The Makem and Spain Brothers at the Rochester Opera House

This past Saturday my wife Chris and I especially enjoyed the Makem and Spain Brothers Concert at the Rochester Opera House.  They’ve been doing a special concert there for over 10 years, back to the times that father Tommy would appear with them.  We were inspired to go this year, as I had seen the lads in the recording studio a few weeks earlier, when I  helped then capture some video connected with a new Christmas song Mick had just written (I Heard the Bells).  That helped me to see that they are sounding especially great, and to learn they’d be sprinkling in some special Christmas songs in this Saturday-after-Thanksgiving concert.

Well….we weren’t disappointed.   Nice cozy theater, great sound system, and all four voices and instruments blending and ringing out beautifully all evening.

Rory  (when he wasn’t playing guitar or bouzouki) played Tommy’s  old banjo – which brought a bit of history and nostalgia to the stage for me.  Connor does an excellent job with tasteful electric bass, and then adds a lot with concertina or whistle in some special songs or tunes.  Mick and Liam Spain bring their super-strong voices and tasty playing, and it all works as a whole with the ‘Makem’ part of the sound you just have to sit back and say, “Wow.”

They did indeed do some Christmas songs – including the new one.  That capped off the night with a holiday feel, which, now that Thanksgiving is over, we were ready to really enjoy.

If you haven’t seen them, or if it’s been awhile – I’d recommend you find a time to give a good listen.  In the mean time, their new CD, “Up the Stairs” is among their very best.



Halloween 2011 at Ri Ra

Tonight marks Halloween 2011, and the entire town will be out in costume for Portsmouth’s annual Halloween Parade. I’ve always loved how so many people get into the parade with outlandish outfits.

The boys and ghouls at Ri Ra will be no different. They’ll be getting into the spirit of things with costumes and specials all night, so Dave and I have decided (at the last minute) to perform tonight’s show in costume. Now to find something that won’t get in the way of playing or singing…

Of course, it only makes sense to celebrate Halloween in an Irish pub, since the holiday started as a Celtic pagan celebration! There is a really interesting description of the holiday at The Irish Genealogy Toolkit, which starts:

“To find the origin of Halloween, you have to look to the festival of Samhain in Ireland’s Celtic past. Samhain had three distinct elements. Firstly, it was an important fire festival, celebrated over the evening of 31 October and throughout the following day. The flames of old fires had to be extinguished and ceremonially re-lit by druids.

Happy Samhain, everyone!

It was also a festival not unlike the modern New Year’s Day in that it carried the notion of casting out the old and moving into the new. To our pagan ancestors it marked the end of the pastoral cycle – a time when all the crops would have been gathered and placed in storage for the long winter ahead and when livestock would be brought in from the fields and selected for slaughter or breeding.

But it was also, as the last day of the year, the time when the souls of the departed would return to their former homes and when potentially malevolent spirits were released from the Otherworld and were visible to mankind.”

Apparently, the holiday also marked the end of the apple harvest season, since it was believed that the puca – or evil fairies – would spit on any unharvested apples making them inedible.

Looks like I’ll be having a couple of Magners Ciders in celebration tonight. :-)

Hope you’ll swing by…and watch out for any banshees!

Andy Irvine at Elysium Folk Club

Saturday night was a great treat, as both Dave and I saw the legendary Andy Irvine at The Elysium Folk Club in Rollinsford, NH. Great show, great player and, as I’ve mentioned before, all in a great room. And, as you can see from the camera phone, my seat wasn’t too bad either.

The legendary Andy Irvine

Dave has been lucky enough to see Andy play a few times – either as a solo, with Patrick Street or the band Mozaik. This was my first time seeing him live, and he didn’t disappoint. He did a fine mix of songs from his new album — including The Spirit of Mother Jones, Emptyhanded, and Oslo — and classics from earlier in his career like Arthur McBride, My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland and Never Tired of the Road.

One song that stood out for me was O’Donoghue’s – his ode to the days when he first got started in music by hanging out at the famous Dublin pub with the boys from The Dubliners and the lads that Andy would soon join to form Sweeney’s Men. Kinda reminds me of my experience coming to The Press Room — getting to know all the other musicians, forming deep friendships and, eventually, creating this duo with Dave, and our maritime group Mudhook with our friends Alan Eaton and Mike Jeanneau (the biggest Andy Irvine fan I know). As the song says: “This is what life was all about.”

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If you made it to the show, or his performance at Blue in Portland, what did ya think? What was your favorite song?

Mudhook at the Durham UU Coffee House

Just a quick note:

If you missed us playing with Mudhook at the Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival, you’ll have another opportunity later this month. We’ll be playing a coffee house gig at the Universalist Unitarian Fellowship in Durham NH on Oct. 15. You can see details and let us know if you’re coming at the Facebook event page we set up HERE.

In the meantime, you can get your Mudhook fix with this video that our friend Jeff Murdock took of us last weekend at our PMFF performance at the Moffatt-Ladd House.

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2011 Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival

Just thought I’d mention that Dave and I will again be performing as part of the maritime folk group Mudhook at this year’s Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival, which takes place this weekend (Sept. 24 & 26) in different venues around Market Square. It’s a great weekend of music, and audience participation is always key!

If you want to catch one of our shows, stop by The Moffatt-Ladd House on Saturday at 1 p.m. for a set that will feature several new songs. A full calendar of the festival’s events are at the website, and the schedule has all our other performance times listed.

We've come to LOVE playing The Barn at The Moffatt-Ladd House...the acoustics are great!

FYI – We’ll also be playing in Prescott Park at noon on Saturday to kick off the NH Fish and Lobster Festival (known locally as The Fishtival). The PMFF and the Fishtival have been working together on some overlap during the last couple of years because they are so interwoven thematically. Ours will be a short set, but that event is well worth checking out.

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