August Wells

Before I write about the latest band I’ve fallen in love with, I haven’t forgotten about the 30th challenge. It hasn’t happened yet due to the weather, but hopefully it will happen some weekend soon. I could have done something simple on my birthday to finish off the list, but I wanted to end on a real high, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do when I get the opportunity.

Last Saturday I went to McGrory’s with one of my best friends to see a band I’ve only known about for the last year and haven’t stopped listening to during the last month. August Wells are made up of Dubliner Ken Griffin on vocals and guitar, and American pianist John Rauchenberger. Griffin’s song lyrics can be both humourous and thought provoking. His baritone voice quickly catches your ear and keeps you listening. Rauchenberger doesn’t only have a great sirname, but he is one of the most creative piano players I’ve seen in a long while. Together they are a great combination, and equally brilliant when you hear them play live.

McGrory’s is a lovely venue near the Donegal coast. Unfortunately I think it could be managed more efficiently at times where the music is concerned, and advertising of this gig could have been much better. As a result, the band were moved from the back bar to the smaller front bar due to low ticket sales. The small number of us who bought tickets got our money back, but it meant that we had to listen to them play along with lots of other people who had come for food and drinks before, and weren’t paying too much attention. The venue was quite noisy, but when we got seats towards the front soon after it started, we enjoyed it much better. The performance was relaxed and straightforward, with a couple of short breaks for encores. When it finished we had a nice chat with Ken and John. I think they were surprised when we came to buy CDs, and that two people in the crowd where very enthusiastic about their music! They said that they felt it was unfair that we couldn’t hear it as well as we might have wanted to because we’d bought tickets, so they put us on the guest list for the following night’s performance in Derry, which we weren’t able to attend. Still, it was a very kind gesture.

I’d definitely recommend both albums, ‘a living in a dying game’, and the new one ‘madness is the mercy’ if anybody is looking for new music that’s clever but easy to listen to. Most of the bands I go to hear play are bands or artists that I’ve already seen before, so this was a nice opportunity to hear somebody new. Hopefully they’ll get a better reception on the rest of their Irish tour and come back again soon.

A challenging week!

I can’t believe it’s this time already. It’s 17th February. My birthday is tomorrow. I’ve done 29 new things since last year that I’ve never done before, which was something I challenged myself to do in February 2016. I have one day left and one challenge to do. If the weather cooperates (which it doesn’t always do in Ireland) I’ll be finishing off my 30 challenges by doing something scary but exciting on my birthday. Here’s hoping!
When I finish the birthday celebrations I’ll put up the full list of things I’ve done. In the meantime, I wanted to write about a few of them that I did this week because they were worth describing in a bit more detail.

Last Monday afternoon I went on a motorbike with my uncle. I’d been on a small one in Thailand before, but this time I was more prepared. I had the trousers, the coat and the helmet. My uncle is a retired guard, so I knew I’d be safe. I wasn’t nervous, but my aunt was, and apparently she didn’t sit still until I came back. The bike shook a small bit as it took off, but when it got going I loved it! We drove for almost half an hour. I had no real concept of where I was until I smelled slurry at one part of the journey and that was a good clue. It was a windy day, but the protective clothes kept the wind out. It’s a great feeling driving along in the open air with the wind blowing around you, holding on tight but also knowing you are safe. If you didn’t feel relaxed, you probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.
I can definitely recommend riding a motorbike sometime in your life if you haven’t done it already.

Challenge 28 happened two days later. For many peple, especially my six and nine-year-old nephews, this was a dream come true! I spent an hour working in Munchies, which is a local sweet shop which my friends own. I prepared bags of mixed sweets, where I was able to choose from around twelve different types of jellies and yummy fizzy things which are bad for your teeth. I attempted to put stickers on bags which advertise the shop, but we soon realised that this was not a good idea. I’m hopeless at keeping things straight, so it gave us a good laugh. I was quickly moved on to restocking jars of jellies instead. Cheryl also gave me the chance to serve the children who came in after school. I had to use the till and make sure I gave them the proper money back! I knew lots of the people who came in, and they were surprised to see me behind the counter with an apron and gloves on. I’m usually there to buy things instead. Nobody was more surprised than my two nephews. I had asked their dad to bring them in after school without telling him why. They were very jealous and very excited, and we took some photos as they bought their chocolate bars.

Working in a shop was a brilliant experience that a blind person wouldn’t usually get the chance to do. I had the opportunity to be involved in everything, even working the till, and even the customers were very encouraging. It was definitely the most enjoyable Wednesday afternoon Ive had in a long while.
And yes of course, I did get to taste a few nice things while I was there 😀

Challenge 29 was one that was on my original list, and something I’ve wanted to do for a long time out of curiosity. After dinner with my parents and family, my cousin Evan and a few more family members came to visit. I got the shaver out and shaved his head! I was a bit afraid at first, and felt a bit guilty as soon as I felt the first clump of hair fall into my hand. But there was no going back! I gave him a number 3, so I didn’t completely bald him. Wasn’t that nice of me? His brother helped guide my hand and show me what way to move it. I also made sure that he tidied up the cut in the end, because if he’d left it he might have gotten some funny looks for a while.
It was fun doing something that you should really not do when you are blind. I don’t think I’ll have a career as a hairdresser any time soon though!

30 Song Challenge

A friend suggested on Facebook that as part of my 30 challenges (which have to be completed on 18th February!) I post a song a day for 30 days and write about why I like it. I finished this last week and thought I’d post the list here.
I’m very lazy. I haven’t posted links to each one. I doubt anyone would actually want to listen to them all anyway. It’s not like lots of people read this!! If you want to hear a particular song, you’ll just have to find it yourself sorry. I know my readers are very independent, so I wouldn’t want to spoonfeed you all the time! 😀
If you do go to the trouble of listening, hopefully you’ll find something new that you haven’t heard before. And if you want to recommend any music you think I might like, I’d really appreciate it. There’s a music voucher in my house that needs to be spent, in a real music shop!

1. Mary Black: Sunny
After nursery rhymes, this was the first song I remember really liking. I even learned it on the piano!

2. Phil Coulter: the town I loved so well
This is such a beautifully written song, but I also love it as a solo piano piece.

3. Crash Test Dummies: Afternoons and coffee spoons
They were the first band I really really liked. These lyrics are so ridiculous, but Brad Roberts does have a unique voice!!

4. Bon Jovi: wanted dead or alive
I was famous in primary school for my obsession with Bon Jovi. They were the first band I ever saw play live. I was ten, and it was a dream come true. I couldn’t pick a favourite song, but the guitar in this is great.

5. Shane McGowan and Sinead O’Connor: haunted
These are two voices that couldn’t sound more different, but the song totally works!

6. REM: Electrolyte
I’ve been listening to REM since I was eight years old. It’s impossible to choose a favourite song, so this is as good as any.

7. David Gray: gathering dust
Like half the population of Ireland, I was introduced to David Gray’s music through ‘white ladder’ in 1999. He made me listen to music in a different way. I learned how powerful acoustic guitars and song writing could be.

8. Bob Dylan: forever young
It’s just beautiful.

9. Jeff Buckley: Halleluiah
A friend who knew what kind of music I liked gave me a copy of Jeff Buckley’s ‘grace’ when we were in secondary school, and I was completely blown away by his voice. I had never heard anything like that before. I chose this song because it covers my love of Leonard Cohen as well, although it’s not even in my top 20 favourite songs of his.

10: The frames: people get ready
I’d known of the frames since revelate, but never took much interest in them until around 2000. I listened to Uaneen Fitzsimons at night-time on 2fm whenever I could because she was obsessed with David Gray too. She was an inspiration, and I remember being really upset the day she was killed in a car accident. She often played the frames, and gradually star star and lay me down got stuck in my head. I was slow to like them, but when I did, I couldn’t stop. Seeing them live in 2002 was the start of lots of concerts, bringing everyone and anyone who would come with me, discovering lots of new music, meeting new friends and great musicians, and making lots of happy memories.

11. Mic Christopher: Hey Day
Mic’s album Skylarkin is one of my favourite albums of all time. The lyrics are so positive, and it’s interesting to listen back now after everything that happened since he wrote those songs. Who knows what great music he would have went on to make, but this was a great legacy for him to leave.

12. Josh Ritter: Kathleen
The next thing I loved because of the frames was Josh Ritter. And a song with an opening line like this one can’t be faulted.

13. Van Morrison: Madam George
When you start listening to the music of David Gray and Glen Hansard and hearing interviews and them talking about what inspires them, two words keep coming up over and over again. Astral Weeks. I listened to Van Morrison’s ‘astral weeks’ for the first time on earphones in the car as I travelled to Belfast to start my course in Queens University. I was heading to the right city. I listened to it many times during those three years.

14. Pixies: where is my mind?
It doesn’t need a reason. It’s just cool 

15. Planxty: Little Musgrave
I couldn’t choose my favourite Christy Moore song so thought I’d go with this one. I love a song that tells a story, and this does it very well.

16. Queen: killer queen
I think queen are the only band that myself and all my friends actually like! If I could see any band play live, it would have been them. This isn’t my favourite song, but it reminds me of a special day. In June 2007, I went to Cork to meet a black Labrador who ended up changing my life. Before you train with a guide dog, the trainer takes you for a matching walk to see if you and the dog are suitable. It’s the most nerve wrecking and exciting thing. I remember finishing the walk with OJ and the trainer telling us that we were a match. When we got back into the van to drive back to the guide dog centre, this song was playing.

17. Lisa Hannigan: down to the river (cover version)
Lisa Hannigan could sing anything and I’d like it! Paul Noonan singing with her here covers my love of Bell X1 too.

18. JJ Cale: any way the wind blows
I was late discovering the goodness of JJ Cale, but better late than never. His work with Eric Clapton is so good!

19. PJ Harvey: good fortune
Just because she’s cool 

20. Tom Waits: Martha
You probably already know by now that I love a song with a good piano. I thought this was easier to listen to than the piano has been drinking!

21. Simon and Garfunkel: the boxer
It doesn’t need a reason. Love both of them together, but I was always more of a Simon fan if I’m honest. Was lucky enough to hear him play live twice, and his concert in Vicar Street was in my top five gigs of all time.

22. The lost brothers: the goodbye kid
On the subject of beautiful harmonies…

23. Fleet foxes: white winter hymnal
A song that feels Christmassy without being a Christmas song.

24. August Wells: come on in out of that night
I can’t get this song out of my head these days. They might be a new band for some people. I’m looking forward to hearing them play live at the end of February.

25. John Prine: Lake Marie
It’s so hard to pick a John Prine song, but when I saw him live for the one and only time, this song definitely got my attention. It’s got great lyrics, emotion and humour, all the things that make John Prine songs special.

26. Interference: gold
The story of Fergus O’Farrell and Interference is one that’s worth exploring if you haven’t already.

27. Colm Mac Con Iomaire: the Finnishline
I love instrumental music, and I love this tune!

28. The decemberists: rocks in the box
I absolutely love this band! Not my favourite song but its good fun. Check out the tune in the middle!

29. Glen Hansard: winning streak
These days Glen Hansard is known for his solo career as much as lead singer with the Frames. His solo performances are very different but still have that energy and passion for what he does. He gives so much every time he plays. I should know, I’ve seen him enough haha. He writes songs with great lyrics like this one. And he’s very charitable and very sound too. What more could you want?

30. Bruce Springsteen: Thunder Road
It was so difficult to pick a favourite song, but this is definitely one of them. Seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band play live is as good as it gets really. The band work hard, give 100% every time, and have lots of fun, which is really what music should be about I think. It’s not a bad motto for life itself either!