After driving back to New York, me and Jenni pack up our stuff at Luke’s apartment and head to our new digs. We’ve rented a deadly loft apartment in this cool part of Brooklyn called Bushwick. The streets are covered with amazing street art and every second shop is a thrift store. When we get there we’re delighted to see Peter, Magrath and Gearoid, our friends from Dublin who’re here for the rest of our time in New York. The apartment has an unbelievable roof top terrace with a beautiful view of Manhattan. I have five days off spanning ahead of me… the fun begins.
The next couple of days included fun touristy things like; MOMA; The Guggenheim; Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge; watching the Dubs beat Cork in an Irish bar in the city; The Statten Island Ferry; The Statue of Liberty; The High LIne; Times Square; Coney Island; on most nights, followed by a session on our rooftop terrace. Our apartment is such a hit we find random people strewn across the furniture most mornings. My days off fly by and before I know it I’m saying goodbye to my friends and my new Bushwick home and heading for San Francisco.
After a brief moment of panic before landing, thinking the plane is about to crash into San Francisco Bay, I touch down in SFO. I’m greeted by my Uncle Michael and my cousin Maeve at baggage claim who give me the most amazing red velvet cup cake and drive me back to their home in Sunset Boulevard. Michael moved here to go to college in the 80s and, after meeting his Californian wife-to-be Sonia, never came home. They now have three gorgeous teenage girls Ciara, Maeve and Catriona. It’s so good to see them all. On the walls I see some amazing pictures of my parents and brother Danny as a kid that I’ve never seen before. We all sit down and have an amazing meal cooked by Michael. They’re such good craic to hang out with, it’s like a little bit of home.
Back to another airport. At the gate we meet my other Uncle Shay who has pretty much the same story as Michael but lives just outside San Fran in Berkeley. We’re all heading to a festival – An Ri Ra Butte, Montana. We’re joined by Cathy, Eamon, Tesser and Bobbi who all play in my uncles’ band. Sorry forgot to mention my uncles musicians too! After a short plane ride to Salt Lake City, which includes some amazing views of the lake, we get on an even tinier plan to An Ri Ra Butte. On it we meet Brian Cunningham, a dancer from the band Teada. I had played with them a few times before when I went to college in San Jose… have a feeling this is going to be a good weekend. We arrive late into Butte and are picked up by the festival coordinators. When we arrive to the hotel the session is in full swing. I try to get to bed early… two gigs tomorrow… but somehow don’t manage it.
The first gig is on the main stage at An Ri Ra Butte. For the festival the town has basically closed off its main street and the surrounding areas to make room for four stages and loads of food, drink and clothes stalls. My uncles have asked me to sing with them in their set. I know most of the songs and the high harmonies from listening to them as a kid so it goes pretty well with just the one rehearsal that morning under our belts. My own gig is in a smaller marquee stage down the road. I’m a bit nervous, no one knows me here and it’s the first gig I’ve done completely on my own. After a few songs the tent really begins to fill up. By the end it pretty packed and the response is brilliant. That night the session continues in the hotel lobby. Musicians from all over the world have come for the festival and the talent in that one room is unbelievable. Head to bed just a little bit earlier tonight… four gigs tomorrow.
First gig is in the on the main stage with my Uncles again. When I get down to the marquee stage for my own set the tent is already packed. It’s a great feeling. I start my set, but in the middle of Tea Song the sky opens up like I’ve never seen before in my life. One second it’s a lovely sunny day the next there’s people running for shelter from rain drops the size of apples! For safety reasons the PA system in the tent the has to be turned off until the rain dies down. I sit at the edge of the stage talking to some audience members while we’re waiting but, after a while, it doesn’t seem to be wearing off. At this point the tent if full to the brim with people trying to escape the rain as well as the audience who came to see me, so I decide to get up and sing the rest of the set acoustically. Everyone goes extremely quiet and the reaction afterwards is immense. The rain eventually stops and the power is switched back on but no one seems to leave. I invite them all to my third gig of the day on the second stage. The second stage is at the bottom of a steep grassy hill which serves to act as an amphitheater for the stage. When I arrive later on for my set it seems most of the audience from the tent have taken the invite. It’s a great laugh to play for them again. Straight afterwards I sing with my uncles on the stage and the crowd love them. The session that night in the hotel tops the lot. Dancing on tables and playing on the floor until who knows what time. Amazing weekend at An Ri Ra, Butte, Montana.