Leo’s Blog – squash and sweet potato
I don’t know where we stayed – somewhere near Albany in New York State. A hotel by the highway in the middle of the night. The one awkward journey of the whole tour. There’s always one.
Portland Maine on Saturday night and a 495 mile hike to Rochester, New York for a Sunday afternoon show. So we pack up in One Longfellow Square after an exceptionally warmly received couple of sets, say our goodbyes to our long-time friends in Portland and hit the road before midnight.
Four hours out we pull in and ask if there’s a room. There is. Relax for a few hours.
Portland is resplendent in Autumn sunshine when we arrive on Saturday at around 3pm. Down on the waterfront people are strolling around in shirtsleeves; relaxed and happy. Colourful and warm; a little bit of Indian Summer Saturday magic about it all.
Leo’s Blog – The Burren
A Wednesday night in the middle of October. You wouldn’t be expecting an awful lot to be going on, even somewhere as urban and lively as Somerville, Mass.
But walk into The Burren on Elm Street et voilà!
Back in the back room Sarah McQuaid is doing a lovely gig. She’s a solo folk singer who’s written a book about the particular guitar tuning called ‘DADGAD’ and she can play and sing like she fairly knows what she’s at.
Out in the front bar there’s a session blazing away. Lovely warm acoustic sound; double bass, guitars and strong voices all being amplified just enough by the house sound system’s suspended microphones over the table. It’s all hoppin’. And when Sarah comes out the front bar when she’s finished there’s a comedy show on in the backroom.
The Story So Far
It was May 1st, 1988, in Galway, the largest city on on the West coast of Ireland and fledgling local band from the small town of Tuam, twenty miles due North, The Saw Doctors, were playing at ‘The Late Late Breakfast Show’ – a fundraising event for the Galway Arts Festival. The songs kicked off at lunchtime and children and their arts-patron parents danced and sang along while Flanagan’s Bar earned victory in the cocktail competition with their lethal-proven concoction, ‘The Claddagh Collapse’.
Eleven miles out the road in the seaside village of Spiddal on the shores of Galway Bay, The Waterboys, who were creating a gigantic buzz having moved to Ireland from London after their huge hit album, ‘This Is The Sea’ and its chart-topping single, ‘The Whole Of The Moon’, were in the middle of recording their new record, ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ in Spiddal House, an old estate residence temporarily converted into a state-of-the-art rock and roll studio.
Somewhere in the middle of The Saw Doctor’s four-hour set in the front lounge of The Warwick Hotel, the man with the sax, Anthony Thistlethwaite, arrived in the door and got up and started blowing along with the band; the main gig finished and the musicians moved to the dining room to continue with the powerful wave of music they were surfing. On that evening in The Warwick Hotel in Salthill was born a musical friendship that continues to this day.
A few months later Waterboys’ singer, Mike Scott, asked The Saw Doctors to support the band on the Irish tour the following December; this led to their supporting The Waterboys all over Britain in the Spring of 1989. Mike produced The Saw Doctors’ first single, N17, and Anthony arrived into Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin late in the evening, after awaiting a call in the pub next door for a number of hours, and valiantly put down a driving sax riff on the outro of what has become a classic Irish single.
Through much of the 90s Anthony toured Ireland, Britain, the US, Europe and Australia with The Saw Doctors and at the beginning of the new millennium when original bassist, Pearse Doherty, left the practice, Anthony took over up until the present time on the bass, an instrument he had originally played with The Waterboys way back.
With The Saw Doctors on sabbatical, and with Anthony’s and Leo’s troubadour feet becoming itchy, the two friends have put together a show to bring around that will include different takes on well-known Saw Doctors’ songs, versions of lesser-known and less-played songs, a few from Anthony’s solo-albums and other songs written recently with Padraig Stevens. It’s all new and fresh and challenging and scary and exciting at the same time so let’s see what happens….