I’m not usually a fan of tribute bands, but I saw one last weekend that proved to be the exception to the rule. It took place at Dolan’s Warehouse in Limerick, though it would be more correct to call it a tribute to one of the greatest musical events in rock & roll. The show being celebrated was the 1976 farewell performance by The Band that took place at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco during Thanksgiving Day. This spectacular concert not only featured The Band along with an impressive horn section, but also some of the biggest names in music at the time. Thankfully, the show was filmed by Martin Scorsese and given a cinema release two years later as The Last Waltz. I first bought a copy on video cassette over twenty years ago and upgraded to DVD a few years ago. I’ve watched it dozens of times over the years and it always cheers me up no end when I put it on. It was no different at Dolan’s last Saturday night
“It’s surprising how quick a little rain can clear the streets,” sang Billy Bragg on a wonderful rendition of The Saturday Boy at Dolan’s last night. The Limerick streets are used to rain, of course, and if they were empty on a Monday night it was because everyone was at the Warehouse to welcome the Bard of Barking to town for the first time. It’s hard enough to get people to come out any night to see a solo singer backing himself on guitar, but it was a testament to his standing that he attracted a full crowd on a cold and wet Monday night in October. I got to Dolan’s early and filled my stomach with some tasty Guinness stew and later washed it down with pints of porter in the Warehouse as I joined some friends to check out the opening act. Paddy Nash hails from Derry and he did a fine job warming up the crowd. He was quite comfortable with the audience and explained that he had walked out on his job in the film industry when they wouldn’t give him the week off to follow Billy around the country. A song called Billy Bragg Jeans was inspired by a story Paddy heard about Billy buying a pair of jeans for a few quid in a charity store. He also gave us a song called Rubber Bullets that was sung from the perspective of a child growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. His best song, and the one the audience enjoyed the most, was called Ballad of a Nobody. This was a witty song that told the story of an average man with an average life and had everybody in stitches as its key line was repeated each time
The appropriately-named Freezer Sessions took place at Dolan’s Warehouse in Limerick on Thursday night. The event was put together in association with Hot Press magazine and Jaegermeister and featured four live acts: The Flaws from Co Monaghan, O Emperor from Waterford, and local bands The Last Days of Death Country and windings. It’s Never Late is the title of winding’s most recent album and you can find more information about it here. As an early Christmas present, the band’s label, Out on a Limb Records, has made their self-titled debut album available as a free download until the end of December. Cathedrals is my favourite song from the album and you can check it out below
Last night, I was one of dozens of appreciative Limerick giggers and liquor-lovers who congregated upstairs at Dolan’s to witness the Salford performance poet John Cooper Clarke as he wowed the audience with his wonderful words and tickled our funny bones with his tantalising tales and volumes of verse. Shortly after 10.00pm, the tall, thin Mancunian appeared at the back door carrying a white carrier bag provided by Word Magazine and ambled towards the sparsely-populated stage. Born in Salford in 1949, Clarke was one of numerous artists who benefitted from the advent of punk rock in the late seventies. He was part of the Manchester scene that spawned the likes of Buzzcocks and Joy Division and opened for many associated acts at this time. In 1978, he released his debut record, Où est la maison de fromage?, an album that contained both studio recordings and live performances. His distinctive style comprised of scattergun lyrics delivered in a fast-paced rap and backed with rudimentary instruments. His wry observations on local life and popular culture were full of alliteration and heavy on rhyme and owed a great debt to similar techniques employed by Bob Dylan on his Subterranean Homesick Blues single. Clarke’s visual style was, and remains, reminiscent of Dylan’s look during the mid-sixties
On Friday, I put on one of my newly-acquired cheque shirts and popped down to a packed Dolan’s Warehouse in Limerick to watch a few local bands fight it out for the chance to open for Bob Dylan at Thomond Park in just over a week. I’d been watching a tense World Cup game between Spain and Chile, so I missed Animal Beats and Nick Carswell and the Elective Orchestra. I did arrive in time to see a lively set from Last Days of Death Country, a loud, grungy four piece with indecipherable lyrics and a lot of energy. There were followed by the more melodic and musically adept Brendan Markham and Band, who delivered quite an impressive set. I missed the final act, Windings, as I got stuck upstairs chatting about the England and Germany match in the World Cup and this and that. Last Days of Death Country emerged as the winners and hopefully I’ll arrive on time on the fourth of July to see them open for Bob. Congratulations to the Last Days of Death Country and here’s a Dylan cover from the Dirty Projectors for the four acts that missed out last night
Chicago singer-songwriter Joe Pug plays Dolan’s Warehouse in Limerick this Sunday as support to his fellow countryman, Josh Ritter. He’s been writing songs and touring for three years now and has also played support to Steve Earle and M. Ward. Pug (an abbreviation of his actual name, Pugliese) had been studying playwriting at the University of Carolina when he decided to drop out at the beginning of his final year to pursue a musical career. While working as a carpenter, Joe used ideas from a play he had been working on to form the basis of the songs on his first EP, Nation of Heat. Since then, he has recorded another EP, In the Meantime, and his debut album, Messenger. With his literary background, it’s not surprising that the structure and lyrics of his songs are quite impressive. He also has a strong and distinctive voice and should certainly warm up the crowd for Josh Ritter at Dolan’s
Liverpool‘s late loss to Lille last night must have been deflating for Reds fan Mick Dolan but his spirits were surely raised by the huge turnout at his pub and two music venues. The bar was packed with regulars and visitors as well as loads of punters from the local college who were taking part in some sort of talent show as part of Seachtain na Gaeilge. There was also a fine crowd upstairs to see novelist and Richmond Fontaine frontman Willy Vlautin perform some Americana to a hushed and reverent crowd of music fans. I managed to catch the end of his gig as I had been at the Warehouse to see Vlautin’s fellow countryman Rich Hall play to a loud and irreverent crowd of comedy fans. Hall should be familiar to viewers of QI and Have I Got News For You and even to fans of The Simpsons (more about that later). I read about his “first visit to the treaty” when the Limerick Event Guide made it one of their 5 Best Buys for March. The Limerick Leader‘s Alan Owens also bigged up the gig in his article here where he opens with Hall’s connection to the Simpsons and his Perrier Comedy Award victory at the Edinburgh Fringe for his show about his alter ego, Otis Lee Crenshaw. He won the award in 2000 when he beat off strong competition from an impressive list of nominees that included Dave Gorman, Lee Mack, Catherine Tate, Garth Merenghi and Sean Lock
The bands taking part in Indie Week Ireland 2009 are getting ready to go on stage at the Cruiscín Lán in Cork tonight. It’s the first of four gigs that will also take in Galway and Dublin before finishing up at Dolan’s in Limerick this Saturday, July 4th. I’ve just conducted an online interview with Caitlin, the lead singer with Bella Clava from Canada (Caitlin is on the left in the photo above with Steve on her right, just before he trimmed his ‘tache). Here’s what Caitlin had to say:
Well, Caitlin, with a name like that, the first question I have to ask is: Do you have any Irish in you?
Why yes, I do! My last name, Dacey, is from Cork and my family is very proud to be of Irish background…even when it isn’t St. Patrick’s Day (when everyone in North America claims to be Irish).
Can you tell me a little bit about the band’s origins? How long have you been together and what kind of impact have you made on the Canadian music scene?
The four of us are all from Thunder Bay, a great community of musicians who love to “jam” and play as often as possible. We have all known and played with each other in different capacities/different bands for years, but have been based out of Toronto as Bella Clava for a year and a half. Our most relevant contribution to the Canadian music scene is getting people up and shaking their hips…which is critical when trying to keep warm in the bitter Northern climate. We are a hyperactive band, in the sense that we play as often as possible and we were part of “Canadian Music Week 2009”, a festival for both Canadian and international musicians. We placed second to Walter Mitty and the Realists, of Limerick at Toronto Indie Week. We’re thrilled to be playing Indie Week Ireland as a result of this.
Do you share musical (and other cultural interests) with Steve, Luis and Dane or do the four of you differ in your tastes? Do these similarities or differences have any bearing on the band’s songwriting and style of music?
The common thread that keeps us together is our love of music, although we do get into pretty heated debates over who has better taste…or even valid taste, for that matter. We all have very different influences, which allows us to be unique. We do not want to be a cover band, or a band that might as well be a tribute band….there are a lot of acts like this in Canada and although it is flattering to be compared to bands we respect, we don’t want to rip anybody off. If we wanted to rob people, we would use our Bella Clavas for convenience store stick-ups, not songwriting.
Well, I dare say there’s a lot more money in songwriting than in the Irish retail trade at the moment. You’re about to embark on a four-date Irish tour as part of Indie Week Ireland 2009. Is this your band’s first trip to the Emerald Isle? What kind of reception are you expecting from Irish audiences?
This is Luis, Dane and Steve’s first trip to Europe, and my second to Ireland. I spent Christmas in Dublin three years ago, and was told repeatedly to come back in the summer time…little did I know that I would be touring the country! I had a great time then with the Irish and we are all having a blast with the friendly people and bands we are meeting. We expect that the Irish are going to party like animals, dance like Riverdance on Guinness and continue to be the best looking people on the planet.
So, you’ve met Damien from Vesta Varro, then! Bella Clava’s live reviews suggest that your shows have a lot of energy as well as some of the best elements of dirty rock ‘n’ roll. What can Irish audiences expect from Bella Clava?
You can expect Bella Clava to work for their fish N chips, if you know what I mean. We caused the spread of RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) throughout Toronto….and are hoping to infect the Irish with this dirty booty quakin’ disease. Luis has to change shirts after every set, Steve has to trim his mustache before and after the show, Dane has been known to stomp holes in the stage with his bass grooves and I’ve given myself whiplash from too much head banging.
You certainly seem to be worth going to see in a live context. Has the band released any singles or albums or do you have any in the pipeline?
We brought our brand new, very first album with us, ColdSpell and plan to spread it like the flu throughout Ireland. We will then be bringing it back over to Canada, but we wanted to get it out to Irish ears first. The album will be available online (bellaclava.ca and iTunes) in HMV and Chapters/Indigo. We are thrilled to be heading to Chicago in the fall to record our second album with Steve Albini (Nirvana, The Pixies, PJ Harvey, The Stooges).
Best of luck with the second album, Caitlin, although you should be safe with Mr Albini. You play your last leg of Indie Week at Dolan’s, Limerick, this Saturday. You’ve been hanging out with a couple of Limerick bands, Vesta Varro and Walter Mitty & the Realists. Have they been filling you in on what to expect when you make it down here on Saturday?
Shane from Vesta Varro has already taken part in some of our music debates (over a few pints, of course) and the bands are helping us out by sharing their equipment and helping to lug ours. If the bands and music enthusiasts in Limerick are anything like Vesta Varro and Walter Mitty, then it must be the greatest place in the world to play! We love people who love to have a good time, and we look forward to meeting many more people with great senses of humour…and excellent taste in music!!
You’ll certainly find a few of those in Limerick. Finally, Bella Clava have a series of gigs in Canada the weekend after your Irish stint. Will the four of you be able to get to travel around this beautiful and rainy island before you go back?
Absolutely! We are renting a van (we learned that you call these “people carriers”) and will be seeing as many sights, meeting as many people and tasting as much beer as possible before we leave. It’s a short visit, but we’re taking in as much of the Irish culture as possible with hope that some of its richness will infuse our future shows. We are already talking about our next tour of Ireland….we don’t like one night stands with a city, we like lasting relationships, even if they’re long distance.
Well, here’s hoping that Cork, Galway, Dublin and, naturally, Limerick will take Bella Clava to their hearts. My thanks to Caitlin for taking the time to answer these questions. I hope that Bella Clava enjoy their trip around Ireland. I’m looking forward to seeing them along with all the other bands at this Saturday’s Indie Week gig at Dolan’s. Perhaps we’ll engage in some musical discussions over a pint of Guinness? Hope to see you there as well!