It would be impossible to overestimate the contribution of individual instrumentalists to the long running and continuing success story that is the Dublin Traditional Musical Pub Crawl, although were you to meet some of said performers in a social setting you may well doubt their ability to contribute to the success of any venture not involving the sale of alcohol, the ascerbic overuse of cynicism or the rebirth of consequence free hedonism.
These are (almost) their stories.
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One of the ‘Old Guard’ of Crawlers, Boo cut his musical teeth while occasionally patronizing school, and became interested in Traditional Irish music while attending on international pop superstardom. A gifted songwriter, he has recorded several albums and Eps with his band Caliban, with whom both he and fellow Crawler Larry Shaw have toured the planet extensively.
Noted for his passionate performance technique, Boo is a born entertainer, his likes include long walks, fine cuisine, the translation of 18th century Russian poetry, go-karting to formula one standard, Duran Duran, romantic evenings by the fire, and the possibility of a $20m 5 album deal from Time Warner, truly a man for all seasons!
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Perfecting his craft over a fifth of a century, Brendan meandered away from the early influence of traditional fiddle playing and experimented with the genres of classical, rock and jazz involving himself with groups the likes of the (rather aptly titled) Reckless Pedestrians, and Jack L. After an 18 month tour of the globe, however, Brendan returned his roots, forming a traditional tour de force with two other exponents of the crawlers craft Alan Doherty(flute, see no.6) and Gerry Paul(guitar, see no.17), collectively known as Grada(and many, many other things besides).
Brendan has a library of information concerning the history of the tunes he has mastered and tiptoes between the different traditional fiddle styles deftly and effortlessly. Fond of a social drink, Brendan is the man to see if you want to have any hope of getting a late pint in the Halfpennybridge Inn, and he cites as his influences Kevin Burke, nurses, Martin Hayes, Guinness and miraculous lacks of concussion.
Twice All-Ireland champion uilleann-piper, Tommy’s prodigious talent was nurtured from the tender age of twelve by both a musically accomplished ancestry and the attentive guidance of master piping tutors.
His instantly recognizable style (in both fashion and music) have earned critical acclaim on four continents and his tireless workload has involved him in no fewer than six collaborative recordings and three solo albums. It’s hard to imagine how such a workaholic finds time to relax, but Tommy lists socialising, visiting hospitals, and an abiding interest in the history of Mexican cuisine among his hobbies. He admits to being happily unattached at present, but is always and regularly on the lookout for Ms.Right. By the way, he is the guy being attacked by the pepper-grinder!
Hailing from the windswept savannahs of North Louth, Larry found himself weaned on the tradition by his musical parentage, influences still apparent in his unique style today. Another ‘Old Guardsman’, Larry has enjoyed lengthy musical alliances with many of the other crawlers, including a successful recording and touring schedule with A.Bools in the guise of Caliban (see no. 1 above) and he is a regular on the Temple bar session circuit.
His influences vary from Sid Vicious to God, and pretty much everything in between, but his eclectic tastes are matched by an unrivalled passion and respect for the musical tradition of which he is a part. He resides in Co.Wicklow with his girlie and their two dogs, his talents ensuring ample time for his alternative existence as a country gentleman of leisure.
A recognized prodigy from an early age, Tom is respected the length and breath of the country as an inspiring and dedicated session musician, having come to widespread attention as a founder member of the youthful supertradstar group, Delos.Tomas continues to develop his technique by embracing wide-ranging world music styles and working with the famed talents of musicians like Paul Kelly (fiddle/mandolin) and Sean Whelan (jazz guitar). He has toured America and Europe as a member of the legendary Riverdance show, and can regularly be seen holding court in the Dublin City University bar, where, he informs me, he is always ready to lend an experienced hand to the emergent talent on offer there. Allegedly, he keeps a house filled with nurses in case of emergencies.
Both space and good taste necessitate the neglect of many pertinent facts concerning this young Dublin flautist who often inspires awe when in full flow. He has been involved in several bands of note including Shinook (with renowned Achill whistler Des Cafferkey) and more recently has been laboriously putting the finishing touches to Grada’s first studio album (see no. 2).
Chances are that you have heard this well rehearsed musician before as he is included in the soundtrack for the blockbuster ‘Lord of the Rings’, accompanied on that occasion by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. A noted session character, Alan often invites complete strangers to join in the musical revelry, his philanthropic nature evident even more clearly in his concern for the welfare of older generations as he regularly ensures that they get a lift home at the end of an evening.
One of the first international artistes to join the crawl troupe, Andy’s Scottish heritage adds a pan-Celtic flavour to crawl proceedings. Constantly on the search for new and vibrant tunes, Andy finds himself heavily influenced by the lively Sligo-Leitrim style of fiddling while bringing his own uniquely empassioned Scottish flourishes to the melodies. Andy has worked closely on musical projects with both Alan Doherty (see 6.) and talented Dublin rhythmist Tony Byrne. Andy’s other great passions include trees, anything to do with numbers, Oprah and personal hygiene (though not necessarily in that order).
One of the fairer sex’s outnumbered representatives, what this musical minority lacks in numbers it adequately accounts for in talent and precision. A gifted fiddle-player, Aoife has been performing since her early years and is a familiar mainstay of the traditional festival circuit both in Ireland and abroad. Her inimicable taste and style breathe grace into the tradition and have earned her both performing credits with the likes of genre-defying group Kila, and unbridled admiration from more traditionalist corners. An avid reader, she cites her favourite authors as Frederick Nietzche, Jamie Oliver, Maeve Binchy , Enid Blyton and Anonymous.
Local lad Dave has been a regular on the Dublin music scene for nigh on two decades, although he did abscond to Northern Europe for a lengthy spell around the early nineties, which proved to be a formative musical experience for his already well-honed talents as he became increasingly interested in the melodies and rhythms of traditional Eastern and Northern European music.
On his triumphant return to these shores he set up the seminal group Tre, who not only managed to develop a considerable fan-base around the capital, but also impressed the hordes who came to see them at their unforgettable live festival performances. Dave thrives in the nebulous social scene of Dublin city centre and is much in demand as a raconteur of note. His non-musical interests include an overwhelming appetite for raw fish, an appreciation of blonde actresses and a reverential awe of St. James Gate.
One of the leading lights of the city’s traditional folk contingent, Des has a veritable library of songs which he consistently augments and develops. Recently he has begun studies in the Irish language in order to better understand the nuances of the ancient song tradition but has still found time to perform with bands such as DeJimbe, and to have been an integral part of the highly successful Millenium Drum Festival.
He has played support to renowned songwriter Patsy O’Brien and is currently busy working on his own debut CD. Des resides in the city but likes nothing more than to leave the smog behind and climb any mountain which happens to cross his path, he loves animals (cats in particular), and would like to be an astronaut when he grows up.
Brought up in an intensely musical environment, Eamonn De Barra’s talents were evident from a very early age, as were those of his siblings. The Young Traditional Musician Of the Year 1999, he already has a formidable reputation as a live performer, although he is barely out of short pants.
Having toured Ireland many times and performed with such traditional icons as Paul McNevin(fiddle) and Mick Kinsella(Harmonica), Eamonn is also a regular visitor to both mainland Europe and the U.S. and has just returned from touring Japan with his supertradstar group, ‘DeBarra’. No stranger to television appearances, Eamonn is a favourite of Pat Kenny on the Late Late Show, and scarcely a night goes by where it is not possible to spot him on TG4 (terrestrial Irish t.v. station).
He has also performed with jazz group ‘Kanda’ and is currently working on a follow up album to the phenomenally successful CD ‘The Flying Pig’ which he recorded with master musicians Daire Bracken(fiddle), Mick Broderick(bazouki) and Aogan Lynch(concertina), collectively known as ‘Slide’. Away from his gruelling musical schedule, Eamonn can often be seen sleeping at parties, playing his nose, fretting about his hairline or purchasing Barney the Dinosaur merchandise (allegedly for the children of friends).
A central figure at Dublin sessions for over a decade, Mick has graced the boards with such leading performers as Gerry O’Connor(banjo), Peter Browne(button accordion) and Anthony Ward (banjo/mandolin). He loves to play the U.S. circuit and is constantly in demand in Asia where he has built up a considerable following after several visits.
A consummate showman, Mick’s exceptionally powerful vocals often leave his audiences enthralled and he is currently polishing up a selection of his own songs for his debut solo album. Family man Mick has abandoned the glare and noise of city life for the quiet and solitude of sun-soaked south Cavan, where he indulges in his hobbies of fly-fishing, alcohol-testing, family-loving, and learning to deal without 24-hour convenience stores.
A Donegal fiddle legend, this young musician has been playing sessions since he’s been able to hold an instrument. A known workaholic, Oisin has left no stone uncooked at perfecting his craft and has enriched his traditional heritage with both classical training and jazz experimentation.
Currently working with top traditional outfit ‘Danu’, Oisin’s talent has circled the globe working previously with performing heavyweights like Alan Kelly(piano accordion) and Niamh Parsons(vocals). A list of his favourite things would have to include Johnny Doherty, the Cobblestone Bar, Mary, chocolate, feminism and the internal mechanics of agricultural machinery.
Discovering his interest in the Irish tradition relatively recently, Joe quickly rejected his three-chord based musical history and immersed himself wholly in the technical and social aspects of the Dublin session scene. Surprisingly finding willing partners in time, Joe has toured five continents and is currently involved with the percussion/traditional fusion band DeJimbe.
Joe has spent many years working with such respected traditionalists as Donnacha Dwyer(Uilleann Pipes), Malachy Bourke (Fiddle) and Ray Dempsey (Button Accordion). In the little free time that he has, Joe enjoys neglecting his garden, the assassination of individual characters, the exploration of new internet-based friendships, and the ignorance of the possibility of never working in this town again.
Prodigious from an early age, this Waterford lad’s talents were polished by the accordion master Bobby Gardiner before Ray availed himself of every opportunity to add to his collection of tunes at sessions from Belfast to Dingle. Now based in north Dublin, Ray continues to win over his audiences with his combination of lightening technique, fathomless repertoire and hypnotic stage presence. He has regularly visited continental venues as the frontman of ‘Ray Dempsey and Ferrari’ and has undertaken several extensive tours of the U.S. with long-time musical collaborators Joe Brennan(guitar, see 14.) and Aodh McCraith(fiddle). Ray’s long term goals include F1 motor-racing, a government post as either the Minister for Education or Taoiseach, and to be the first man to knock out a tune in space.
Mark is the Prime Mover of the pub crawl, the Grand Negus, El Presidente and the Commander In Chief of the Old Guard. The first musician to play on the crawl, Mark’s considerable musical history includes liasons with Emer Mayock(flute), with Larry Shaw(fiddle, see no.4) and with notable group Kila. A passionate festival fanatic, Mark has plied his craft at international venues, but calls Dublin his home and is a consistently familiar face at traditional music happenings in the capital.
Ever on the go, Mark has been voted as ‘man most likely to succeed Paddy Maloney in the hierarchy of traditional music’ and his inexhaustible energy makes an irreplaceable contribution to the direction in which Irish music is heading. Some of Mark’s favourite hangouts include the Palace Bar, the Chancery Inn and anywhere S Club 7 are playing live. He is currently developing a t.v. series called Tradstars which will chart the tears and the triumphs of thousands of youngsters as they audition to be part of the next Chieftains album.
Relative newcomer Gerry, arrived on our shores having spent many years of quiet preparation as a core participant in New Zealand’s vibrant folk scene. His interest in the Irish tradition was further piqued by a chance meeting with Alan Doherty(flute, see no.6), and realising that his natural ability lent itself easily to the Irish style of playing, he bid farewell to the southern hemisphere in order to study the musical tradition in Dublin. In demand from the moment of arrival, Gerry’s reputation quickly spread and those eager to forge musical alliances with the gifted Kiwi included Brendan O Sullivan(fiddle, see no.2) and his old friend Alan.
These three now form the core of the group ‘Grada’, whose first studio album is soon to be released. Gerry is regularly described as the ‘Cassanova of the Crawl’ as more than one youthful female have succumb to the charms of this loveable rogue, his gregarious sense of style and his intimate knowledge of Elizabethan poetry do him no harm in this department, but, ever shy, Gerry attributes many of his romantic successes to the clear, sweet, soft, dulcet tones of his singing voice.
Definitely a favourite of crawl audiences, Trish was another early starter on the road to traditional superstardom. Having sessioned her way around the country, she formed the seminal traditional outfit Lia Luachra with famed guitarist John Hicks, renowned bazoukiist Declan Corey and Shane Bracken on the concertina.
This band toured extensively and released two exceptionally successful albums before separate professional commitments forced the group to disband. Trish then became part of the Lord Of The Dance spectacular, touring widely, but she still finds time to wow crawlees(see dictionary) with her fiery brand of fiddle playing whenever she’s in town. Trish is a firm believer in the theory that the world would be a better place if everything was pink and has incurable addictions to cuddles, late nights and shopping.
Eoin is a central figure in the definition-scrambling collective known as Kila, who continue to drag traditional Irish music kicking and screaming into the 21st century. His mastery on the uilleann pipes, one of the tradition’s most difficult indigenous instruments, is recognised wherever in the world he happens to be, and his laid back well-informed narratives form the backbone of many an evenings’ entertainment on the crawl. A cunning linguist, Eoin has picked up snatches of local terminology from many of the far-flung countries he has visited and he is also a fluent speaker of the Irish language. He likes chips, the films of Eastern Europe, and occasionally wondering what it would be like to be a woman.
This young piper first came to prominence as a member of the youthful group Delos with Eamonn DeBarra (see no.11), Tomas O Brien(see no.5) and respected guitarist Fionnan DeBarra. He is much in demand as a music teacher, but in between third level studies, Eamonn has developed his own group who’ve successfully released several albums and have undertaken extensive tours of Europe. An inspirational and tireless performer, Eamonn admits he never really relaxes, and his analyst agrees that playing music can sometimes be the best therapy in the world.
Mark has spent nigh on three and a half decades impressing assemblies with his vocal talents and draws inspiration from both branches of his highly musical family tree. He is recognised as an accomplished and much-travelled solo performer and has also with toured and recorded with band of note, ‘Cen Sceal?’. A multi-faceted young artist, Mark is also much in demand as a scribe of screenplays and theatre scripts and he constantly has new projects in the offing. Mark’s passions include fine wines, skateboarding, Sean o’Casey, Dublin folk songs and writing festivals.
Dictionary of Unusual Terminology:
Bones – Ancient rhythm instrument traditionally manufactured from bovine ribs. One of the few instruments which can be played while the musician is in the process of drinking a pint or smoking a cigarette.
Crawler - A professional musician charged with the entertainment and upkeep of the participatory parties on any given musical pub crawl.
Crawlee – A fully paid up member of the social sub-class involved in the anticipation of entertainment to be supplied by Crawler (see above).
‘Old Guard’ – Those Crawlers of ancient legend who can still remember entertaining the masses at the end of the old crawl route in a laneway beside O’Donoghue’s.