It’s been emotional. I said goodbye to some dear friends and close family. You bade farewell to some vicious dictators. What does it all mean? Does it need to mean anything? Well, some meaning would probably help, and would certainly aid our bid to get “2011 – The Movie” picked up by Hollywood, but really, it doesn’t need to mean anything. In the year that Gil Scott Heron died, I’m not sure what he would have made of the many revolutions that were both televised AND live. (I just hope that they lead to better lives for us all.) So, in no particular order…
In a freezing cold Irish February, myself and one Rory Gavin headed down to Dun Laoghaire for a glamourous video shoot. The glamour ended about halfway down the pier when the full force of the biting north wind slapped my cheekbones. I’m really proud of the video – but almost even more proud of my survival on that pier in a mere shirt. The line between bravery and stupidity really is a fine one. (The video link is further on down – the embedding feature doesn’t seem to be working tonight.)
David Geraghty and I set off for Germany in the Autumn. We hit the mean streets of Berlin, Hamburg, Bielefeld and Münster after a gorgeous start at the Münsterland Festival. Huge heartfelt thanks to Jenni & Purgen, The Donots, Patrick, Kathrin, Lars, all at the Ramones Museum, and the countless other lovely folk who put us up, and put up with us.
After such a lovely tour in Germany, we thought we might extend it a wee bit. The Scratcher in the East Village was the venue for our first New York show together. Plagued by sound problems, when we finally got going, I was a bit shocked. I hadn’t realised how large the crowd was. We had to improvise a little – performing part of the set acoustically on guitar and banjo in the heart of the bar surrounded by a motley crew of New Yorkers, adopted New Yorkers and of course, the Irish. Also, we took advantage of Paul Noonan’s presence to have an impromptu interlude of BellX1 tunes. I need to stay longer next time…
The Workmen’s Club, a stunning new venue on the Liffey turned one year old in 2011, so we organised a show to celebrate that fact. Nixer Night, which featured Rob Malone (Lir, David Gray), David Geraghty (Bell X1), Cathy Davey, Vyvienne Long and myself, was a candlelit soirée to the soundtrack of everything from Sea of Bees to Marvin Gaye, not to mention the stunning original music on display. It was designed as a one-off… but I suspect, and hope, there will be a reprise. We have a lovely memento of the occasion taken by our good friend (and genius) Bob Dixon.
Back in Spring, we (Dave Redmond & I) ventured out to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria for a tour. It was our first time in the region, so everything was bright, shiny and new to our weary eyes. It’s been a while since I was in a country where I did not understand a single utterance from anyone’s mouth – and I’d forgotten how tough it can be. Luckily we had Ivi looking after us. Most of the tour was unamplified which was a rare treat.
I got around Ireland in the solo… em… line-up?… more than I expected to this year. I teamed up with Colm Lynch and Fiach for a clutch of gigs around Ireland – there’s even evidence of some Christmas tunes floating about on the interweb… although you’re probably sick to your back teeth of Christmas songs at this stage. Maybe next year. I had the pleasure of opening for Mélanie Pain and her band – if you don’t know Mélanie, you may know her work with Nouvelle Vague. Fantastic show. And after a gap of a few years, I finally got back to Northern Ireland thanks to John Deery & The Heads. We had some fine times in Belfast, Dublin and, of course, their hometown of Derry.
I played in London a bit this year. Huge thanks to Rae, Ana Maria, Sarah and all at Urban Fog, Bar Bodega and The Mermaid. Urban Fog was a beautiful installation and bar in Dalston… and a fantastic event. I’m just glad I missed the riots that engulfed whole swathes of that postcode a few months later. The definitive list of things one should not carry through a riot zone include : “massive barely-portable continental quilt” and “guitar”.
That’s it for now… I’ll leave you with the blurry unresolved mess of firsts, lasts, and undefineds that happened in the last 12 months : The Queen visits Croke Park; the POTUS visits Ireland; the Arab Spring sweeps across North Africa into the Middle East… and is still going; a tsunami kills thousands in Japan, cripples a nuclear plant, and forces the evacuation of huge swathes of land already obliterated by the tsunami; Bin Laden and Gaddafi are killed; Kim Jong Il is no longer looking at things; the world’s first synthetic organ transplant is carried out; the US shuttle program ends; UNESCO recognises Palestine as a state; musicians Gerry Rafferty (Stuck In The Middle With You, Baker Street, etc), Gil Scott Heron (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised) and Trish Keenan (of Broadcast – check this out : Broadcast’s Papercuts, featuring the vocals of Trish Keenan) pass on; the US ends its war in Iraq; the Euro’s existence looks increasingly shaky as the EU writes off 50% of Greece’s debt, bails out Portugal, and still no end is in sight; in September, encouraged by the Arab Spring and frustrated with every single politicians’ unwillingness to do anything for the people they represent – the Occupy Movement starts, spreads to over 80 countries and after an initial media blackout, eventually creeps into the news;
I hope that you all have a wonderful 2012, and that we meet on the road soon. Slán agus beannacht libh!