It was with some kind of hellfire that our summer touring got underway. Ireland beckoned in the week beyond but standing in the way was an almighty weekend of tearing round England like blue-arsed flies. Our biggest consolation leaving London? We had delicious nest of boiled-eggs had prepared by Dominic for packed-lunch, and an ashtray load of playlist-laden iPods, primed and ready for the journey ahead.
|Pulling into the Liffey|
|The old, the new and the odd next to The Cobblestone|
A few soapy encounters later we emerged fly-less and fancy free, reborn into the Dublin air with our instruments. With a hop across town that night, we found a spot in the corner seat at The Cobblestone, Smithfield’s home of song and tune. This fine pub hosts a session every night of the week, twice on Sunday. It was a baptism by fire but we earned our Guinness, which, by the way, does taste better in Ireland.
|TEYR business meeting at The Cobblestone|
A michelin-starred Irish breakfast in our bellies we hit the road the following morning. Cartoon chaos ran in the streets, a freak gust of atlantic air had ripped a giant Minion inflatable from its moorings. Dublin was gridlocked, or so we heard. We missed the “Despicable” jam by an hour or so as we struck out northwest toward the border and beyond.
|The Muldoon Range and our Stage|
In Fermanagh, the northern county of lakes (and lots of rain), we holed up with some distant relations of the Gavins, the McGandys and Muldoons. With endless hospitality, and booze, they provided the magical setting for our “Hooley in the Kitchen” house concert. In front Maggie and Harpo’s old kitchen range we played acoustic to a raggle-taggle rip-roaring crowd of the local clans with a bonfire blazing beyond the windows. There was none too little fire in peoples eyes, or tongues for that matter, as any quiet gap in the proceedings was immediately filled with chatter and gossip. But once the notes and words got flowing the atmosphere was electric.
We then had a couple of days of rambling on our hands. Our first rainy afternoon – one of those days where locals might say that Fermanagh was “in the lake” and not the other way around – we spent exploring the isle of Devenish by boat. With Maco as our faithful captain we moored up on the small spit of land and wandered around the monastic ruins and its 12th century round tower, built to supposedly keep the marauding vikings from stealing church treasure. The weird and wonderful engravings scattered about the arches and gravestones held rich blends of christian and pagan imagery. With boots rapidly filling with water and the horizon reduced to just a few hundred yards by the weight of rain and cloud, it felt like the end of the earth.
Across to Derry we wandered about the old town the following day. With Aoife our guide we ran the ramparts of the old city, seeing for ourselves the proximity of two politically opposed communities. It was at that time the lead up to the season of bonfires and the Eleventh Night and towering over the Fountain area was a still growing mountain of wooden pallets and tires adorned with flags and slogans. Some hopeful tales were told though, last year’s Fleadh Cheoil, the first to ever take place in Northern Ireland, coincided with its year as UK City of Culture. “That was a party” said Aoife.
|A Derry Mural in Bogside|
Leaving Derry and the Foyle basin, passing through Limavady to the east, we rose up the side of Mount Keady where the McGandy’s have a Clachan; an old bundle of stone buildings set around a small green. From here on a good day (which is never guaranteed, even in August) you can gaze over the patchwork of fields and small hidden valleys and see in the distance the mountains of Donegal rising beyond the ribbon of the Foyle on one side, the beginnings of the Atlantic to the North, and the shoulders of the Sperrin Mountains stretching either side behind you. At the centre of the Clachan is a barn set aside for nothing but merriment, complete with a bar, a fire, instruments, teapots and a shedload of irishmen. Every night for the following few days a session sparked up at some point between 1pm and 6am and we were the Keady Clachan’s faithful servants in such affairs.
|Across Limavady to the Foyle and Donegal|
Stendhal Festival of Art, a relatively new, brilliantly crafted farm festival, had brought us there to Keady with the generous help of the Joan Mikey. The scale of the festival was odd, slightly out of kilter even. A main stage at the entrance gave way to a wide open valley and a few smaller venues. And that appeared to be it. But then you wandered further, across a network of small purpose built wooden bridges, each one leading to another bizarre world and dancefloor. A tree house set in a copse of trees covered by woolen crocheting served as an elevated DJ booth. Or you could walk through Alice’s wonderland and tea party paraphernalia. We played their Saturday night slot down in the depths of the woods alongside all the other vaguely folky acts with a roaring posse of friends arranged on the log toadstools and boat benches. A rock band pumping out baselines in the neighbouring tent challenged us to a shouting match towards the end of our set, the fools! There was an element of avant garde blending of resultant sounds and time signatures. We invite feedback on whether that’s something to celebrate or not.
|TEYR on the Mark Patterson Show|
|Session Time at the Keady Clachan|
Further sessions at the Clachan ensued with star turns from Teknopeasant, Dylan Walshe and Terry Craig of The Bijoux Toots. Falling asleep in the corner of a session is one thing, falling asleep on top of your guitar is another entirely.
|Team Keady, it was a blast!|
A thousand thank-yous to Harpo, Maggie, Joan, Mickey, Tinker, Phill, Ross, Vincent Alastair, John, Helen, Terry and all the other troubadours and vagabonds we met along the highroad. Till next year!