Meet trad’s new supergroup
LAPD – aka Liam O’Flynn, Andy Irvine, Paddy Glackin, Donal Lunny – are charming a whole new generation, and breathing fresh life into traditional music
Great art always leaves a memory in your mind. In this case, I’m in the woody corner of a big field in Co Laois and the Electric Picnic is in full throttle on all sides. It’s the Sunday evening, the sun is sinking in the sky and there’s a tingle in the air. You could probably call it magic, if you were that way inclined.
On the Body & Soul stage, four giants of Irish music are playing their hearts out in front of a large mass of people. Between them, Liam O’Flynn, Andy Irvine, Paddy Glackin and Dónal Lunny have seen, heard, played and experienced more in the folk and trad world than most. The bands they’ve been part of in the past are part of a rich, storied, sometimes unruly, occasionally elegant and always enthralling history.
But that’s the past, that’s history. What the band they call LAPD are doing now is just as vital and intriguing as anything which has gone before. It’s four maestros throwing new shapes and breathing new life into the tradition. It’s done with the utmost respect for how the music got to this point, but it’s done to prove a point. This is music that can look forward with enthusiasm and vigour.
Dónal Lunny and Andy Irvine have just been asked if they keep a tally of the bands, combos and ensembles they’ve been part of. They look at each other before bursting into laughter. It would be some number, they reckon.
Irvine recalls one band more clearly than others. “Most of the bands I’ve been in are above board and everyone knows about them, but I would like to introduce the A1 Skiffle Group, the first band I was ever in. One of the guys in the trio was good with a pen so he painted A1 Skiffle Group on a tea-chest and everybody thought it stood for AI, Andy Irvine. They were a bit pissed off with that so that was the end of that one. That was 1957.”
A long time ago, a lot of music played since then. Between them, the four men in LAPD have featured in Planxty, the Bothy Band, Moving Hearts, Sweeney’s Men, Mozaik, Patrick Street and in dozens of other combos and projects.
LAPD is the latest entry on the ledger. It began when Lunny and Irvine were performing as a duo, and Glackin and O’Flynn were also operating as a duo. “We talked about it for a long time and it kind of made sense to come together because it was deceptively easy to do,” says Lunny. “Liam, Andy and I shared a lot of material and then Liam and Paddy had a repertoire between them and Paddy and I had been playing together for donkeys. The whole thing knitted together without much effort at all and it just grew from there.”
The reaction to LAPD’s shows to date has been tremendous. “There’s a young audience at the gigs, which is gratifying, because it doesn’t happen outside of Ireland, ” says Irvine. “If we played a gig at a folk festival in England for instance, everyone would be on their last legs.