Where to begin? As I mentioned in Part 1 of my Newfoundland 2011 post, my musical experiences during that two weeks deserves a post all its own. It’s difficult to know how to write it all, though. I guess I’ll try to go in some sort of chronological sequence…I’ll do my best to capture it all in words, although it won’t even come close to actually experiencing it yourself-which I highly recommend.
The night after I arrived in Newfoundland, my cousin Alan’s band Great Big Sea was to open the George Street Festival–six nights of concerts on George Street. I’ve never seen anything like it-so many people, all ages, crammed together to hear Great Big Sea play at home. It rained, but no one seemed to care, and nobody left. It was a great show, not surprising, having seen GBS before. The vibe was a little different there, of course, being “home” for the b’ys.
Two nights later I would return to George Street, to see The Dropkick Murphys with my friend Larry Peyton, drummer for the band Streets of Hastings. We had a great time, shared some pints and some laughs and enjoyed a great show. Again, George Street was jam-packed with people of all types, having fun and dancing and drinking. Quite an experience.
One of the great things about St. John’s is that on any given night you can go to one of the many pubs downtown and hear amazing local musicians. There is no shortage of live music there, and music of an amazing caliber. I saw Michael Hanrahan at Shamrock City as well as Celtic Connection and former GBS member Darrell Power, Allan Ricketts at Erin’s Pub, just to name a few.
I could easily have gone to a pub every night of the week and seen/heard someone different and equally talented. I just can’t experience that here at home, unfortunately. What I really wanted, more than anything, was to actually perform at O’Reilly’s pub on George Street. I knew they had Open Mic night on Tuesday night, and I had planned to play then–my cousins were even going to come support me. It was not meant to be, sadly. The final night of the George Street Festival was that Tuesday night, so George Street was closed off and O’Reilly’s did not have Open Mic night…one more reason for me to return.
I mentioned in Part 1 that I ran into Andrew James O’Brien at Fred’s Records. I’ve been enjoying his music for a while now, well before I made this return trip to Newfoundland. It was a treat to get to talk to him before his performance at the Folk Festival, and then again after his set. He is very talented and I think he’ll have a great career in music. The Folk Festival was incredible. Two nights of music from some of my favorite performers all on the same stage. The Festival was supposed to be held outside, at Bannerman Park, but was brought indoors to Mile One Stadium due to the nasty weather conditions. It made for a different experience, but I didn’t care–I was there for the music.
Last October when I was in St. John’s I’d met Matthew and Allan Byrne at O’Reilly’s. That night Allan was performing, filling in for Fergus O’Byrne, who I had wanted to see. Again, I had been enjoying Matthew’s music well before I met him, and both of the Byrne brothers were extremely nice guys. Upon returning home I emailed back and forth with Matthew as he generously helped me learn a song he had recorded on his CD. I did learn it, and now I often perform Bonnie Light Horseman when I play at O’Shea’s. This year, at the Folk Festival, it was Matthew who was performing, with the wonderful Dardanelles. They were incredible and so was Matthew. His voice is so pure, so moving, he doesn’t even need accompaniment. His a capella performance was so stirring, you could have heard a pin drop when he sang. I ran into brother Allan who was in the audience, and he remembered me. We had a quick chat, and it was nice to be able to say hello in person again.
Another performer I was excited to see at the Folk Festival was Catherine MacLellan. I admire her work as a songwriter and I particularly like her guitar style. I listen to her when I need inspiration. She did a great set, joined by the Good Lovelies, who I had not previously heard. They were amazing.
The second night of the Folk Festival brought people like Paul Brady, the legendary Ron Hynes, and finally, Fergus O’Byrne, who I had missed on my previous visit. The Festival ended with a tribute to Fergus’ group, Ryan’s Fancy which had formed about 40 years ago. All kinds of guest musicians were on hand for that, including Matthew, the guys from Shanneyganock, and even Bob Hallett from Great Big Sea. What a way to end a show! And what a way to end my trip. I’ll never forget that Folk Festival, but I hope to attend another one in the future.
I’m sure I’ve probably forgotten something or someone, in which case I can always edit this post…as far as my Blue Rodeo story…that will be Part 3.