Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our Ireland Trip: Day 2 (December 9)

So, I'm going to preface this blog post by saying that this, the second day of our trip was, by far, the worst day. But I'm going to do my best not to focus too much on the extremely unfortunate things that happened that day and focus more on the positive things. So, in that spirit, all I'm going to say about the hours of 8 am to 5 pm is that we rented a car, the clutch on the car went out, and Budget rent a car stuck us with the $1700 repair bill. Fun stuff. We're going to try to dispute this charge, but this is not the time or place to discuss the particulars. I will say, however, that the guy that drove our tow truck was a very nice, interesting fellow. Moving on...

So after we had a little time to recover from the shock of the car troubles that consumed the first two-thirds of the day, we started on our way to our first show of the tour. The show was in Dundalk, a small-ish town about an hour's drive north of Dublin. Immediately, we noticed that the traffic going out of Dublin was horrendous. It wasn't until we had been stuck in it for 40 minutes that our suspicions were confirmed by the radio news: there was a wreck on the highway. Two and a half hours into our should-have-been-an-hour drive we arrived at the venue in Dundalk: The Spirit Store.

The Spirit Store is at George's Quay, right on a bay, and right as we arrived there, we saw a flock of swans. The venue itself is fairly small, but the vibe of the place is really interesting. It almost feels like a pub in a black and white movie or something. There is no attempt whatsoever to glitz up the place or over-adorn it. The performance space is upstairs, with tables and couches taking up nearly the entire space. Not the usual way things are done, but quite nice nevertheless.

We arrived there about an hour and a half late for sound check, but Derek at the venue had heard about the accident on the highway and was really nice about it. There were four bands on the bill that night: Us, Daragh and Vinny from The Angel Pier, We Cut Corners, and At Last An Atlas. We were the only non-Irish band. With the late start, we each got about 25 minutes, which was actually perfect for us. After what we'd been through, I'm not sure that a 50 minute set would have been the best idea.

First up was At Last An Atlas. At Last An Atlas is Greg O'Brien, who also plays in The Hollows. I helped him book a few shows in Idaho and Utah when he did a tour of the Western US. He plays these really great folky songs that combine samples and electronics with the usual guitar and vocals. Plus, his between song banter is always really funny, and usually involves some form of direct democracy. That will make a lot more sense if you ever get the chance to see him. Here's a picture from his set.

He has a new record out in February, so watch out for that. His other recordings are superb, and I know his new one will be too.

Next up was Darragh and Vinny from the Angel Pier. They were mainly just vocals and guitar, though they did have one song where they used a Fender Rhodes and a couple songs where they invited a violin player on stage with them. They were great. I'm hard pressed to think of a time where I've heard better male vocals performed anywhere. They played a couple songs that I hadn't heard before that I especially enjoyed. I can't wait to hear a new record from The Angel Pier. Here's a picture from their set:

We took the next slot on the bill. I consider it probably the best show, technically, that we've played in a long, long time. Darragh was nice enough to let us use his Rhodes that night, so that added a cool dimension to this show as well. (Oh, and while I'm talking about nice, I would like to mention how generous Greg from At Last An Atlas was. Nearly all the gear we used for our Ireland shows was lent to us by Greg. Thanks go out to him for making our lives so much easier. We didn't want to fly with guitars and amps, and renting can be so expensive.) We played seven songs, if I remember correctly, including the live debut of "Autumn Air." The sound was excellent, and I can say, without a doubt, that the monitor mix I got at The Spirit Store was the best I've ever had. Derek is an amazing sound guy. Here's a pic from our set:

The last band that night was We Cut Corners, who blew me away. They're a guitar and drums two-piece, but they sound as big and full as bands twice their size. You should definitely check out some of their songs on their MySpace. Here's a picture:

After We Cut Corners finished, we tore down, thanked the folks at the venue, said our goodbyes, and went back to the apartment in Dublin. This time, obviously, the trip took a lot less time than the trip up. We were pretty beat, so we went right to bed as soon as we got back to Dublin.

And thus ends day two.

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