We modern beneficiaries of the unique historical accident of godlike powers of travel and comfort don’t travel by wagon at 2 miles per hour. We don’t worry about starving on a long journey halfway around the world. It’s not like it used to be. And we take things for granted. Still. Modern air travel ain’t fun any more.
Rob, Paul M, and Shawn left L.A. on Sunday, almost. Monday, actually. How many hours, days and fractions of days have passed in this sleep deprived haze of customs, transfers, LAX and Heathrow, grilling by British officials, more lines and searches and metal detectors, stale jet fuel and more, much more stale travelers? Arrived at rainy Dublin Airport on Tuesday morning, at last, to the welcome sight of Paul and Vicky waiting outside the green velvet rope of DUB Customs. We made it. We’re here. But where are our bags, and RW’s guitar and PM’s bass? According the very kind gentleman at the Lufthansa baggage counter (well-trained in conflict resolution “thank you sir for that information”) one bag is in London and the other four might still be in L.A. Oh, goodness. No time to worry about that now. We’ve got to rush to our gig at the Bronte Music Club in the North. PL guides the lumbering 16 passenger van bravely out into traffic running the wrong way, on country lanes designed for horse drawn carts. We trust him. He’s good at this. He comes to Ireland every year, he seems well-rested, and he’s brave. Back we are, like ’06, racing through the Isles late for a gig.
Our faithful and trusty tour manager/promoter/MC/driver Andy Peters meets us at the hotel. Andy does it all. He gets us fed and makes sure we have our first proper pint of Guinness. His lovely girlfriend Jenny helps us get sorted as well. He’s managed to round up a Music Man bass for PM and a Taylor acoustic for RW. Drums are all together. A real Fender tube amp for PL is ready to go. As long as we don’t pass out from sheer exhaustion, we’re going to be able to do the show after all.
Banbridge, County Down is one of the homelands for Paul’s mom Teresa–the O’hares are many in this region. The day before the airline-gobsmacked Hawks arrived, Andy Peters drove Paul and Vicky through the rolling hills from hilltop town to hilltop town, stopping for a cosmic Pint at a great old pub (license applied for 1787), where the barmaid/owner listed the O’hares in her family tree, and the locals told of the local lore and legends in a lyirical and difficult to understand accent. Heavy black clouds and bursts of rain made for a dramatic drive to the edge of the Mourne Mountains, heights of mystery and damp repository of tales for thousands of years.
And now we follow Andy up and down steep and curvy lanes past incurious cows and silvery rain streaked grass fields and brown barley, a final dip into a treeshadowd sloping farm road and we’re here:
The Bronte Music club is actually a deconsecrated Protestant church built in 1760. The Bronte sisters’ (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights) father Patrick “Brunty” Bronte was the minister at this church so long ago. It is a beautiful structure on top of a small hill. As we approach the sun is setting over the villages here and there along the roadside, stone walls and a quilting of fields of sheep and stones and milking cows. It’s just beautiful and Ireland is casting its first spell upon us. In the small, pitching and yawing green cemetery yard, among the eroding black moss covered Celtic crosses, lies a giant stone split into four. It guards the sunken pit of Squire Hawkins, 18th century practitioner of black magic. When the good Squire died, no church would accept him for burial, other than this one. The horses balked at hauling the corpse’s wagon into the church yard, and the coffin had to be lugged by hand up the hill into the sacred ground. Legend has it that lighting struck the massive gravestone as soon as it was placed. Hence the split, and the Cross formed of muddy ground among the slab fragments.
The church interior is spare and still reverent, stripped of Christ’s altar so that we can sing. It’s been a long, not to say strange trip, but here we are on stage with instruments in our hands. The lights are on and there’s a crowd out there ready to listen. The disorientation and discomfort of international travel fade away as we start the first song. It’s all familiar territory now and it feels good. The crowd is enthusiastic and kind. We take a nice break and hang out with the locals. How is it that people in Ireland are so nice? Is it real? Do they secretly have some agenda? It doesn’t seem so and for the paranoid Angeleno that can be hard to get used to. They’ve been through a lot, the Irish, and they seem to appreciate the random, painful course of each person’s life to the degree that they just treat everyone kindly. What a fine place to be.After the show we walked into the old cemetery in the black of midnight, to feel the cool earth’s moist humors. Sweet darkness under old trees, and the dead at peace or otherwise. The air on our skin is like an old friend. Again.