Sunday, June 2

We met Eugene on Friday and he invited us to come play in his pub. I was hoping that it didn’t end up another dead end. Well, tonight proved to be the tonic that assuaged the collective disappointment with our lack of musical adventures in Clare.

We drove to Ennistymon to meet Zeke, Amy and Fionn, James and Bridget’s sons and Amy being Zeke’s partner. They had driven over from Dublin. The reside in London and could take the time off for a visit. We were all going out for dinner and then to Eugene’s. We stopped to check in with Eugene and just as we reached it he was coming out his door. We asked if it was still OK for us to come play and he said of course, “he wouldn’t be changing his mind mid-stream”. So up the street to the restaurant we thought would be nice, only to find out they were fully booked. It’s the June Bank Holiday weekend. Back down the street and we found a spot that had a table. We enjoyed a nice meal then walked down toward the bar.

James and I went to the car to grab cases and as we were walking to Eugene’s I mentioned that he was taking a chance on us. He has no idea if we can play or not. I am hoping we don’t disappoint him. Eugene showed us where he wanted us to set up, very thoughtfully showed where we could stash our cases, hang our coats and settle in. He’s the captain of his whisky bar ship and runs it tightly. It’s an impeccable place. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a cleaner pub. You notice these things when you’ve been in other establishments and learned to rate pubs by the filthiness of “the jacks” (bathrooms).

Zeke, Amy, Fionn and Bridget settle in with us and we play a set, then a song. There was a booth on the other side that had people who were definitely listening. I notice more and more people coming in. Eugene’s space is really perfect for music. We can hear one another and play with nuance and really enjoy ourselves and the space. About an hour in, a couple of men, Christy and Neil ask if they can join us. I’d noticed them checking us out for a while, not sure what their interest was. James noticed first that Christy was carrying a concertina case and Neil had a flute. Now we have the session we’ve been craving. They turn out to be good players and in the Clare style aren’t hurrying through the tunes. So tunes are swapped, jokes made, stories shared. This is the sweetness we come for. Christy tells us he likes our playing, he tells Morgan that we play the tunes sweetly and with lift. Now in fairness that is the Clare style of playing, one that we value and have internalized but/and it’s always nice to hear that from another musician that’s grown up in the culture. Christy told us he grew up in a musical family so there was no way he couldn’t be part of it. He’d lived in New York City for seven years, worked as a photographer and then a gallery. After a couple of sets Neil steps out for a smoke and doesn’t return. Apparently the young woman he’s chatting up at the bar is more interesting than the tunes. Christy has invited us to a session tomorrow night in the Cliffs of Moher Hotel.

Three hours went by very quickly. Eugene closes at 11:00. A man sitting at the bar stops me and compliments our playing. Asks where we’re from how did we get interested in the music. He told me that he’d been coming to Eugene’s for years and had never heard music there. He knew from his friendship with Eugene that 99’9% of the people who come in and ask to play have been turned away. “You must have done somethin’ right” he says.

As we are leaving Eugene shakes our hands and tells us we can come back any time. Zeke, Amy and Fionn tell Bridget it was a perfect first night in Ireland.

Scenes from Eugene’s Whisky Bar, Ennistymon, Co. Clare

Father Ted, which you can find on Amazon Prime was filmed near to Ennistymon. The cast and crew used to visit Eugene’s and the wrap party was there when the production closed.

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