Tour Diary, August 29, 2023

It wasn’t exactly a late night seeing Noel Gallagher but it was a long day of doing stuff. We got back to the hotel and turned on the telly just in time to catch the start of the Liam Neeson/Michael Collins movie and between that, the Mother of all the Behans and the Irish Rock and Roll Museum AND the tea tour around the city - we feel like we’ve gotten a lot of Irish history in.

Monday we took it a bit easy although the blisters on our feet from walking have been slowing us down a bit. We both planned ahead for better traveling shoes but annoying circumstances have kept us in our current boots.*

Tonight we have plans to meet up with my friend Orla, who I met in Inisheer last fall at our songwriter retreat. She just released a new single and has been writing more and more songs. We’re going to eat tonight at a place called The Church which, as you guessed, is a restaurant in a former church. It’s a fantastic re-purposing of a building and great food too.

Orla also found that nearby is a great song circle on Monday nights. I message the guy and the format here is absurdly simple and ultimately, fantastic. Having run open mics myself - I’ve always struggled with the format as it’s just…awkward.

The Song Circle at Whalen’s has a sign up sheet, that’s normal, but everyone does one song.


One song to start. And then it goes around.

Here’s the other thing - nobody plugs into a PA. There’s no fancy pedals. There’s no microphones. There’s a spot, not on stage, in this pub where you’re kind of in the middle of the folks sitting and listening. There’s a dude on piano that will play along with you if you like. There’s a woman on cello that will play along with you if you like. The two of them are top notch musicians and they either just tinkle along or sit in silence depending.

The host had this small bell that sounded like he took it off a wandering goat or something. It was just a regular farm type of bell and when he needed it to be quiet, he rang the bell.

He only used the bell like 4 times.

I counted how many people were in this room and I got to 50 at one point and they were all quiet and listening. There was no tv on. The bar was in the other room. This was a listening open mic and most of the people here were NOT performers.

The host Tony provided an acoustic guitar and nearly everyone used it. A couple of folks brought their own but there really wasn’t that much room for cases everywhere so it worked out well. The guitar was provided by Music Maker, a local store that got props every time Tony touched the guitar.

And it was one of the best open mics ever.

A speedy change from performer to performer. A level playing field for all and most of all a quiet room of listeners.

I’ve run open mics and they’ve all had their pluses and minuses. You’d get folks that would wait around outside until it’s their turn or talk through other performers but this was all integrated and felt way more supportive. There were a ton of people signed up and I got to play twice but was there for a few hours. Tony never said who was next. You had to be in the room to know - as one would end he would say who was coming on and if you weren’t in the room, you missed your spot! Amazing.

And the talent was incredible! There was a dude from India singing in Urdu, there was another dude who got an amazing sing along where he taught the room the backing vocal at the moment it came up and we all kept singing that part and he went back to the lead vocal and the room just lifted off the floor. A woman performed that had just finished bicycling across Canada. I loved it. Nearly everyone played originals.

My buddy Boris and I have been talking about how we wish there was a kind of room like this in Orange County but can’t think of a single place where it would work. This was a room that had no tvs. It was designed to be a music listening room and people come here for that. Everywhere I can think of in OC, music is an afterthought. A thing to do in between football and baseball games. I can think of dozens of times we couldn’t start the music until whatever game was on, ended. And even was told to turn down a festival I booked because two regulars at the bar couldn’t hear the NASCAR event they were watching - even though there were 300 people there for the music.

Traveling abroad spoils you as a musician, artist, performer. It always feels like venues someplace else always value you what you do more than they do at home.

Today we’re on a train to Cork. Looking forward to seeing our friends Rufus and Jess there.


*I got new boots that are supposed to be great for plantar fasciitis but as I was packing to walk out the door, forgot to put them on and left on my other boots. Tracy ordered new boots and even though they were ordered a week ahead of time, FedEx lost the shipment and they apparently showed up at our house today.

Leave a comment