Posted by: mdmusingsie | July 17, 2010

Journey to Hothouse Flowers (lite)

It was after 6:30 pm when I finally arrived at the Radisson in Athlone (hotels were all booked in Tullamore and I decided to go out in style). Upon entering the room I almost thought they gave me the key to the sauna by mistake. The window only opened about half an inch and the hotel didn’t have air conditioning. Downstairs I went to find out how long it would take to get to Tullamore (always take what people tell you and add anywhere from 25-100%), and arrange for a fan in my room, I only had a few minutes to get ready for the concert I was on my way to attend – Liam Ó Maonlaí and Fiachna Ó Braonáin Acoustic at The Thatch, Rahan.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, there is such a thing as “Irish time” – another instance where time moves differently. Well, according to the pub’s web site, the music was at 8 pm. Assuming at this point, that any normal dinner was out of the question I employed my Ireland idea of fast food – a hand full of mixed nuts I carry in my purse plus a Nutri-Grain bar purchased at a convenience store with a bottle of water. I wasn’t that hungry anyway – when my stress level reaches a certain level, the appetite goes on hiatus.

All the other concerts I attended started roughly on schedule, however, reflecting back, they were all in theatres. It wasn’t until I arrived to a nearly empty venue and proceeded to wait approximately an hour and a half that I remembered Todd telling me that pub concerts in Galway operated on this same creative time schedule. When they say 8 pm they mean the doors to the pub open about that time, and the music doesn’t start until half-nine or later.

No worries, I could just sit and write about the adventures of the day for my blog, or so I thought. Fate had other plans. As I was ordering my soft drink the woman next to me struck up a conversation. (She was an Irish woman who didn’t appear to know or had forgotten about the time warp, though she had attended other concerts in the same venue.) She is a big Hothouse Flowers fan and as we talked I admitted that I had never heard them play, nor did I own any of their CDs. I went on to relate the history of how I came to know of them (a longer story possibly suited for a future post). She wasn’t aware that Liam had two solo CDs (by the end of the evening/morning, we each owned new CDs).

I was also relating how I came to be in Ireland when another woman joined the conversation. It turns out she’s from the East Coast (US) but has now married and settled in Ireland, setting up her own business (no, she didn’t marry to get a green card – she’s an Irish descendant and was able to immigrate via heritage). She actually provided me with both discouraging and encouraging information about obtaining residency, and it didn’t involve marriage, for once. Her Irish husband was part of duo that was to be the opening act for the evening – his first real gig! Turns out they were pretty darn good.

Rose Ann, the first woman I met, and I ended up hanging out and chatting through the hurry-up-and-wait period and sat together during the concert. She was the first to call out a song when they asked what the crowd wanted to hear (Santa Monica). They played many of her favorites, delighting her to no end.

Although billed as an “acoustic” gig, it wasn’t, at least not in the traditional sense (though it had no impact on the performance, which was beyond excellent, I was merely making an observation). Liam was on keyboards and Fiachna played an amplified acoustic guitar. They were joined by Martin Brunsden who plays the double base (he also performed on and co-produced Liam’s most recent CD). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a double base before – it was so large it resembled an instrument developed for use by a race of giants (Martin himself is rather tall).

It was obvious Fiachna and Liam have played together a very long time (over 25 years), knowing when to come in and out of each other’s improvisations, and sharing the same passion for what they do. They performed many of the Hothouse Flowers favorites as well as two tunes from Liam’s solo project. Fiachna even sang a Sean Nós tune towards the end of the evening, followed closely by a set of tunes on the whistle. He has a very nice voice as well. They played for at least two and a half hours straight, to the delight of the crowd, misé mé féin, included. It was worth the trauma of the rental car to be able to attend this event.

For the second time that day, I sat in envy. I hope these talented performers realize how blessed they are to be able to live their passions. Maybe I’ll have the confidence to do the same some day.

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