Big Danny Memorial Show @ Annesley House, Dublin. 23/03/2007

Big Danny Gallagher was a towering giant of a man who came from New Jersey and obviously with a name like that had connections that brought him to Ireland to retrace his ancestral footprints. He hooked up with a network of creative artists over the years in Galway, Arranmore and Dublin who gathered together in the Annesley House on Friday night to pay tribute to this large in life and large in death personality that left a big intense impression on those he befriended until his sudden death recently. The music was in full swing when I arrived, Business Bassman John Quearney, one of Big Danny’s closest friend’s and supporters was doing a slinky version of Willie Dixon’s Built For Comfort with his son Colm and Dave Murphy on Guitars and legendary Irish drummer Nollaig Bridgeman solid as a rock at the rear.

Immediately I was stunned by the extraordinary inventive interplay between Colm Quearney on his Telecaster and Dave Murphy on his big Gibson Lucille with the emphasis on well thought out solos that built up to breathtaking intensity repeatedly throughout the set. Maybe it was because I was sitting next to Emma at the sound desk but the sound was brilliant overall but in particular the beautiful gutsy deep toned solos on the classic Freddie King/Clapton/Green instrumental workouts. The Stumble and Hideaway were spinechilling with the rhythm section matchfit and in full stride throughout. Live music does not come much better than this, and the full house in attendance were on a roll and swaying along to the enjoyable punchy performance of these multi talented musicians who are central figures in the Dublin music scene motivating and inspiring past and future generations of musicians.

Colm Quearney does divine Bob Dylan covers turning Lay Lady Lay, Tangled Up In Blue and Like A Rolling Stone into something distinctively polished and propelled by guitar playing of the highest quality, taking his influences and melding them into a style uniquely his own. There was pictures of Big Danny on the wall’s and two large framed pictures raffled by Smiley Bolger another legendary character on the Dublin music scene over the decades. One of large framed black & white pictures immortalising a jam session with Big Danny in the company of Business men John Quearney and Pat Farrell was won by Biddi T who will no doubt have it adorning the Faith Avenue household with pride of place. Big Danny was a man of many opinions inspired by the American Beat Generation and many contributors on the night recalled stories and events that would have made Kerouac and Ginsberg put pen to paper.

On Big Danny & the Lost Leader Band CD Sign of Faith there is a message from Big Danny: “Children everywhere, being fed bad, little or no information, Be true to yourselves and treat others The way you like been treated it’s that simple.” Danny Rogers read some poetry from Lawrence Ferlinghetti who espoused a liberal spirituality with kindness and was famous to the 70’s rock generation for his recitation of the prayer in The Band’s Last Waltz concert film by Martin Scorsese. “The dog trots freely in the street and sees reality and the thing’s he sees are bigger than himself and the thing’s he sees are his reality, drunks in the doorways, moon’s in the trees. The dog trots freely through the street and the things he sees are smaller than himself, fish on newsprint, ants in holes chicken in Chinatown windows, their heads a block away The dog trots freely in the street and the things he smells smell something like himself. The dog trots freely in the street past puddles and babies, cats and cigars, poolrooms and policemen. He doesn’t hate cops he merely has no use for them. And he goes past them and past the dead cows hung up whole in front of the San Francisco Meat Market He would rather eat a tender cow than a tough policeman though either might do. And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory and past Coit’s Tower and past Congressman Doyle of the Un-American Committee He’s afraid of Coit’s Tower but he’s not afraid of Congressman Doyle although what he hears is very discouraging, very depressing, and very absurd to a sad young dog like himself, to a serious dog like himself. But he has his own free world to live in, his own fleas to eat. He will not be muzzled; Congressman Doyle is just another fire hydrant to him. The dog trots freely in the street and has his own dogs life to live and to think about and to reflect upon touching and tasting and testing everything investigating everything without benefit of perjury, a real realist with a real tale to tell and a real tail to tell it with” A quality succession of contributors joined the band on stage on vocals and blues harp adding to a very pleasing and varied set from Hoochie Coochie Man, Mystery Train and a first class a cappella version of Danny Boy bringing the tribute home.

Big Danny Gallagher’s memory associated with such a splendid, sincere, competent and finely crafted night of music and performance rock solid in all departments is the finest monument his friends could have erected to evoke the memory of their friend gone to that great gig in the sky “when you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight, death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but love leaves a memory no one can steal”.

The Pale @ Annesley House, North Strand. 17/12/2005

Dropped into the Annesley House on Saturday night to witness the second coming of the well established live reputation of that ever popular late 80’s and early 90’s musical phenomenon around Dublin and further a field called The Pale. It was a cracking carefully crafted performance from the three musicians on stage who clearly take their job to entertain very seriously, to a full house with many of the original cult following in attendance.

Nowadays, original members Shane Wearen on Mandolin’s and Electric Fiddle, Matthew Devereux on Vocals, small bodied Taylor Acoustic Guitar, Drum Loops and Samples are joined by multi instrumentalist singer songwriter producer Jimmy Nail look-alike Colm Querney son of the excellent blues bass man and vocalist  John Querney.

Its a high energy well structured in yer face fused brew of amazing musical styles and traditions, Eastern Block Folk, Ska, Mod, Urban Reggae, R&B, Northside Blues literally something for everyone in the audience all topped off by the funny antics and humour of Coolock front man Matthew Devereux.

Matthews’s strong lyrical epics of life on the Northside have become anthems for the audience delivered on a bed of very diverse innovative, instrumental textures and big chorus sections with each number getting straight to the point. Matthew is a natural on stage, charismatic, jumping around the stage demanding the audience’s attention looking like the amphetamine popping hip hopping over opinionated Jimmy the Mod from Quadrophenia.

Very much mavericks in the cradle of Dublin’s scene first time around and way ahead of their time Shane Wearen ushered in a whole new style of music for the mandolin and demonstrates on stage the vast possibilities of the mandolin with his dazzling virtuosity, melody, harmony, complex vocabulary and combination of styles flourishing even more proficiently after the dark years in between.

In the same way that The Chieftains draw on the styles that grew from the  roots of various cultural musical traditions, The Pale’s music draws you in with the same warmth and immediacy in Mandolin maestro Shane’s  expansion of that often subdued instruments repertoire.

Adding some new fingerprints to The Pale sound on stage was Colm Querney on spidery bass played very much like a lead rather than rhythm  accompaniment alternating with an acoustic guitar played with a subtle, nimble wrist movement creating layers of compelling minor rhythms full of fresh rootsie variety and colour and great rhythm flexibility.

The rebirth of The Pale is in full blossom with a growth spurt honed by experience and time where the members now collaboratively take chances and push the music in new directions and let the beauty of the old songs shine through beautifully with the myriad of cultural influences present seeping into the mix like osmosis. As poet Brendan Kennelly puts it:

“All songs are living ghosts that long for a living voice”.

Crowd favourites like Small Town, Good Ship, Final Garden and Church of Bones are tastefully arranged contemporary grooves of neo spirituality and themes, like the pre Celtic tiger economic desperation and emigration and teenage migration, that seen Matthew spinning around to his mates in Coolock on his BMX only to be informed that they were settled in Australia and Germany and other far flung destinations in search of a future with potential, lyrics written with a real and potent ability creating vivid interpretations of the human landscape around him. In his lyrics as  subjective as words can be is friendship and hope challenged by the unsweetness of life and the horrors of hypocrisy in the need to have faith in something bigger than ourselves yet the disillusionment with clericalism on the ground floor. On stage Matthew has an expressionism that is full of gestures giving his words power, real introspection and virility not afraid of ridiculing himself, grabbing the attention, challenging the witty hecklers with intensity in his performance.

If you like to wander into the musically unexpected every now and then, The Pale will satisfy your needs that’s for sure. Check out their site for gigs in Carlow, Galway and Mullingar and I’m sure it won’t be long before they are back in the Annesley House again.

“This is such a small town
Someday you will find out
But you won’t hear it from my mouth
But it happened hear be in no doubt
Right here in this small town”