Category Archives: reviews and reports

The Song Room

I played at The Song Room on Monday night, a new singer/songwriter night at O’Sullivan’s on Westmoreland Street hosted by Hamlet Sweeney and Brian Brody. Brian opened the night with some of his songs accompanied by a harp augmenting his guitar. Ria followed with a band and had us grooving. Hamlet and I did a set next and then I finished the night:

  • ‘Raise your glasses’
  • ‘My belly’s empty and my heart is sore’
  • ‘I love you madly’
  • ‘Face in a frame’
  • ‘Make it home’

The last two went down really well, which I was pleased about. I played ‘Make it home’ on the piano that’s a feature of the pub – nice to play on a real instrument.

You can join the Facebook page for The Song Room or visit the MySpace page.

Gerry and the Peace Process

Last night was a special showcase performance of the musical I’ve been involved in, ‘Gerry and the Peace Process’, written and directed by Liam Hourican and David Crann. The hope is that some of the production and directing types invited will help us take the musical on to reach a wider audience; the show went really well and everyone played their hearts out so, all being well, that process will be smoother than the political one on which the show is based.

Martin (Sean Duggan) and Gerry (Liam Hourican)

I’ve been with the show, playing keyboard, since its well-received debut in the Dublin Fringe Festival last September. Since then, it’s done another run in the Samuel Beckett theatre (at Christmas time, which I wasn’t available for) and we took it to the Out To Lunch festival in Belfast in January. Having grown up in the north enjoying the humour that the assorted political figures of ‘the Troubles’ afforded us – funny accents, mostly, as I recall – I felt that it would go down a storm. Sure enough, we packed the venue twice on our visit to Belfast which was an important milestone of encouragement for the team as they saw the very real potential of the show’s success.

I don’t have any examples of the live music from the show itself – provided by Big Swing – but I do have one of the video clips interspersed throughout the 75-minute production, “…the Taosieach, Bertie Ahern, made a statement flanked by the Minister for Justice but it wasn’t quite clear what he was talking about…”.

Bertie Ahern (Liam Hourican) and Michael McDowell (Jim Roche). Mozart’s ‘Queen of the night’ aria from ‘The Magic Flute’; I’m on piano.

Hamlet’s gig in Bewleys – 27mar08

I met Hamlet Sweeney back in January at The Purty Sessions in Dun Laoghaire; he was on the bill and I was playing with Jill. I really liked his humorous songs and thought he did a great job of performing them. About a month later he got in touch and asked if I’d play with him at a launch gig he was putting on in the Bewleys cafĂ© theatre.

He sent me some demos, we chatted a couple of times and visited the venue before meeting up on the afternoon of the gig to rehearse. Plans to get a bass player had fallen through but there was a piano there so I was able to add body to the sound on that and on cajon. Everywhere I play the cajon people comment on it; it has such a remarkable sound, especially if you’ve never seen one played before and some dude on the stage starts thumping his chair all of a sudden!

We played:

  • ‘Canary in a coalmine’ – Hamlet opened on his own with this lovely song, capturing the audience’s attention in the intimate room.
  • ‘Is she real?’ – I added a nice little ostinato on the guitar.
  • ‘Boogie man‘ – when Hamlet heard I played the clarinet, he suggested I try it on this tune. It was great fun to play (it has a kind of ‘Hit the road, Jack’ feel to it and calls for some audience participation on the chorus, which went down well).
  • ‘Sunshine’ – a groovy, bluesy tune which I played on piano.
  • ‘The Una Molloy hangover song’ – piano again.
  • ‘Breathe in the light’ – to the cajon with some backing vocals in the refrains for this epic, gospel-y song.
  • ‘Voices in my head’ – this was particularly good, I thought. I added a simple piano part to the second half of Hamlet’s haunting song. Very effective.
  • ‘Street lights’ – Hamlet’s done a video for this one with a guy who I met at the gig, Mark Doherty, which should be interesting to see.
  • ‘Perfect day’ – a song that Hamlet’s had some success with on radio in other parts of the world. A summer song 🙂
  • ‘Buy this song’ – funny lyrics! I put in the drum intro from ‘Gold digger’. This’ll be great to play with a band.
  • ‘Mr Slim’ – Hamlet’s ‘beef’ song.
  • ‘Why must love die?’ – Hamlet went out into the middle of the packed little room and sang this alone. Lovely moment and another wistful beauty.

One of Hamlet’s friends captured ‘Voices in my head’ on video:

25mar08 gig

A busy but exhilarating night in Whelan’s new upstairs venue. I opened the night with three of my own songs: ‘Gone’, ‘Make it home’, and ‘Face in a frame’. I’m still a bit unsure when performing my stuff but I had a few appreciative comments afterwards and I was happy with how they went. I didn’t have time to learn them really well and needed the words in front of me which I really can’t allow myself to do next time.

So, the reason I was playing the event in the first place was because Jill was asked to support. I’ve played with Jill since she recorded her eponymous EP last summer; some songs on cajon, some on guitar, with a sprinkling of backing vocals (or, as Jo called them the other day, ‘man harmonies’!). We started with ‘Instead’ which, the last couple of times we’ve done it, I’ve started on bodhrán before switching to cajon after the first chorus. Not sure how effective this is, although I do like the sound of the bodhrán (which I got in Dingle last month). We had been opening this song with me playing a note on a wine glass – a great effect. I need more hands! Stu suggested using a Tibetan prayer bowl, which is an idea I’ll look into: it would certainly be more robust and require less fiddly preparation than the wine glass. After ‘Instead’ I switched to guitar and we did ‘Dreams’ and ‘Break my every move’. I’m happy with the start of my solo in ‘Dreams’, a nice strong arpeggio, but I always feel it ends less strongly than it begins: must take a look at that. Me switching back to cajon, we did the song that everyone seems to like a lot at the moment, ‘Sweet September’. It’s great fun to play on cajon with its Spanish/Arabian feel in the verses, moving to the ‘up’ chorus and, my favourite bit, the middle section that bursts into the major. Stacie came up and joined us for the last two numbers, Jill’s cover of REM’s ‘Losing my religion’ and ‘Overload’ by the Sugababes. I was enjoying myself at this point and ventured a third harmony which worked well.

Then it was time for the main act of the night, James McMorrow. I’ve never even seen James play before, although I’d really liked his stuff on MySpace, so was delighted when he asked if I’d play piano with him. He had demo versions – with piano parts included – of everything he wanted me to play on so, with a bit of homework under my belt, we were able to run over the songs on Monday and Tuesday afternoons and put them together with the other guys in the band at the sound check. The ‘other guys’ being my old musical companions, Dave and Peter; it was great to play with them again. I’ve lost the setlist but stand-out songs for me were ‘Jacob’, ‘We don’t eat until your father’s at the table’, and ‘I’m free’. I felt totally at home in the various styles of James’s songs, which I’d describe as ‘Americana’, ranging from country to gospel-tinged R’n’B (the old-school, Ray Charles kind). I used my faithful Yamaha P-200 keyboard on the Piano 2 setting for the whole set. Man, it’s a great sounding machine and is lovely to play. Even if it does weigh a flippin’ tonne.

I was on cloud nine the whole night. It was great to see a few recently-off-the-radar friends again and there was a great atmosphere in the room as everyone had gathered to support James, a fact which seemed to dispel any nerves he might have had and he turned out a great performance. Hopefully the first of many more to come. I’ll keep you posted.