How Home Sweet Home helped me

On 16th December, I went with my cousin Laura to see Glen Hansard play in the Guildhall in Derry. I decided to call it my staff night out. Recently setting up my own business and becoming self-employed means that staff nights out are a thing of the past. Glen was accompanied by a group of musicians playing strings and piano. It was great to hear a few Leonard Cohen covers among the variety of songs from his two solo albums. The music was relaxed, but I felt that there was something different about Glen’s performance. It was passionate and emotional, but it was like there was something else. I can’t explain.

Four weeks later, Laura and I were lucky enough to be two of 180 people in the audience at Seamus Heaney HomePlace for a solo concert that Glen played there. Other than to say it was really special, in the smallest music venue I’ve ever seen him play, I can’t describe it. Hearing Glen read poetry between songs in the hometown of a poet he really admires seemed to be a privilege for him. For me, it was the perfect venue to bring my guide dog Sibyl to her first ever gig, and she behaved well. It was nice to say hi to Glen after, as well as meeting some Frames friends I hadn’t seen in a while.

The second concert, (which was definitely the better of the two) was a more relaxed performance, but there was a good reason for that. The same night that Glen played in Derry in December, he featured on the Late Late show. He sounded nervous and frustrated. He didn’t speak for long, but that was our introduction to Apollo House and the Home Sweet Home campaign. This involved a group of people occupying a vacant office block in Dublin city centre, and providing accommodation for homeless people who would otherwise probably have spent Christmas on the streets. The group left the building on January 12th in compliance with an order from the high court. During their time there, almost 90 people stayed and moved on to six-month supported accommodation where they can live comfortably and feel safe. In my opinion, this was the best thing to happen in Ireland since the marriage equality referendum. It showed how powerful people can be if they work together. Each person’s small part can make a big difference.

So why am I writing about Home Sweet Home now? The answer is that I don’t really know, other than the fact that I’ve been thinking about it very often since before Christmas. It’s very easy to ignore a problem if you can’t identify with it or have no experience of it. It’s easy to say things like, that will never affect me. That’s only a city problem. People who end up in that situation got themselves there or didn’t try hard enough to get out of it. People with addictions can’t be helped. There are enough beds for people who are homeless, why don’t they just be grateful and take them? Of course the real story of homelessness is much different and much more complex than that. The Home Sweet Home campaign told the stories of some of the people living through these experiences. It made them more real. It made us listen and pay more attention. Our government are being put under more pressure to actually do something about the housing crisis, and the people of Ireland aren’t going to stand and do nothing any longer. This campaign won’t be going away any time soon.

Glen Hansard was only one of many activists who supported the Home Sweet Home idea, and he was always very clear about that when he spoke about it. Homelessness is a cause that he’s been involved in for a long time before this campaign even existed. It was never done for publicity, like some people who have done nothing better themselves have been suggesting. Through his music, he was able to promote an idea and a message, and encourage other people to give their support. For someone like me who loves music and was going to the gigs anyway, he really helped capture my attention in a way that other people or the government certainly wouldn’t have. Music can be very powerful! When you’ve been watching someone perform and hearing them talk about music for the last fifteen years, you have an idea of the kind of person they are, and sincerity is a big thing for me when it comes to charity. That’s something so many people in Ireland, even some who are employed in charities lack.

I’ve been frustrated that I couldn’t do much to help with Home Sweet Home during the last month, apart from offering to volunteer if a suitable opportunity came up. However the whole thing has made me realise that there’s much more I could and should be doing to volunteer and help others in general. Even small one off things could help make a difference. Being blind definitely makes it more difficult to go where you want spontaneously, and to help people with things in the same way that sighted people can. When you are blind, you are often the one who needs help, and automatically are linked to specific charities and organisations. That can be frustrating, but it can’t be my excuse. I want to do more to open my mind and benefit others. I have no idea exactly what yet. I just know that this is something I’ve intended doing for a long time, and Home Sweet Home has given me the push that I needed.

When my family and I left Phuket Island in December 2004 to travel to the airport after being caught up in the tsunami, I remember feeling guilty. I knew I was lucky to be safe and to be alive, but I felt bad for escaping and leaving the people behind. Their lives and their town was destroyed. They’d been so good to us, helping us to get out of there, and we were leaving the country and leaving them to sort their lives out. I know there’s nothing we could have done right at that time, but that day changed something in me that I’ve never bothered to properly explore. I’ve always had a gnawing feeling that I should be doing more, because I know I’ve had such a lucky easy life compared to many people. So this is it. This is the year. I have no idea what I will become involved in, but I do know that the Home Sweet Home campaign and the events that took place in Apollo House over Christmas and New Year have made an impact on me in a way that I really wasn’t expecting.

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Good Things Always Happen in Cork

I’ve been to Cork five times in the last year. It’s one of my favourite counties, I love the accent, and every time I go, I always really enjoy it. I went there last weekend, and it was no exception.

Sibyl did her first journey on the Dublin bus on Friday morning. It’s one she’ll be doing many times, so luckily she seemed to enjoy it. We arrived in Dublin earlier than expected, and met Nicky at the train station, where we took the train to Cork. We stayed in a bed and breakfast in Ballincollig, as all the hotels nearby were booked up. It was quite basic, but the owner was friendly and they were happy to have the dog there. One of our friends was staying there too, so it was lovely to catch up with her.

Irish Guide Dogs had their AGM in the centre the next morning, which was the original reason we had decided to go to Cork. Sibyl didn’t seem too excited to be back at the centre, where we trained only nine weeks ago. Maybe she was afraid I was going to leave her back there. She behaved brilliantly, and wasn’t bothered by all the dogs and people at all. The dogs were excellent. The meeting probably lasted over three hours, and there wasn’t a sound from any of them. It was interesting to hear the questions and concerns that people had, and how the guide dogs organisation intends to deal with these. They do incredible work, but they are willing to listen to their service users and work to the best of their ability.

By this stage, you might be impressed by the fact that I traveled an eight hour journey by public transport, just to attend an annual general meeting. But there was another factor which made me very determined to be in Cork on July 11th. Some very kind person decided that the AGM should be on the same day that The Frames were playing in the Marquee, a venue I’ve always wanted to go to. I told Nicky I’d definitely go to the guide dog centre if I could get Frames tickets, even though it was sold out. It was the last gig of their three 25th anniversary concerts, I had missed the other two which took place in Dublin, so I had to be there! The hunt was on for tickets. Without the help of Laura and Claire, it would not have happened, and I’m so grateful to them, because it was a lot more than just a brilliant gig.

When you finish reading this long post, take some time to read
assistance dog Cassie’s
facebook page. It gives an incredible insight into the difference that an assistance dog from Irish Guide Dogs can make to the life of a child with autism and their family. The “Colm” you’ll see on that page is the violin player with The Frames. Sibyl’s trainer is also a huge fan of the band (she’s liked them even longer than I have), so it was really nice of her to tell me that they’d organised a photoshoot with the band. I don’t have pictures yet, but no doubt they’ll be put online by somebody soon.

Nicky and I arrived at the Marquee with Sibyl at 5 P.M, after the taxi driver frustratingly drove us around Cork city even though he didn’t really have to. We were met by one of the Aiken Promotions staff (who know us well at this stage), and from then on, we were treated like VIPS. That’s Very Important People by the way, not Visually Impaired People, as we are sometimes referred to!

When we got inside, the band had just finished their soundcheck. I hugged Glen and Colm, and was starting to chat to them, when Sibyl spotted her trainer, who she still loves. She stood up on her back legs and wagged her tail, much to everybody’s amusement! This was the only time she went a bit hyper all weekend, so I had to forgive her and just laugh too. There were three guide dog trainers, who had brought some dogs who are still in training. Assistance dog Cassie was there, and she reminded me a lot of O.J. It was great to meet Sheila and the boys too. We chatted and photographs were taken. The band seemed genuinely interested in the dogs, and happy to take the time to meet us.
The trainee dogs were left back to kennels while Nicky and I waited for my cousin to come and collect Sibyl. He watched her while we were at the gig because it would have been too loud. It was great to have somebody that I know who could watch her, while still be able to have her in the photographs.

The gig itself was fantastic as usual. The band played a great selection of songs from their 25 year career, and were joined by all the former Frames members. Unfortunately we were surrounded by a lot of talkers, which dampened the atmosphere a bit. Sitting during a Frames gig isn’t something I’m used to, and at times I just wanted to jump around, but you really can’t complain when you get guest list tickets.
The people involved with guide dogs were given wristbands, so we went back stage for a while after the gig. People just sat around chatting, children played quietly together, and the atmosphere was nice and relaxed. It was a really nice end to a really nice day.

I was really grateful to be in Cork on Saturday. Anyone who knows me well enough, even through this blog knows how much having a guide dog has changed and improved my life. They probably also know how much I like The Frames, and that I think they are a bit more than just a good band. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I wrote
this guest post
for 2UIBestow in 2010, which might give you a better idea. Because of The Frames, I have been introduced to great music, met new friends and brilliant people, and had lots of fun during the last thirteen years. I’m not just inspired by their musicianship, but by their love for what they do, their incredible work ethic, and their constant ability to deliver more than the fans expect from them at every gig. Having my favourite band and my favourite organisation doing something together was really special, and a great way to celebrate 25 years of brilliant music.

Yay For Helpful People

I meant to post this during the week, but it’s been a busy one! Better late than never I suppose.

Last Saturday morning I got the bus to Dublin, and the plan was to get the train to Carlow and be there at 2 PM. I must have jinxed public transport by writing my last blog post, because we had an interesting journey that took 2 hours longer than it was meant to. The bus was diverted two or three times, and we drove around the back roads of Donegal for what seemed like ages. I missed my train, so had to get a bus instead. We were delayed by a girl trying to take a bike on the bus and refusing to get off. I don’t really know exactly what happened, but she ended up being arrested, and we eventually left for Carlow. The rest of the weekend there was relaxing and straightforward, when I finally made it!

On Monday afternoon Nicky and I, and the two dogs got the train to Dublin to see Glen Hansard in Vicar St and stay in Dublin. We were there for almost 24 hours, and the thing that stood out a lot was how helpful people were, and how much they went out of their way to give us directions and make things easier. We stayed in the Upper Cross hotel which is often used by guide dog trainers when they are in Dublin. Because of this, they are very aware of the dogs and how to help. This makes things a lot easier.

We got to Vicar St before half seven, and met Jake on the door who looked after O.J the last time I was there. Himself and Hugh had organised assistance for us, and it was like we were celebrities! Jake and a guy called Kevin took us into the bar where we got a drink before the gig. I went to the merchandise stand to get the new Glen Hansard EP (which has an amazing cover of Springsteen’s ‘drive all night on it’, definitely worth checking out!) I met the frames manager Claire for the first time. Ive emailed her and talked to her online before, so it was great to finally meet her. Jake waited patiently while we chatted, she gave me the EP free, and gave O.J lots of cuddles which he appreciated.

Orrin and O.J stayed with us during Mark Geary’s performance. He had a drummer in the band so it was louder than I’d expected but O.J just slept. A staff member sat near us and if we wanted a drink or anything at all, she was ready to help. Before Glen and the band came on, we took the dogs to a store room where they could relax while the gig was on. They seemed to settle down no problem, and O.J wasn’t too excited when I came to get him three hours and 20 minutes later, which means he was quite happy staying there.
The gig itself was brilliant. The band was similar to the one we saw last year in Belfast, but I think they are all sounding even better together. The new songs are sounding great. The gig was a charity fundraiser for the
Simon Community
and the
Peter MCVerry Trust
two charities which help people who are homeless in Ireland. Sam from the Simon Community and Peter McVerry himself came on stage to thank Glen and everyone for their support. It was a nice touch, and gave us a better sense of what the money was for. It’s nice when musicians raise money for organisations that they are actually involved in and know something about.

The next day, Nicky and I walked around a bit before a relaxing breakfast in Bewleys before we got buses home. I haven’t been there in years, and it started to make me feel a small bit Christmassy.
There’s so much talk of recession and negativity and bad news these days, so it was lovely to come to a busy city like Dublin and see it in a completely different way. People couldn’t have been more helpful. As a guide dog owner who doesn’t know one end of Dublin from another (I just follow Nicky everywhere), this was very useful. It was lovely to see staff working in their jobs, whether it was the hotel, restaurants, security people, or the amazing staff in Vicar St just taking time to chat and help, without going overboard or being patronising or annoying.
I’m tired, and not explaining myself very well. It’s very hard when you’re not in the mood to write. But basically the kindness of people last weekend really impressed me.

So, to connect music and helping people, if you’ve got a spare euro, go and download a song called ‘Christmas biscuits’ by Mark Geary and Glen Hansard. It was released last Friday, and proceeds go to the society of St. Vincent De Paul, helping people who might be struggling or alone this Christmas.

So there’s two music recommendations for you. Let me know what you think.

Glen Hansard, Belfast

Seeing Glen Hansard and the frames seems to be an annual pre-Christmas tradition for me at this stage. It was great to see them in Belfast this year, as its one of my favourite places. I’d never been to the refurbished Ulster Hall before, they’ve really turned it into a great venue!

The support Act, Seti the First weren’t the most exciting band I’ve ever seen, but I did like their cello playing!

When you hear Glen Hansard, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d imagine it to be a solo gig, but in fact there were, I think eleven people on stage, six more than the usual Frames band. This made it sound fantastic, very different to anything I’ve heard before, largely due to the addition of a trumpet in a lot of the songs. Naturally Glen played a lot of songs from his solo album ‘rhythm and repose’, which I’ve enjoyed listening to much more since hearing these songs live.

The band played:

You Will Become

Talking With The Wolves

Philander

Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting – Respect (Aretha Franklin)

Low Rising – Here Comes the Night (Van Morrison)

When Your Mind’s Made Up – with the audience singing along

Bird of Sorrow

Leave

Lay Me Down

Astral Weeks** (Van Morrison) – Smile** (Pearl Jam)

High Hope

Movin On

Santa Maria

Revelate

Where Is My Mind (Pixies)

Song of Good Hope – to the most silent, respectful audience I’ve ever heard in Belfast

Encore:

This Gift

Hey Day (Mic Christopher) – Glen quietly sang the chorus unaccompanied. The audience joined in and I think he intended playing the whole song later, but it never happened!

Don’t Do It (Marvin Gaye/The Band)

Falling Slowly – He broke a string during this, but not even during Astral Weeks! 😀

Fitzcarraldo

Passing Through (Leonard Cohen)

This was the perfect end to a great, almost two and a half hour set. Glen and the band walked around the venue, with the audience singing along. I think it could have turned into a very long night if the venues 11 PM curfew wasn’t so strict.

I love introducing new people to The Frames live shows, so it was great that they managed to impress my boyfriend! We spent the evening with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while. When we went to the pub for a drink with them, ‘star star’ came on, and a big cheer indecated that we weren’t the only people in the pub who had been to the gig!

Another reason why the night was so enjoyable was how well our guide dogs were looked after. When I contacted the Ulster Hall to enquire about having the dogs watched during the gig because it would be too loud for them, they weren’t too keen at first. Nicky suggested I email them to outline in writing exactly what I wanted and how little work it would be. The staff, Zoe in particular couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly to us and the dogs.

We stayed in Benedicts hotel because I knew they’d be good with the dogs too, and its usually the best value hotel in Belfast. They gave us the wheelchair accessible room, which had lots of space. It also had two dog bowls and beds for the dogs on the floor, so we were very impressed! Every member of staff we met (and there were a lot of them) was so helpful and polite.

Other venues and services could learn a lot from the management of Benedicts hotel and the Ulster Hall. I hope they all have a lovely Christmas, because the staff members we met all did their businesses proud last weekend.

Fighting Over The CD Player

I’ve been listening to lots of music in the last couple of weeks. Its not all necessarily new music that’s just been released, but its been keeping me happy so I thought I’d mention it here.

I’ve been meaning to get a Moving Hearts album for a long time and bought ‘the platinum collection’ on Amazon last week while I was buying a book for my nephew. It was interesting to hear what they sounded like, and the type of music Christy Moore was making at that time, which is obviously why I was interested in hearing the band in the firstplace. I prefer how Christy and Declan play these songs live now. That’s not saying they aren’t good of course, but just that I prefer them more acoustic.

I might have given Moving Hearts more of a chance if I hadn’t become adicted to ‘the road to Escondido’ by JJ Cale and Eric Clapton. I recently found out its the album I listened to and loved on the journey to Thailand. They both play so well together, and its one of those albums that just puts you in a good mood.

‘Rhythm and repose’ is the first solo album from Glen Hansard, released on 15th June. It neither sounds like a frames album or a Swell Season album, which is exactly what I was hoping he would make. If its a solo album it has to sound different from what he’s done in the past. He has been working with different musicians in New York, and along with a different producer its all sounding good. Some of the tracks display that raw emotion in his music that you usually only hear properly when he plays live, and that’s what I love about it. The vocals sound much more mature. and From reading and hearing him talk about it in interviews, he seems like he’s in a really happy place musically right now, and that sound transfers to the album. Its an album that could be easily dismissed at first, but if you give it a chance it really grows on you.

 

Paul Simon’s 1986 album ‘graceland’ is one of my favourite albums of all time. I only heard it for the first time when I was studying in Belfast. A friend called Ronan gave me about ten albums on mini-disc, I liked most of them but was adicted to ‘graceland’ straight away. Naturally I was delighted to get a copy of the new

25th anniversary addition

 

and its brilliant. The DVD documentary ‘under African skies’ tells the story of Simon contraversially making the trip to Africa in 1984, the impact that had on the musicians, and the making of the Grammy award winning album. Its a fascinating story, and well worth buying for the DVD alone.

 

So, what are other people listening to these days?

 

Mic Christopher Anniversary

Last night was the tenth anniversary gig for Mic Christopher, a musician I adore but never had the pleasure to meet or here live. His former band The Mary Janes, along with The Frames led a musical tribute in his honour in Vicar Street. Mic passed away tragically in Holland while on tour with the Waterboys, one of his favourite bands. He left behind some great music, including his solo album ‘skylarkin’, which was completed by his friends and released nine years ago on his first anniversary. Its one of the most beautiful Irish albums ever made.

A review of the four and a half hour gig (in aid of the Irish fragile x society ) wouldn’t do it any justice, so to sum it up, it was magical! Musicians and friends celebrating the life of their friend and hero, someone they respected and admired, and who will be fondly remembered. It was great to learn a lot more about Mic’s life and personality through the stories from his friends and his dad. It was an emotional night, which everybody involved should be so proud of. Mic would have been very proud too.

Set List:

Party Game (The Mary Janes) – Glen and MJs
Sham (The Mary Janes) – Eoin Glackin and MJs
Bored of Their Laughing (The Mary Janes) – Philip Marshall and MJs
Cut Me Loose (The Mary Janes) – Matthew Devereux and MJs
Listen Girl (Mic Christopher) – Matthew Devereux and Glen
I’ve Got Your Back (Mic Christopher) – The Frames and Conall Coleman
Traditional Jigs – Colm Mac Con Iomaire + 2 Others [Concertina and Uillean Pipes]
Pete Courtney and MJs
Eoin Dillon
Everything is Going to be Alright (poem) + John The Baptist (John Martyn) – Scullion with Colm and Dave
Eyelids Into Snow (Sonny Condell) – Scullion with Colm and Dave
I Need You (The Beatles) – Mark Geary and The Frames
This is the Sea (The Waterboys) – Mike Scott and The Frames
Fisherman’s Blues (The Waterboys) – Mike Scott and The Frames
Peter Murphy
Ken O’Neill (Hey Day Festival contest winner)
[Don’t know First name] Roche and her Son
Kids Song (Mic Christopher) – Interference, Mundy, The Frames, Levi + Isaac O’Sullivan and Annie Smith Short
Breaking Out (Interference) – Interference, Mundy and The Frames
Gold (Interference) – Interference and The Frames
Centurian (The Mary Janes) – Claire Nicolson
What a Curious Notion (Mic Christopher) – Nina Hynes
Who Knows Where Time Goes – Miriam Ingram
Hard Station (Paul Brady) – Paul Brady
Arthur McBride (Traditional) – Paul Brady
Poem – ‘He’s a true one fardadadididdle, He’s A True one and I tell you…’
Winesong (The Mary Janes) – Mundy and MJs
Lyin’ Down – Mundy and MJs
Part of Me (The Mary Janes) – Tony Fitz and MJs
Bones (The Mary Janes) – Aimee Christopher, Glen and MJs
The Story of an Artist (Daniel Johnston) – Jerry Fish
True Friends (Jerry Fish & The Mudbug Club) – Jerry Fish
And The Healing Has Begun (Van Morrison) – Acko, Swanny and The Frames
The One I Love (REM) – Canice Kenealy and The Frames
Friends (The Mary Janes) – Paddy Casey, The Frames and MJs
Heyday (Mic Christopher) – The Coronas and everyone else
Skylarkin’ (Mic Christopher) – The Frames and Matthew Devereux
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (Bob Dylan) – The Frames, Matt Devereux, Noreen O’Donnell, Acko, Levi + Isaac O’Sullivan and Annie Smith Short, Someone From Crowd
Forever Young (Bob Dylan) – Liam O Maonlai and everyone else
Wooden Heart (Elvis Presley) – Harry Christopher and The Frames
Suspicious Minds (Elvis Presley) – Harry Christopher and The Frames

As I watched the gig,
this
kept coming into my head. I’ve read it so many times but its still so beautiful.

O J Rocks!

O J did possibly one of his best day’s work for me yesterday, something that only took him four years to achieve, but something that makes me think he’s cool.
He came to his first ever Frames related gig with me, Glen Hansard’s gig at
An Grianan Theatre
in Letterkenny. I think it goes without saying that Glen is my favourite singer/songwriter, so being able to bring O J along with me, without him freaking out because the gig was too loud was great! The theatre is my favourite venue to see Glen play solo. Not only because he always seems to enjoy being there, but because the theatre itself is well run, the sound is excellent and the staff are really helpful.

I went straight to the theatre after a busy day in work, to have a chat with Mark Geary for my radio show, (due to techy problems the interview won’t be broadcast until next Sunday 23rd.) Mark played with Glen during his first solo gig in Letterkenny in January 2003, so it was nice to have them both playing there again after eight and a half years. I was nervous for about two minutes, when I realised I was being rediculous. Mark is always friendly and easy to talk to, and I really appreciate the time he took to come and chat. Of course OJ insisted on being petted too, and got his own way as usual! 🙂
During our chat I could hear Glen soundchecking upstairs, and started to wonder if bringing O J was going to be a bad idea!

The gig itself was very intense, almost three hours long with a set list of about thirty songs. Glen’s voice sounds even more mature, and a late night the night before didn’t stop him choosing to sing some of the more difficult songs, with help from the audience when he couldn’t hit some of the high notes. It will be interesting to hear how the new material sounds when it is recorded, as there are clearly many new things influencing his music at the moment. I know some people view Glen as a performer who doesn’t change much – he knows how to connect with an audience and keep their attention so songs can often sound the same, but for me, there is always something different and something new every time I see him pplay, and that must be the thing that keeps me going to gigs over and over again, and coming out almost three hours later wondering when the next one will be.

O J was brilliant, and lay under the seat quietly most of the time, apart from getting up for a couple of stretches towards the end. At one point, just as Glen and Mark were getting ready to play together and the theatre was completely silent, O J did the hugest dog shake ever! The audience began laughing and Glen said, “that wasn’t me!” Luckily it was dark and only my cousin could see how embarrassed I was. I don’t know if he knew the dog was there or if he just thought something very strange was going on in the audience, but either way it was funny!

Set List (not in the correct order):

Lay Me Down
Song for Someone
Leave
Seven Day Mile
Low Rising (sexual healing snippet)
Finally
Pennies in the Fountain
Become
Stars are Underground
Revelate
Say it to Me Now
Gold
What Happens When The Heart Just Stops
Lies
Plateau (Jane Says)
Perfect Opening Line
The Parting Glass
Falling Slowly
It’s Coming (new)
Come Away (new song written for Hunger Games)
Moving On (new)
Crash in the Levee (down in the Flood) (Dylan cover)
There’s a Ghost (new song)
Song of Good Hope (new)
When Your Mind’s Made Up
Hairshirt, (R.E.M cover)
It Beats Me (with Mark),
Hold Tight (with Mark)
Forever Young (Dylan cover) with Mark, Fiacra & Keith McNamara)
I Will (Dean Martin cover) (lead vocals by Fiacra) – to a half empty theatre

‘For the Birds’ tenth anniversary gig

I’m only getting a chance to sit down and write now, and try and describe what was a really special
anniversary gig
for the frames last Wednesday.
After discovering that the bus times had changed, O J and I had to get a connecting bus on the way to Dublin. I got a very friendly taxi driver who brought us to the friends house we were staying with. I’d never been there before, but we were well looked after and I think they enjoyed having a guide dog around.

I intended going into Vicar Street a bit early, encase I needed to sort out anything with O J, and to meet some friends and look at the merch stand. We had to wait on a friend’s friend who had our tickets, but when we got in ten minutes before the gig started, the staff were very helpful.

O J eventually lay down under the seat and slept while
Interference
played. They are a very unique band, and despite their lead singer Fergus O’Farrell being seriously ill a couple of months ago, he sounded amazing. A few people came up to talk and to pet O J, and the staff took him out just before the frames came on stage. I gave them his bed and a bone and he went with them no bother.

Long time Frames fan Emmett O’Brien came on stage to provide a heartfelt introduction and tribute to the band and to the Album, which you can read
here.
After a huge round of applause, the band came on and played the entire album from start to finish. Magic is the only word I can use to describe it.


Thanks Dave for the picture!

When they had finished someone shouted “play another album!” Glen asked Roddy Doyle to come up and read one of his stories. It is called
Blood
and is really entertaining and funny. Then the second half of the Frames gig began, with them performing tracks mostly from the earlier part of their career. Then it was time for more special guests; Bronagh Gallagher and Damien Rice both sang a song each, then Fergus joined Glen for an amazing version of a song called ‘Gold’. This was followed by a performance by Liam O’Maonlai, which was the strangest twenty minutes of music I’ve seen in a long long time. Liam seemed like he was in a world of his own and didn’t know when to stop. My friend turned round at one stage and asked if we were in India or somewhere! He had the audience on their feet, singing and clapping, and from reading reviews and comments online the next day, I’d say some of them didn’t know whether to laugh with him or at him. . He eventually decided to finish by playing a version of forever young with the frames, which was flawless. Finally, Glen, who was a bit emotional at this stage said, “we have one more special guest”, at which point a backdrop of a picture of
Mic Christopher
appeared and the members of the Mary Janes joined him onstage. they all sang hey day, with the audience joining in as loud as they possibly could. If you’ve seen the Frames playing this, or you know anything about Mic Christopher, you’ll understand how special this is. If not, go and do some research, and if you get the opportunity to hear it live, you’ll also sing as loud as you can as well, maybe with tears in your eyes, and definitely a happy smile on your face.

The three-hour Frames gig ended at half twelve, and soon afterwards O J was brought back in to me. He came in wagging his tail and I knew he’d been looked after well. The staff gave him water, walked him, took him to the toilet and gave him lots of attention. They said everybody liked him and they’d be happy to have him again any time. They had done so much more than I was expecting, and I can’t praise Jake and Marie enough for their help. They were friendly and helpful without being patronising or going overboard. It makes me recommend what already is a fantastic venue even more.

The weekend continued to be brilliant, with the announcement of the
Buncrana music festival
lineup for July, and probably the best party I’ve ever been too last night.
It was fantastic to be able to introduce some new people to the Frames, and have them react so positively to their live performance. It was also brilliant to know that I can go and see my favourite band, in a fantastic venue that allows me to bring my guide dog as well, which makes life so much easier.

The gig

Ionad Cois Locha or the Dunlewey Lakeside Centre is situated on the shores of Dunlewey Lough in the shadow of the haunting and mysterious Poison Glen and at the foot of Mount Errigal, the highest mountain in the county.
That was the venue for the Glen Hansard gig on Thursday, one of the most unique performances I have ever seen.

We arrived there an hour early hoping to get a cup of tea but they weren’t letting anyone in so we ended up going to the Seaview hotel.
The gig itself was held in a room that held about 200 people and was very packed. A staff member asked a guy I was with if I was blind, and then let us sit in the small balcony. This was brilliant because we had more space. Still, I can see why they told me it wouldn’t be a suitable venue for a guide dog, and it was so so hot!
Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh and Manus Lunny played for half an hour before Glen came on, and needless to say they were brilliant! A large part of the audience were probably there because of them, and didn’t know Glen or the frames music, which made the gig more unique.

During her introduction to Glen, Mairead described how she has known him since he busked on Grafton street, and always thought of him as a sensitive performer. It is obvious that he loves what he does, and she guaranteed the people who hadn’t seen him before that they wouldn’t be disappointed.
He played for almost two hours: a mixture of frames and swell season songs and a few snippets of covers inbetween. His stories and jokes kept everybody entertained and the room was silent as he sang. There were no electric guitars either. The audience sang along when he asked them too, and you could tell that everyone there was absorbed in the music. The highlight was when Lunny and Ni Mhaonaigh joined him on stage to sing ‘the auld triangle’, with Glen finding audience members to help out with some of the verses. It was amazing!

We met Glen as we were leaving. He begins the conversation with me by giving me a hug and chatting in his Northern Irish accent! I couldn’t resist taking a hand at him about a recent interview he did with Dan Hegarty on 2fm at Electric Picnic. He talked about how he met Stevie Wonder and ended up jamming with him. They sang the chorus of a song then Glen knodded over to Stevie to sing the next verse, then remembered “shit, he can’t see!” Of course I find stuff like this hillarius. We were interrupted by a girl with a dog (that’s another story!) and then he shouted “you have a great sense of humour” to me as I was going out the door.

Tickets went on sale the next morning for the frames 20th anniversary tour, so I got mine for Belfast. There’s at least ten people I know going so its going to be brilliant! Even a girl who didn’t know much about the frames until the Dunlewey gig texted me the next day to say she’d got tickets too. Nice one!

I haven’t done the performance justice by describing it here, but it was one of those things you had to see for yourself. One of those gigs that you know your never going to see again. Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh is organising a gig there once a month, and all of these are probably going to be special. It feels like your in a room of people you know because everyone is so relaxed. The people are there for the music, and the musicians aren’t there for the money. They are there because they share a strong bond through music.
I’m just delighted that I found great people to go with, and had the chance to see my favourite musician play in such a wonderful place.

Another random off-topic post

This is mostly about music, a little bit about dogs, but just stuff that’s in my head so here goes!

We had a few days of gorgeous weather, and luckily I was off work for two of them. I love working 3 days at the beginning of the week and then being finished but it doesn’t always turn out that way.
I knew the dogs would be home alone for a while today so took them for a long walk yesterday. There’s a walk you can do from my house to the beach, then on a country road to my sister’s house. It takes almost an hour and a half to do, and is great because the dogs get to run on the beach for a small bit half way through. I’ve never done the whole thing on my own as its a bit tricky to get across the rocks coming off the beach to go towards my sister’s, but have no doubt O.J would learn it quickly if the surface wasn’t so rough. I decided to walk the dogs home after lunch and a bit of a rest. My parents passed me on the road and both dogs tried to race the jeep home. This was not good so I quickly had to calm them down. Of course they thought it was great fun!

My nephew was christened today and we had a lovely evening in my sister’s house after. I was so annoyed that I wasn’t at electric picnic, so took my ipod and tried to listen to some of the coverage that 2fm were broadcasting. My aunt had my cousin’s dog Charlie with her, who refused to get off the sofa beside me. He saw the cats in the garden and barked, making me jump and spill my drink all over my dress, my phone and my ipod. The three-year-old nephew thought it was all very funny, and I did too until I realised that the ipod won’t work anymore. Its sturdy enough so I’m surprised. I’m hoping maybe it will revive itself when I charge it. I have it for ages and want a new one anyway but have too many important things to buy first, so a new mp3 players far down the list.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to the picnic this year was to see The Frames. Yeah I know, I’ve seen them loads, but they haven’t played as a proper rock band in almost three years and are celebrating their 20th anniversary, so it was going to be special. I heard about half of their set on the radio and they sounded on top form.
This post
might give you an idea of how much I like them.
Their lead singer Glen Hansard is playing an unexpected gig in Dunlewy in Donegal on Thursday. I don’t know too much about it apart from the fact that he will be accompanied by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Manus Lunny. Tickets were only 15 quid and its a small venue, so its going to be one of those rare opportunities, and a very special gig I’d imagine. A group of us are going, and still have absolutely no idea how we will get there and back, but that’s all part of the fun isn’t it?
Expect a very happy post from me on Friday. 🙂 🙂