Year 2 – on the road again, again

Ok… something happened to my blog updates at the end of last year’s round USA tour  – it’s hard to believe … but a dog ate them. Yup. Sorry.. its a loss – but never mind. This year’s another adventure… but quickly – the story so far (and apologies to people, places, gigs I missed out in the summary – it’s purely down to old age and whisky)…

My previous updates took us to Florida – great times there, St Patricks day (week) in Meehans in St Augustin. Then to Savannah Georgia – played in MacPherson’s 3 Scottish pubs, met Jock the Box from Stirling, a hop over to Scotland where I played the Clep bar in Dundee, back over to Pennsylvania – playing in Ottos Brew Pub in State College  then up to Virginia, New York, Boston, Maine then played 4 gigs in Finbars in Halifax Nova Scotia. After the delights of Canada it was back to USA – the Dublin pub in Dayton Ohio, The Ivanhoe, Racine, WI, Murphys in Seattle, WA, the Galway Bay Irish pub in Ocean Shores, WA then back to Vancouver WA / Portland OR area for a summer filled with gigs (Dorothy will confirm than…. she prefers a lighter schedule… understatement!)

The Galway Bay Irish festival was my last Pacific NW appearance before heading south to San Francisco. A wee pause here to applaud the Galway Bay event, over 30 bands on 10 stages over a 5 day period – and it sold out!! incredible event, really well organised. Liam Gibbons and team – well done. Especially good as I’ve been asked back again next year! After all that it was a wee 5 week break in Europe where I became 60 in Scotland and recovered in the Netherlands. A few gigs there too.

OK… so now we’re caught up – at the moment I’m 60 miles North of San Diego. Michelle (my tour manager) is lining up dates mostly for San Diego and Florida. There’s also talk of gigs in Honolulu Hawaii – that’ll be nice!. I’m 6 weeks in San Diego and a month in Florida. I’ve been asked back to the Highlander in San Antonio Texas and the Irish House in New Orleans. I will play them in February as we wind our way across the South of the USA to spend a month in Florida. This year I’ll be playing a few dates (including St Patricks day(s) in Nolan’s Irish pub in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

I’m also writing my own songs over the winter with a view to bringing out an album sometime in the summer. This is a bit new for me – I usually get so far into writing a song and then scrap it in a fit of embarrassment. This time it’s different – I actually know what I will be writing and have a stream of new ideas that have just appeared from nowhere. I think I drank so much over my birthday that the few remaining braincells have realised they don’t have much time left and want to record their contents for posterity. We’ll see.

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Return to Florida

Arriving back in Orlando, Florida from a nice Christmas break in Scotland and the Netherlands, it was so nice to feel the sun on our skin again as we arrived. My January dates were in Nolans Irish pub in Cocoa beach – I was looking forward to playing there, I was doing a special night on the Thursday (they didn’t have music on a Thursday and were just starting this up) and a Burns night on the Sunday, January 25th.

IMG_1585Nolans is a real Irish pub with great Guinness and a reputation for good music (and food) – so expectations were high from both sides. It was just perfect, a very nice crowd, very much into music willing to listen and join in when asked. The Guinness was flowing well and the night rounded off just great with everyone going home happy, me included. The Sunday would be a different sort of gig – a Burns night in a pub where there was no Scottish tradition and in most cases, no idea what a Burns night was. Well as you maybe know – a Burns night is a traditional Scottish dinner party, a celebration of Robert Burns (our national poet)’s birthday. It follows a set form and is celebrated around the world where Scottish groups have established the tradition.

Now the problem – a Burns night involves a meal of haggis (our national dish), a piper, whisky, Burns poetry… and people to read it – and I had only a few days to organise it. Right, well – there was no admission fee, so we couldn’t afford a dinner – but we should have a haggis – or something that looked like one. Our haggis bore a very close resemblance to a round Walmarts chocolate cake! Our piper, Eric was there on the Thursday – by the end of the evening between Mary Nolan and myself, he had been convinced to pipe in the Chocolate cake… er, sorry – haggis. Burns poems – no worries – there’s an app for that. It’s true – the full works of Robert Burns, format of a Burns night, his timeline and many other delights on your phone – who knows when you may need a wee bit Burns? Better load it up and be ready! I selected a good few poems and printed them out. I chose a few of his famous ones (my love is like a red, red, rose ; A mans a man for a that ; to a mouse … etc) and a few others which I chose for their ability to be understood by an English-speaking but non-Scots audience (as most of Burns works were written in auld Scots – they would be hard to understand if you’ve not been subjected to it before).

It was Sunday 25th January, the pub was busy, a few were wearing Tartan, Eric tuned his pipes outside (a note about Eric’s pipes – he was visiting Scotland when he went into a pipe makers shop and saw these red bagpipes on the wall – it was love at first sight. The Red-Hot Chilli Pipers (a Scottish bag-rock band) had ordered four sets of identical red bagpipes and had only taken three sets (as there are three pipers) – Eric bought that fourth set! He was just in the right place at the right time). The haggis was set out in all its delicious choclatey-haggissey-splendour on a silver platter with a deadly looking knife, Dorothy took the platter, Eric led off, Dorothy followed and I, dressed in my MacPherson kilt outfit, took up the rear.

Eric played us in nicely (without bursting into a red-hot chilli piper version of “smoke on the water”), I recited the “ode to a haggis” with full ceremony struggling to keep a straight face as my chocolatey-haggis looked up at me in all its “eat me” glory, John Nolan (the co-owner of Nolans) read “my love is like a red, red, rose, Dorothy read “to a mouse”, a Scottish lady who we became friendly with (Gillian from Bannockburn) read “his ain fair sel'” and Eric read another one. I sang a full Scottish set interspersed with these poems, Eric played more pipes, I played some more and we created a huge circle around the pub to end with “Auld Lang Syne” (Burns’s most well known song – ranked number three in the world’s most sung songs – after “Happy Birthday” and “for he’s a Jolly Good Fellow”). It was a magical night – people who just dropped in were mesmerized – everyone there was smitten with the “Burns” effect! What a great night… and there was no “haggis” left either!

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Gillian’s poem

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Eric and red pipes

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Eric finishing the piping

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Gillians wee Scotsmen

The Mullens in Florida

Wow – time is flying by – let’s get caught up! Last blog post, we’d been in New Orleans and heading west. Our theory was to avoid winter in cold places… well, New Orleans wasn’t warm – there’s nothing grumpier than a cold  alligator! Florida – that’s the place to be!

Stopping briefly in Mississippi (I only include this to show off that I can spell it), Alabama (I only include this so I can mention their drive through liquor stores – with buckets of Daquiris!) then into Florida … aaahh – sub-tropical, jungley trees, palm trees, Manitees in the springs …. nice!

By the time we got to Florida it was December and I had only one gig before heading off to Scotland for Christmas then Netherlands for New Year. The Gig was in an English pub called “the Grind” I was really looking forward to it, my 1st one in Florida, 1st one for a couple of weeks, nice end to the 1st leg of the tour. Well, who knew Big Country were still touring – they were playing that night a few miles away and the Scots crowd the owner was expecting were at the Big Country concert. Hey but the show must go on – so I got started – not too many people, but they were enjoying the music, in came the Kezells, my son-in-law’s uncle and kids who live outside Tampa… more people arrived – it wasn’t packed out – but every person there was listening / singing / clapping, I had a great night, one of those where you get to meet people who are happy they met you and bought your CD

Hit the Road Jack!

Musically its been a great Summer playing around Oregon. Newport Celtic Festival, a weekend at Galway Bay Irish pub Ocean Shores in Washington, Portland Highland Games, a full week in Kells, Portland and of course my regular Fridays in Mahers Irish pub, Lake Oswego – I’ll be there up to 12th September… and then what?

On 13th September (exactly a year since I stepped out of Nike and into music and fun), Dorothy and I will take to the road and travel around America and some of Canada. Here is our route up to December 2014 

our route

This takes us to Florida by December via Tualatin river, Columbia river, Bend (OR), Boise (ID), Salt Lake City (UT), Bryce & Zion National Parks (UT), Pheonix (AZ), Sedona (AZ), Tucson (AZ), Deming (NM), Fort Stockton (TX), San Antonio (TX), Austin (TX), Saint Martinville (LA), Baton Rouge (LA), New Orleans (LA), Lake Pontchartrain (LA), Biloxi (MS), Panama City Beach (FL), Crystal River (FL) then various places in Florida until we fly to Scotland for Christmas and Netherlands for New Year.

I have a plan laid out for 2015 when I will play gigs in Florida until its time to head for Savannah Georgia for the great St Patricks times they have there, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, New York State, Boston, Portland Maine, Halifax (Canada), Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Lebanon (OH), Chicago, Menasha (WI) , Edmonton (CN), Banff (CN), then back into Washington / Oregon for the Summer. Timing after Savannah is all a bit subject to the weather brightening North of us. This is not the definitive list – but you get the general idea (and some of you may recognize why we’ve chosen some places 🙂 ).

I am booking up gigs along the way – 1st stop Bend, I had hoped to play there but no joy so far – if anyone is looking for a good half way to Paddys day party – book me – I’m there from 17th to 21st! My 1st real batch of gigs are in Arizona – I’ll be playing

3rd October – Skeptical Chymist in Scottsdale, 4th Oct – Tim Finnegans in Phoenix, 8th October – Fibber McGees in Chandler then 24th Oct – Mooneys Irish pub in Sedona.

I’m working on Dates for Austin, New Orleans and Florida… and will publish them on my website when confirmed.

For transport, we’ve now got our truck and 5th wheel and are getting ready for the big journey… it’s all happening folks!

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