Strip me Bare - Tour Diary - Mar - May - Ireland 2018
TOUR DIARY 1 - DUNDALK
Then come Friday the 16th of March, the first stop on my Strip me Bare Tour and a return to the scene of the crime or the scene of many a creative conception, home, the Spirit Store.
Brendan Behan once said that the Irish were not his audience but rather his raw material. I do t believe my auld China was feeling the love from his kin at the time, perhaps he’d grown weary of playing the public fool or was he sore because of the spiteful comments from his begrudgers? There is something odd, something eerie about returning home to play in a place that acts as a mausoleum of thought dream, I always get dizzy, losing myself in memory, drunk on reminiscence, anticipating a flood of emotions. The Spirit Store is a place in which many versions of myself have existed. It is part of my identity, I first sang there at 11 years of age, in the old room, we’ve both changed a great deal since then. The room was full last night and now my heart is full as a fella once said!
Pure unadulterated expressionism from beginning to end, it was the end of the beginning! A right of passage and a gathering of like-minded souls all toiling and cultivating together as one. Galorious!
I tip my cap to Derek Turner, a constant supplier of support and opportunity to me since 04 I salute Orwell’s 84 and Harry Hoban and the Brothers Kane for being fearless, in their writings and in their deliveries, the world needs more of their honesty, realism and sincerity.
I applaud all who lent their presence to that warm room after embracing the rains, let us meet again soon and channel once more. My band of brothers soared!
They are Warriors of expression & we have much to do and say as we make our way along the road.
Today I blacken pages, tomorrow it’s on to Dolan’s in Limerick and the next chapter of this tale.
Thank you Dundalk, it was good to be home. David X
Photo Credit - Kevin McGann @ The Spirit Store
TOUR DIARY 2 - LIMERICK
The day after the Dundalk gathering I was asked “now that the dust has settled, how do you feel?” Settled you say ? We must never allow the dust to settle, never allow any dust to settle or stagnate, keep it animated for a fine layer of dust is crucial in the maintaining of momentum and the inducing of flow. I spent St Patrick’s day ensconced in my Marino Outpost, reading a War Poets anthology gifted to me during the previous melee and drinking tar like tea. I didn’t leave the house, I’d misplaced my suit of armor and canister of Valium.
Then came the second stop of the tour, Dolan’s in Limerick and a room I’d frequented last year with four heads from Cavan. I was greeted inside the door by three leather cladded chancers who immediately took a disliking to my north Louth hair or Clark’s shoes or something. Within a Bavarian Brass band’s AGM was seemingly being held. I empathized with any poor bowsie in for the hair of the dog, in fairness they were a jovial crew in spite of insisting on not believing my long haired companion from New York when he informed them that his name was indeed Kevin & not Jesus.
Upstairs to the gig, my first Limerick solo appearance. The room was full, the audience welcoming and receptive. Candles adorned every table the only other light was a spotlight on myself and so all I could see from the middle row onwards were hands on tables, illuminated by candlelight. It reminded me of the snooker halls as a kid, pooling money and dreams under dim lights on green tables.
You took to me Limerick, and I to you, you embraced the cold and embraced the happening.
Dolan’s I thank you, an eventful experience. My love to Synead Twomey for joining me on the night, continue to express and explore.
Onwards towards the Fjords! Waterford next,
Photo Credit - Anthony Mulcahy @ Dolans Limerick
TOUR DIARY 3 - WATERFORD And on the third day he wised up again...
Waterford, a proud place on the waterfront, home of the mystical blaa and Phil Grimes pub where a welcome was waiting by the fire, open armed and smiling. The men behind Subterranean Sounds reached out and facilitated last nights happening. Phad and Gar, two salt of the earth soldiers on the front lines trying to maintain a night of credible artistry and expression upstairs in “The Other Room” a place dripping with character that is sought by the many but the like just cannot be bought, it’s legit, if the walls could talk they’d whistle. Patterned red carpet lines the floor, a little green wooden bar, an old piano hiding in the corner of the small stage, old yellowed lighting hanging from the ceiling, no seating, intimacy. I was in my element ! Let us call all the bards in !
I was joined in the affray by young Tadhg Williams, a man with many artistic pots on the boil. He read aloud some of his spoken word pieces before I took to the stage and one poem in particular that compared the relationship with travelers during his grandmothers time with present day struck a chord. However I had to disagree with him all of a sudden for he read the line: “Expressionism is dead and gone, it’s with Yeats in the grave” Blasphemy!!! It lives on, coursing through our spirits and through our veins, it walks beside us and dances on our tongues for as long as we keep the beacons burning it will guide us in the dark ! My love to Tadhg, he is a man on the path, walk on brother.
Waterford you were beautiful, you were beyond welcoming, Phil Grimes you are my new shelter from the rains, a fella may indeed find love in that Snug !
I had a hankering to venture into the Wander inn but for fear of not wandering out I decided against it, perhaps next time. I’m making my way towards home, well almost. Drogheda calls X
Photo Credit - Kevin McGann
Strip Me Bare, the fourth stop.
I’ll stand on a fruit box in the middle of the town and call for the end of this so called Dundalk/Drogheda feudal War, an end to the jibes to the jokes, the taunts and the septic bad blood, solidarity is what we need across county Louth for this is exactly what was felt in the body of the Salty Dog Pub last night, a true sense of solidarity.
I am humbled by the pure understanding present in the rooms which I’ve frequented thus far on this tour, like minded souls are stepping out of the shadows and lending their presences to each place, rallying under the one banner, willing each other forward, laughing, nodding in recognition whilst singing in unison with emotional and passionate conversations being held after the flood. Last night was immense, warm bodies huddled together. I could see the whites of their eyes.
Young Harry Fennell opened up proceedings, a seventeen year old kid from Dublin who crossed my path late last year. I was struck by his presence and blossoming ability, he has a true appreciation for the graft, for the craft and has all the eagerness to learn and grow in the universe. He reverberated through the room, sounding colossal the five monitors that rest on the stage. The Salty Dog can boast a fine PA system and a sound head manning the ship in Niall. My fellow Dundalk China David Bellew stood at the mast next, a musical magpie who proceeded to melt faces with his hyperactive guitar style and vocal wail. A man on the cusp of releasing some music out into the ether, a man with a vocation, a lovable rogue who wouldn’t do what he was told !
I busted myself during moments in between playing games of chess in a disused section of the old bar, during which I was joined by a strange apparition who after beating me for the third consecutive game in a row then succeeded in selling me a walking stick with apparent mystical qualities. See said stick above in the photograph captured by Gerry Kane ! The ghostly form quickly evaporated when I demanded he honour the laws of the round and make his call, I’ll get him in the long grass.
I thank every beautiful being present last night! Special thanks to Zen master Harry Hoban for distributing good vibes.
Long story short, I enjoyed every moment. Truth be told I’ve never felt more alive but I mustn’t ponder just now, onwards to Cork ! I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
Photo Credit - Ger Kane
Strip me Bare for the fifth time...
This past week I’ve watched our countryside pass before me in flashes, gazing out windows at cattle, ditches, shucks, homes of strangers, derelict estates and field upon field of clandestine green. I’m happiest when I’m on the move, it all stems from the fact that I was born on a train, a fine way to travel.
What became of them brave young few you said that we’d live forever in the ruins of the railway masters shed ? I go back to them in memory sporadically and they seem contented, making plans and crushing cans of precious metals into the earth. I sit here covered in dust. I sit here now, an eye witness. Cork has become a place that I adore.
Coughlans provides a perfect backdrop for my songs, I ran my hand along the bar and felt a vibration. I stood on plywood and said what I had to say, I left my body and sat in the corner drinking from a pint of Beamish and observing my facial expressions as they twisted in song. Back behind the microphone I paused abruptly mid flow, an adventurous bead of sweat swam down my face, I looked into the whites of eyes, I loosened my shoulders, relaxed my muscles, time seemed to slow.
You wondrous crowds of fellow truth seekers where are you all coming from ? I’ve looked for so long, I’ve longed for the looks and half nods in recognition.
These are magical nights, I am happy to be a part of them.
My love to Elaine Malone for filling the room with her spellbinding sounds. Coughlans will you have me back ? The sky today is the purest of blues X
Photo Credit - Kevin McGann
Cleere’s Theatre, Kilkenny. The Sixth Stop...
I’m have many grace filled memories from time spent in Kilkenny, with people from Kilkenny, I have history with the ancient place.
Yesterday was one of those days, you know them well. Slow, fluid and blissful no rushing on this trip. Sure isn’t rushing the worst sin of all ? The sun guided our way, Kieran Mulvihill and I, coasting along a sparsely populated motorway, the wind carrying a warm breeze into the car as the sounds of Cat Palace boomed from the suspect stereo.
I was asked by the good people in Rollercoaster Records to drop by and play some songs in house for two o’clock. Independent gems like this are rarities these days, precious establishments that act as hideaways for music junkies across the island, skulking in their corners we give thanks for the solace we uncover. The late great Willy Meighan was the man behind its existence, his presence is still there in the atmosphere and in the faces of those who knew him and were touched by his warmth and generosity. I’m saddened that we didn’t get the chance to meet, I think we would’ve got on.
Martin Bridgeman from KCLR radio was kind enough to invite myself and Mulvihill out to the station for some conversation over mugs of scald proceeded by some songs. In keeping with my radio ritual I played a new one called “Automatic Writings” before which “Postcards from Catalonia” received its first piece of airplay. The interview and songs shall be aired this Tuesday night on Martins show, tune all your dials to 96fm 10-Midnight!
Onwards to Cleeres !!!
I took the advice of a local witch doctor and consumed a bowl of their famous Stewp, there’s eating and drinking in it, I was ready for battle !
The theatre is a room of exposed stone walls, the ideal setting for expressing. Let us walk to Tara naked and take back what’s rightfully ours !
Kieran opened his lungs before I and shared his bardlings with the room. Intricate songs and stories about youth, looking in and looking out. Another salt of the earth expressionist and gentín who is a joy to be around. He’s due to join me again along the road in the coming weeks armed with a mála full of his new record - Seek one out.
The beautiful bodies in the room emanated a warmth towards me, we sang in unison, we shared laughter, we sat, we stood, we listened and we applauded one another.
Ah Kilkenny, you have an area carved out in my heart. Thank you, let us meet again soon. Special thanks to Peter, Paul and all the other apostles who march under the Cleere’s banner and to my Subterranean sounds rock of Gibraltar Gar Kehoe.
Monroe’s of Galway is on the horizon, I’ll be bringing a band of brothers with me, Gunslingers galore.
We won’t shed no tears for the good old days but for talk sake we could mourn them in a song.....X
Photo Credit - Patrick M Barrett
Monroe’s of Galway
Where I was stripped bare for the seventh time.
How are you ?
Where have you been since we last held court ?
I’ve been busy blackening pages, observing the changes in nature, running the roads. Skin head crows patrol the skies above us eyeballing those who toil in housing estates across the land, building pyramids of golden cigarette sleeves on concrete due to the lack of soil. I can see it now.
A serendipitous current is running through me today. Galway has been good to me.
Monroe’s - memories of an eighteen year old kid spending his Dole following Steve Craddock from Dundalk to Galway by bus on the promise of a support slot, it didn’t happen and I ended up staying with friends in Letterfrack for the guts of a week. It was the darkest place I’d ever been, you couldn’t see the hand in front of your face at night, shuffling slowly out in search of supplies, cheap cider, songs by the fire, barren beauty though a real sadness still cling to the air.
Fast forward a few years and the curse of Craddock was broken and the support slot gifted by them druidy druids The Hothouse Flowers.
After a couple of weeks out of the ring a session of expression was needed. I had cravings, a man needed a fix.
A face from earlier youth in Dundalk -Jack Lee, stepped in at the last minute to support. It was meant to be, the universe is an avid listener it seems, bringing us together under the one roof as we spilled our guts out in story and song for the first time since Eoin’s bar back in the day.
Last orders Lads Are you coding ?
It is a big room, big stage, big sound. Bodies above and below, a melting pot of scents crying out from the balcony. Faces that instantly become familiar as lyrics flow and energy is exchanged, movement and motion, all of us swimming in the current.
I emitted primal screams as the set reached its end.
I felt free, freed of something, safe among friends.
A Corner boy lamented we applauded one another’s efforts.
My love to you Galway! You loose mover, you warm confident creature. Special thanks to Gary Monroe for his welcome and presence.
Last nights gig was dedicated to the memory of my old friend Ken McKenna. Memories of Rizla Green floating down your sofa seams, JJ Cale and Erin go Bragh.
They called him the breeze, he went blowing down the road X
Photo Credit - John Martin Tierney
To Cork, It takes a village festival of Trabolgan and De Barra’s of Clonakilty.
I am the first one awake I am the first one to rise I make my way down the narrow stair, still stupefied by sleep towards the kitchen. Barefoot I move towards the window, a double dose of fresh air to the brain is needed. I focus my eyes, awareness, awakening. Condensation and birdsong. I hang out the window and observe the town, tri coloured bunting hangs above the street under which kinds make their way towards school, passing a veg man and a bread van who intersect one another on the road. A head tilt and a wink, the universal sign of recognition. The air is clean, a breeze to the face feels like heaven. All is as it should be and I am far from the Pale.
Last night I had the opportunity to return to De Barra’s, a Mecca, a treasure throve of last happenings whose energy still swells within it’s walls. Walls that smile, walls adorned with curios and voodoo, a place where a man might fall in love, stumble upon a life altering idea, drink till he is drunk and sing til it was sung all in one night.
I first experienced the place three years ago when Damien Dempsey brought me down to open for him, a gesture of Homeric epic proportions. I’d been on tour with him for the previous few weeks, discovering parts of our country that I’d never before seen, places that I’d imagined in thought dream with a man who I’d idolized since the age of thirteen. The tour ended with two nights in this place
It was November It was misty Is was blissful
I look back on that young man now, himself unsure of many things, taken in by good people and looked after, listening , learning, expressing, experiencing the joys of travel gifting him renewed focus and drive. I can see us all now sat around the tables downstairs after hours singing loudly and spilling our souls and spirits out into the room adding our own echoes to the archive.
I am very fortunate to be able to meet weird and wonderful, gifted and artistic, decent and inspiring people as I make my way along the path.
Another of whom Junior Brother joined me for this leg of the journey. Junior Brother is a man who I’ve admired since the days before I found a bed in Dublin, we first met in Listowel just a few days before I first set foot in Clon. He is a true artist whose work is both complex and profound while remaining colloquial and relatable. No airs or graces though he churns out graceful airs.
I adore that room ! It has all the warmth and character in the world. A room full of the feelings of home. I went for a walk, then a swim all within. It was a joy, it was a joy full stop.
The deepest of thanks to Ian the conductor and to Ray for going above and beyond, a gentín personified.
Index finger pressed to the page, Rewind the reel. Earlier the previous day I had the chance to go further back into the well of memory, back to Trabolgan where I spent a week as a child to It Takes a Village festival. I was due to play at three o’clock but before the session of expression I was asked to be the guest on The Blindboy Boatclub Podcast.
The universe is an avid listener it seems for this man and his work has been very present in my world over the past month. He seems to be an enlightened individual and it was a trip getting to converse with him. A shining voice of humour and reason in the country today, if you have yet to experience the Blindboy Podcast then do yourself a favour and seek it out ! It is medicinal and a product of a tuned in head.
Then came another outpouring The rains stayed away.
The past few days have been full in every sense. Now to get cleaned up and head back towards Dublinia.
Swimming in the current Working with the flow Happy as Larry —— I reckon this saying originated with auld Lazarus who was happy after his resurrection ( open to correction)
Photo Credit - Aidan Shortall
Mullingar Saturday the 5th of April 18
This morning I headed for Bull Island beach. This morning I wandered into some mesmeric fog which kidnapped the shoreline. On this morning I was wave whitened, blinded by sand and light. I took refuge among the dunes then defiantly meditated into the wind. I was freed of some hidden thing, unearthed sediment, expelled scree. I stripped to the togs and ran towards the water, into the sea, raving and howling into that living body, emerging fully charged and slightly altered.
My first happening in two weeks was welcomed. Open collared and open hearted.
To the stables in Mullingar, where many iconic gatherings were held in a past tense place. Impeccable sound emanated from the room of exposed stone walls. I spoke to Frank and he weaved a wondrous sound. Keiran Mulvihill was my travel companion and his compositions filled the place. Telling stories and spinning yarns in melodic forms, Tom Crean, the makings of the man. Poetic humour in a Kerry brogue.
A face that I hadn’t seen in five years appeared at the bar. A friend from those embryonic days by the Merseysippi. A Beggar to a Beggar cried and all seemed well in the world.
Today was full in every which way.
Photo Credit - Aidan O'Rourke
Tour Diary 9
Vinyl Festival, Royal Hospital Kilmainham
The sun is beaming down on all her children.
I am starting to sweat and being conscious that my skin is turning the pinkish shade of an unripened gobshite, I head for the shade.
I am here in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham as part of Vinyl festival, happy to be expressing at such an event, hoping to catch some of Peggy Seeger’s conversation after I play some song’s in a Baroque chapel.
Stained glass windows and high ceilings. I can open up here and discover how far I might climb.
Arthur Matthews sits in the front rower during my set and I have the urge to down tools and shake his hand.
Speakers and singers, all with their own stories to tell are walking the grounds today. I couldn’t daydream, not for long. A man was Portloaise bound.
I’ve been to Kavanagh’s before with a chap from Donaghmede. It didn’t disappoint then and it wouldn’t let me down now.
Warm bodies filled the room, a comedy club to be exact, a few necessary laughs in between spiels.
My love to all the faces who filled my line of sight.
I’ll sleep like a baby tonight.
Photo Credit - Phoebe Shortall
Bank Holiday Monday in Bray... A bank holiday Monday in Bray, what could beat it for a life ?
The Harbour bar in Bray is undoubtedly one of the finest places in the Universe. Have you been ? If you haven’t you should seek it out immediately. I wouldn’t tell you a lie, unless you asked me to, I’m obliging that way but don’t tell a soul.
I always brew up a celebratory pot of Tea when I discover I’m due to play under it’s roof. Those who work within go above and beyond and above and beyond. The weather brought bodies out in their droves along with the swans who hiss at the thoughts of another onslaught of white fucking bread.....” I reckon today’ll be different lads....Ahhh Jaysus”
What is life but a Jazz rhythm and a rhyme ! The Bray Jazz Festival was holding it’s last gathering and I got to share it with my band of expressionists, friends, new and old.
Some Faces are fit for photographs, you know what I mean don’t you, those interesting faces full of character and intrigue, ones you could look at for a while, faces that tell a story. I have to thank every one of you for filling that well worn room. For being open and allowing me to open up, for being invested and involved. We shared some beautiful moments together, we cultivated a thriving thing didn’t we ?
I feel very grateful and incredibly inspired. I used to be younger but somehow felt older than I do now. Do you know what I mean ? If you do reach out.
Two more nights remain on this maiden voyage.
Derry & Belfast.
Onwards I must go, into the great known and unknown !
Photo Credit - Ger Kane
Tour Diary Part 11: Duncairn Arts Centre, Belfast
Stripped Bare for the second last and final time.
Sandinos of Derrry is a place that emanates pureness. It wraps you in a warm sheet and whispers tales of former glories into your ear.
I was delighted to make that journey once again, to the walled city where all peoples are freed.
The rom itself conjures images of a bygone time, blues and silvers, red candles glowing on a hallowed stage. I was joined by Rebecca Mulhern & Conal McGrellis. Rebecca is an incredible artist who will leave her mark on this earth in many ways, Conal has a presence, warmth and voice that would fill any room of tuned in truth seekers. Gerry sailed the sound waves from the back of the room, and what a vessel she was!
A gent of a man who took me in that night as his guest. The following morning we headed for The Grianan Of Aileach, the ancient 6th century ring fort which overlooked four sun saturated lands around us. Such sights would alter a man, thank you for the gesture Gerry brother.
I boarded a bus to Belfast, to another home from home, a holy place devoid of pretentiousness, purveys of community, togetherness and teachings, the Duncairn Arts Centre. This was not my first trip to this place, on every occasion my soul has been filled up by the palpable positivity that lives on the auras of all who thrive under it’s roof.
Ray and all the family are impeccable people.
A full room awaited me for the last of my first tour of Ireland. A tour that has acted as an education for me, the understanding that was cultivated the journey brings a tear from the eye at the thoughts.
I extend my hand, I extend my spirit to all of you in thanks for joining me along the way!
I am very fortunate to be living through such a life, very thankful and humbled by it all.
I am living, I merely existed in a past life and I appreciate all of these adventures deeply.
I shared it with many friends new and old and was helped along the way by many beautiful people.
Thank you all, full stop.
Special thanks to LemonCello, Junior Brother, Harry Hoban and the Brothers Kane, my band of brothers, Aidan Shortall for his constant guidance and support & Hot Press Magazine for allowing me the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream to have my writings featured with their name attached.
I proceed now into the next chapter, full of appreciation, focus and energy.
Gra Mór friends !!!
Phot Credit : Dearbhlá Harpúr