And now for something completely different… (Part I)
October 2, 2017
Okay, band stuff first. Music = good. Paying gigs = good. More paying gigs at which to play music = REALLY good. There. Enough of that.
Let’s take a little trip, you and I. A stumble down memory lane, if you will. Let’s look back to how this all began. As most of my good stories do, this one starts with a girl…
Her name isn’t really important, and we’ve lost touch so I can’t well ask her permission. But there was this girl, see, and well…we broke up. Kinda messily. I was kind of a jerk, and she had finally had enough of that, so she informed me that my dubious affections were no longer required. I was devastated-ish. I decided to drag myself down to the local pub and drown my sorrows in a few pints of Guinness and perhaps some music. Word was, one of my favorite bands was playing yet another farewell performance that night.
Word was wrong. Instead of the same guys playing the same stuff I’d grown to love, there was this new group I’d never seen before. They were vibrant and powerful and brilliant; I’d never heard the music like this before. Guitar and fiddle and mandolin and…what was that? Some kind of drum? Fascinating!
I became a fan. Kind of obsessed. I attended every performance I could. I listened to the music like I never had before, learning how each instrument and each voice worked with and supported all the others. Voices in harmony, strings supporting and lifting and brightening the vocals, and that drum, that Bow-rahn, the heartbeat of the whole thing. The drummer mainly sang backup, finding harmonies to match the lead that just made each song come alive.
I got to know the band members; they had noticed that I kept showing up, with an ever-growing crowd of friends. The guitarist and the drummer shared an apartment, and they invited me to a barbecue. Woo hoo! While there, I asked the drummer if he’d show me how that drum was played. He put a drumstick in my hand (a tipper, or a beater) and showed me how to tuck the drum (the bodhran) under my arm.He showed me how to hold the tipper, how to strike the drumhead…and I was phenomenally bad at it. I mean, wow. I was lucky to not have broken the skin.
The guys let me know that they were starting up a seisiun, a sort of traditional Irish freeform jam, at a little brew pub in Tempe. It became my habitual Wednesday night haunt. No stages, no microphones, just a bunch of folks sitting around a few tables, swapping songs, practicing and sharing the music. I’d belt out a few songs, stuff I’d learned from my grandmother, stuff I’d learned following that band. Singing has always come naturally, I could do that naturally enough. But there was that drum, that bodhran. I’d borrow Paul’s now and then, (you figured out that it was Paul, right?) and he’d teach me a bit more. I was a little dense, but I started to figure it out.