Saturday, May 12, 2007
Ah...the first day in the City of Derry, Northern Ireland, for our fifth year at the Derry City Jazz and Big Band Festival. This is a great festival - the people are so friendly and the gigs are wild - seven gigs in four days!
Our input must be affecting the choice in bands as this year there were many jive and R 'n' R bands; King Pleasure, the Extraordinaires and Greggi G and the Roaring 40's to name but four...
We awoke and went almost straight to BBC Radio Foyle to play live on Mark Patterson's radio show - you can see this on line on the BBC site at www.bbc.co.uk
Then the opening festival gig at DaVinci's. The Extraodinaires started off the evening getting the crowd warmed up then we hit the stage with all the pent up energy of an unleashed pit bull - it has been a whole year since we played for this great crowd. Everyone here is always up for the craic and ready to dance.
Ian and Sheilagh Hartley, better known as GI Jive, are here as part of the show to dance with us and they cut a rug to our Big John's sax feature "Flying Home" and really get the crowd jumping.
It's Friday and our first gig of the day is at the Foyleside shopping centre. Hundreds of shoppers join the regular jazz fans to watch and dance and the kids are very cute.
The evening takes us to Rafters restaurant where this year we play upstairs due to the large amount of people unable to get in last year and more space to dance.
Before our first gig today we went to the City of Derry museum which has been renovated since we were last here. Its very nice and learnt a lot about the history of the fine city - definitely worth a trip if you're in town.
Then a cappucino at Louis cafe where local hero Gay McIntyre is playing and a chat with singer Zoe Gilby, who has beautiful true Irish red hair... but comes from Newcastle.
Then to the Strand bar where we always play the Saturday afternoon and many families come along with the kids who dance and jump about at the front. This is a quite restrictive stage with a bar in front of us so we spend a lot of time singing and playing on the bar top and running about in the audience. We were followed by the Mind Benders (thanks for the loan of the P.A. guys!).
In the evening its a night at the famous Gweedore which once again was ram packed to the beams with locals and a long queue outside - next year we'll have top play upstairs in the bigger room. It was wild as usual and a great audience who insisted we ended up dueling horns on the bar, and who are we to let them down?
We were in the local Derry newspapers today too, lots of photos of the yellow suits and even a great review of our Life is a Game album.
After another very late night we jumped (dragged ourselves) out of bed to head for Harry's on the road to Donegal where always play a fundraiser gig for the Red Cross. One of the best bits is that on arrival they feed us with a wonderful meal with desserts that make you want to do the show sitting in rocking chairs after a few helpings. Of course we don't sit for long and the meal is soon converted to ergs of energy on the stage after local rising star Claire Sproule finished her set. She also got up and jammed with us singing "Ain't Misbehaving" during the afternoon. It ended with an auction which Alex and I helped with. When we ran out of items to sell I proposed an auction of Alex juggling bread rolls while a member of the audience sang "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" and restaurant manager Donall joined in juggling - it sold well.
We popped to the City Hotel to see George of the Roaring Forties band who had just driven in from Cork. We had a chat and then back to sound check.
As is traditional we ended off the night at the grand finale at DaVinci's. The place was packed and sold out weeks before. Our old mates from Brum, King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys, started off the night and then we came on to give our all in the last gig of the festival. I had the lights turned up so as to see the Derry people's smiling faces as the night became full out party time in what I hope is true the tradition of the showbands of old Ireland - "send 'em home sweating". By the time MC Mark Patterson from BBC Foyle called for an encore the place was heaving. We called KP and the Boys back on stage for a full out jam session on a stonking R & B "Allright, OK, You Win"! It being after 12.00am and my birthday being the 7th Mark announced it and the Hartleys and Lin-D-Hop (of Maggies Blue Suede news fame) gave me my present - genuine Irish shamrock boxer shorts!
Sad to leave but an event awaits in Dublin. We drove through the beautiful countryside to Dublin to do an outside gig in Grafton Street, one of the busiest streets in the isles, for the "Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to Life" campaign. A good place to spend my birthday (21st of course!) and a lovely place to play. The Dublin Swing Dance Society came and danced the afternoon away and a huge crowd gathered. At the end, tired but very happy we went to Eddie Rockets American burger bar before heading to the ferry. We also bumped into Joanne who's fiance, Mark, had driven her all the way from Belfast to Dublin just to have an Oreo Cookie Milkshake in Eddie Rockets for her birthday so Ian had to get a picture with her just for sharing the same birthday!