Garth Brooks, we nearly didn’t miss you

Country music comes to sunburnt Dublin with Stetson and City music trail

Sat, Jul 26, 2014, 01:01

About 4pm in the Bison Bar on Dublin city quays and a likeable, baby-faced Aidan Logan is on a high stool singing his own song, called Can’t Stay Mad at You.

A tanned man at the bar with a look of a wild-ish Antonio Banderas about him and well into his plentysomethingth Guinness, says he’s “just been through a horrific not-being-married-anymore thing” and stares hard at the singer: “F**k, he’s makin’ me start believin’ in women again.” Then he buys him a Guinness. It’s what Garth would have wanted.

We’re on the third stop of the Stetson and the City music trail and the only Stetson we’ve seen so far is on the head of Brendan Millar who got his, plus the sheriff’s star, in a pound shop.

Sadly, he doesn’t really count since he works for First Music Contact (FMC), who produced the 18 gigs stretching from a captive, captivated lunchtime audience at Dublin Airport to the coolest of city pubs .

‘Saves your neck’

Steve Reddy of FMC claims to have numerous items of cowboy gear at home. “Too warm to wear them,” he says unconvincingly. That, Steve, is not what Garth would have wanted. Fourteen years ago, Garth told this interviewer that those hats serve a purpose. “If you’re haulin’ straw or hay in the sun, that thing saves your neck . . .”

Which is probably why most of the actual rednecks in sunstroke city yesterday were Dubs who sneer at Garth and his hat.

The Stetson count rises with the gig count and peaks in the gorgeously quirky Mary’s Bar & Hardware on Wicklow Street where Rohan, one half of the Healy brothers who form the Dublin City Rounders, appears in a top-quality hat actually designed for Garth, by milliner John Shevlin. In fairness, it looks a tad big on him.

The Healys’ “rootsy, country-meets-punk, antique blues, vaudevillian thing” perfectly encompasses the bewilderingly numerous threads that make up the cooler end of “country” music that hit the city trail yesterday. Angela Dorgan, the director of FMC, whose business it is to showcase emerging Irish artists had only to check out the FMC website, breakingtunes.com, to find the acts that tagged themselves “country”.

To qualify for the website and these 20-minute gigs (worth €150 to the artists), the music has to be their own; this is no lazy, copycat Garth gig.

The heart-turning voice of Paula Gomez soars like a young Joan Baez over the police sirens and traffic thundering across Temple Bar’s cobblestones, while Dorgan wills her on, discreetly advising a passerby that her skirt is caught in her underwear and almost simultaneously applying sun cream to the shiny dome of a charity collector rattling a tin. It’s not easy playing outdoors in the city.

Mellow

Down at the Grand Social near the Ha’penny Bridge, Los Paddys de Las Pampas produce a form of mellow Irish trad-South American style of country, complete with a box-style instrument called a cajon, competing with a gent vigorously playing the spoons up the street, who stops only to yell at the “f**kers” to give him The Hills of Donegal.

They compromise with a tender Leaving of Liverpool. On a scale of one to 10, where would they grade Garth? “Is there a minus,” asks one. Paddy Mulcahy gives him a one.

Sadly for Garth, it’s the same story among the others. In sum: too commercial.

And yet, by the looks of it, his adversity has been others’ opportunity.

At the airport, it was again the glorious voice of Clonakilty-based Gomez that reduced the entire arrivals area to mush when by sheer serendipity, it accompanied the arrival finally, of the Austrian girlfriend of a Norwegian swain who hadn’t seen each other for 18 months.

At Murphy’s Ice Cream Bar, Biggles Flys Again ends in a gorgeous singalong of perfect harmony. The cream on the ice cream is that the €150 fee for the gig is going to helping them complete their album.

Garth, we nearly didn’t miss you.