobbly reggae punk with a twinge of thrash metal. Where to play? A dank corner of a filthy pub? Somewhere in Dublin supporting the cognoscenti of the punk underground or maybe my debs in the Hazel Hotel Monasterevin? Of course the logical choice was the latter. Jesus I remember the anxiety most of all, just waiting to get up and finally play. Our guitar player, Carl, was hammered, our drummer, Mark, ended up with half an electronic kit and I couldn’t hear myself or our singer, Pog and we banged and bashed our way through a set that no one really knew. Our classmates danced though and that was great. I walked off full of the buzz of having lost my gig virginity, grinning from ear to ear and headed for the bar. I was met by a woman who said ‘Ye were shit’ but I just thought ‘Fuck you, I ain’t like everybody else I have just played a gig!’ Pure bliss (followed by pints and puke oh the glamour and no cash may I add).

Fast forward a few years, possibly 1999 or 2000, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, The Railway Bar. I can’t remember what the occasion was but I was singing that night ( I went through a brief phase as a singer…not to be repeated) but this should have been a gig consigned to the dark recesses of my memory and it would have been bar one incident. We finished the gig, we had belted through a folkish set and the reception was warm but one man turned to me and said, with a voice full of spite ‘Why didn’t you play something we knew?’ I should have said ‘Because I am not a fucking Jukebox’ but I didn’t. Now for those that have never been on stage here is the thing: it takes guts, it takes balls but it also takes energy and there are times you get off that stage and you are spent. That night I was and his words stuck. I returned home, knackered, penniless (no pay again) and deflated. The words played again and again and I thought ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself out there?’ I walked for about an hour and I was so down I thought about never playing live again but ultimately I came to the realisation that I was addicted to playing live and it wasn’t going to happen.

Dublin, 2014. Czech Inn, Temple Bar. No cash- free pint, She Speaks is the band. It has been a year since I have played a gig (I am excluding playing at school masses and grads) I need this. Energy flowing, adrenaline rushing. New band and an original set. Playing is a type of madness, half of the band are mad nervous and the other half are jumping out of their skin and ready to have the ego stroked. Then the first note comes and the four of us are surfing the moment. The shakes recede, the nerves dissipate and we all begin to let go. The flow takes over and for a little while the four become one. We bounce off each other. Rebecca, our singer does that little shuffle she does with her hands, Skip beats the drums, Wayne lets go on a guitar and my neck moves like a bobble headed toy that you find in a car. We start to smile, we start to let go and in that moment nothing can touch you. There is no sadness, no worry, no stress there is just the moment. When you first play gigs that moment can be scary-you don’t know what it is- but after a while you gain experience and you know what that moment is: Joy. Happy Christmas all and may you find that ever elusive joy that you seek.