The worst gig I ever did (Sorry Mary)
January 23, 2023
' I was able to get 2 Artist AAA laminates, one extra one for my great friend Liam, who had to go around, also as Dave Hingerty. He was enjoying that I can tell you. Free booze backstage, and hanging out with, and having breakfast and dinner in the same room as, the likes of Lou Reed and Nick Cave, and making up tall stories to people who thought he was me'.
Mary thinking..."Damn, I should have asked the other Dave Hingerty to do the gig!"
I remember sitting in Derm’s kitchen in his folk’s house on Anglesea Park waiting for a lift to the pub around 1987 and listening to Mary Coughlan’s vinyl EP featuring the mesmeric songs ‘Ancient Rain’ and ‘I Would Rather Go Blind’.
“Jesus Derm, I think I’ve just been transported”.
“Well, will you tell him to come back for me”, he said laughing.
“No, The music. It brought me somewhere special.”
“Ok, but what time is Dec bringing us somewhere special?”
To be fair, he introduced me to this record and he loved it too. What a voice Mary has! And she’s Irish, we thought! The band are Irish! We both, as aspiring musicians, tried to imagine what it must have been like being in that band. It even gave us hope I suppose. It brought the dream closer. I think the Saxophonist Ritchie Buckley, a regular in Van Morrisons band, is a musical genius from the unbelievably talented Buckley family. He has beautiful melodies constantly pouring out of him. The sax solo in Ancient Rain is incredible. And Robbie Brennan! The great Irish session drummer of the 1980's and 1990's, who seemed to be playing drums at every second gig I went to. He also played on this record. May he rest in peace.
The prolific songwriter from Cork, Jimmy McCarthy wrote it ( and songs like Ride On), and much more recently I recorded with him in his big old beautiful castle which actually had a venue attached to the main building. An incredible place. It was on the outskirts of Kilkenny. He lived there on his own at the time and I imagined him rattling around on his own writing fantastic songs and singing them to the ghosts. It was a strange experience in the end I must say…Brian Masterson of U2/Van Morrison fame recorded us in the venue and Jimmy was in flying form. After a long day, he wanted to keep writing and playing through the night but when we declined ( I actually wouldn’t have minded) he took umbrage, got annoyed and promptly paid us and bid us a short goodbye. I never heard from him again but I felt very privileged to have met him and recorded with him. He looked after us so well, wined and dined us and was very appreciative of our musical input.
So wind back a good few years and I had just joined The Frames in the summer of 1999 and we played at Lis Ard Festival ( which is starting again in 2023!) in beautiful West Cork. It was only my second gig with them. I also played with Nick Kelly/The Fat Lady Sings and I jumped up with Mary Coughlan for her gig too at the festival as she didn’t have a drummer. It went well I think. I kept it tidy and played fairly quietly and listened closely. I think I had a lot of beginners luck which can happen for first gigs. The musical Gods wrap you up in an immersion jacket. I felt like a bit of a musical whore at the festival as I was buzzing in my new band and also having the opportunity to be a session drummer at the same time. My confidence was sky high. I was officially playing with 2 bands so I was able to get 2 Artist AAA laminates, one extra one for my great friend Liam, who had to go around, also as Dave Hingerty. He was enjoying that I can tell you. Free booze backstage, and hanging out with, and having breakfast and dinner in the same room as, the likes of Lou Reed and Nick Cave, and making up tall stories to people who thought he was me. It was down there that Glen Hansard of The Frames asked me what my musical ambition was, perhaps concerned at all the flitting about I was doing already. I said I didnt know for sure, but that I wanted to play great music with great people. Steve Gadd was one of my heroes as a session drummer and I wanted to become a kind of Irish Steve Gadd, I said. It probably wasn't the right answer!
My second gig with The Frames. Lis Ard Festival, out by the lake.
So fast forward about a year, and Mary asked me to play at the legendary Vicar St. venue in Dublin, but only gave me 2 days’ notice, and didn’t give me a set list. She probably felt the Lis Ard gig went so well that it was worth a gamble. Wrong! I remember poor Ritchie Buckley ( yes the Richie Buckley, who played on that Ancient Rain Record ) calling the tunes to me just before each one started. I wouldn’t have known the names to most of them anyway, and I certainly didn’t recognise any of the titles on the night.
He would say things like…”yeah this one is a kind of Bulgarian Tango, ready?... I,2,3”…. and I had to jump in with a groove that I thought might have worked. But it never seemed to.
Then he’d say ..“this one is kind of jazz blues, but not really.. and in ‘3’. Ready”?
“Next one is kind of marching but not on the snare… you start it ok?…3,4.”
I feel I completely messed the songs up, playing the wrong type of grooves, and not knowing the arrangements. Communications onstage can be ambiguous. What does a slow 'no' nod mean coming up to a change? Or a severe bending of the knees? What does a fast yes head nod mean with added raised eyebrows? What does the sudden 'off with the head' signal mean? Stop playing for a section? Or stop playing forever? We also did a couple of jazz standards and I had never really played jazz at that stage of my career so they were agony as well. I’m sure there was somebody sitting there in the audience thinking. “I would rather go deaf, then to see you at a gig again”. I made a hasty exit that night out the back entrance in a fast taxi home. Transported, you could say!
There must be lots of examples of young musicians listening to their heroes on records and then eventually sharing the same stage as them. Imagine being Jason Bonham! I was lucky in Lis Ard during that gig with Mary. But I learned that you don’t really get lucky twice. In a way I wish I could go back in time, just sitting there drinking beer with Derm listening to this great record, retaining the mystique and magic and the dream of playing with and meeting heroes. And not having ballsed up the gig so badly and ruining the dream like I did. But fuck it, we can still get together, all these years later, and listen to this record and other great vinyl records together and have a laugh about it. Life’s all about recognising the difference between confidence from hard work and entitlement from none. I’m proud to have been given the chance, and to have been allowed to learn the hard way.
Play it again Derm!