I was about 15 minutes early so I parked over by J.K. Schoolbooks (that place where you could pawn off your school books and buy shittier versions in order to buy tapes and fags with the difference) and decided to stroll and take the air. It had been some time since I had just walked around my own city while not staring at the footpath or cursing the sideways rain with my face clamped shut. The stars were out and I was on my todd, so I dug the hands into the pockets and hit the streets to soak up the vibes. A kebab shop dripping in sweat and grease, a thick-necked bouncer robotically chewing gum outside SoHo, eejit boy-racers speeding up to a red light…a drunken and emotional young woman being broken-up with on the Courthouse steps by a ginger youngfella with big fish lips…pissed assholes and birds in tiny shoes fighting in the queue for Gorbys…a big-arsed Bangárda sneering at a spotty scummer claiming to have been “just jogging round town”…a crazy tramp clapping his hands to a Romanian playing the Seige of Ennis on an accordian. I paused on the corner of the GPO and breathed it in deep – THIS is Cork, THIS is real, I WISH I had parked way closer.
Anyway, BLAM all of a sudden it was 11:30 and I was bang on time. “Jumping Gee Whizz, I hope I haven’t missed any supports” I said to myself, as I snapped out of my reverie. I thought of the all the salivating music fans that would cry hot tears of remorse should I be tardy to the party and miss whatever warm-up outfit were coming on. But after all these years of playing and going to gigs, you’d think I’d have learned at this stage. What was I thinking? No band, just a load of dreadlocked bumming-around-India types and a thin enough smoking area. So I got a pint and sat down. I began puffing my cheeks in and out, and occassionally pulling on my arm hair. I noticed how filthy my shoes were and made a mental note to clean them, only to then remember that the glue would probably wear out if I put them in the machine. But then I remembered that Nike had brought out a shoe in the late 80s that you could put in the washing machine -”Travel Wash” or something, it said on them. But then I thought, ‘maybe you can put ALL shoes in the washing machine, they’re just saying these one’s “will be fine”‘. Sort of like putting “Now more than ever” or “the one you can trust” on something just to imply that everything else is rubbish.
Anyway thinking about cleaning my shoes (end eventually deciding not to) had killed about 6 minutes so I decided to move around a bit and look for a paper to read, which proved fruitless/paperless. I had come on my own and if you think about it, it’s quite difficult to start chatting to people when you’re on your own in a pub. You just look like a wino, especially if you do it when you’re not drunk. Like you are there because you just need to be in a pub. I was going to start a conversation with this woman who was stood near me waiting for someone – and therefore assumedly “trapped” on her own, but her husband or something came over and I felt he might think I was trying it on. But then, what if he was really sound and I ended up having a sweet chat with the two of them? Yeah, I thought. But what if she was a weirdo and he would end up clinging onto me so that he wouldn’t have to talk to her? What if he was like me only 15 minutes ago, and had innocently wandered into a chat forcefield whereby only the approach of another different randomer would set him free and allow him to take 5 steps back and watch the gig on his own. But then again, what if he ended up being some sort of pervert like that guy with the glasses in the Bróg that time about 7 years ago? Anyway thinking about talking to those people killed another minute or two and so I just stared off into space for another while. Ten minutes I guess. I began just looking at people but trying not to stare – I was on my own, remember.
If you’re on your own you can only look at a person for so long before it denotes some sort of intent. I got some water and wandered around a bit. I sat down near the bar and watched two guys arm wrestling. I started wishing for a gruesome injury to alleviate my boredom – or that, as his hand was about to touch the table, the losing guy would just pull out a screaming circular saw and slice through the other guy’s arm, holding it aloft and laghing at his bloody victory. Or that the winning guy’s t-shirt would rip off like the Incredible Hulk and his skin would start blistering and he would transform into some sort of B-Movie creature like the second-to-last stage monster in The Fly, making his arm-wrestling companion shit himself vigorously. Anyway none of that happened so I went out to look at the fag machine and lean on something, a flower pot I think it was. This killed about a minute before some people started muttering and looking over at me, so I went back in and found something to sit on; a corner by the edge of the seated area. There was quite a lot of dried-on chewing gum and a shifty yet enormous bouncer staring at me right beside it so I got up after a while and just leaned on a pillar behind this big fat guy.
The band started up somewhere at this point, two acoustic guitarists and a singer. They were doing that shuffling percussive Johnny Cash strumming thing and the singer (who looked like Francis Rossi in a trilby) was kicking his heels, gurning and shouting “HUP!“. They played some nondescript up-tempo fodder, had some nice harmonies and jumped around a lot, but basically really needed a rhythm section (they had one but apparently it couldn’t make the tour) and some memorable songs. And some nice textures and less cheeky-chappy Bez antics from the singer. And a better sound and something original, like outfits or a gut bucket. Even two bales of hay on the stage would have added to it. I stared into space for most of it but their guitarist did spark my interest with a blazing recorder solo, if you can believe that. They did a Bob Dylan song which got people going, including yours truly, who got going almost immediately and went home.
Don’t go to gigs on your own for fuck’s sake.
Photos by the amazing Bríd O’Donovan