Dolans Music

Imelda May for the Castle

What’s not to like about Imelda May?

Seriously, what human being could fail to be transported by Imelda’s sassy sorcery?

Imelda May at King John's Castle, Limerick

Of course, we’ve all seen Imelda May in Limerick before, first in Dolans and latterly in the Big Top at the Milk Market but now comes news that the Queen of Rockabilly is getting her own castle, as befitting rockabilly royalty. And yes, before you start, I know Imelda doesn’t describe herself as a rockabilly artist. I know Imelda covers all genres. Chill. The fact is that I get to breathe the same air as Imelda May on the 13th August and that’s enough for me.

WImelda May at King John's Castlehat’s more, I get to share the same space as Imelda May in a castle.

A big stone Norman castle defending a bridge. Think Walder Frey, but without the violence and now with added sexiness and fun.

I can be the new Walder Frey paying homage to Lady Imelda without a Red Wedding that was ever heard of. There will be no minstrel bow-men in the galleries at this gig, but a solid line-up of rocking bad-ass psycho-musos backing the baddest woman in music.

I’ll be there in my millions.

Be there.

Who wouldn’t go to the castle when the Queen is in residence?







Imelda at the Milk Market

Big top

Nile Rodgers and Chic back in Limerick

Who remembers this night?

That’s right. Nile Rodgers at the Big Top in 2013, followed by Nile Rodgers jamming with local bands at the after-party.  Nile Rodgers, the man whose guitar launched €2 billion worth of record sales, enjoying the shit out of Limerick, and why wouldn’t he?

He enjoyed Limerick so much, in fact, that he’s back in the Big Top in November.

You heard me right. Nile Rodgers and Chic, in the Big Top on the 10th November.

What’s not to like?

I’ll be there. Will you?

Cobblestone Joe's Nancys Our lives

Fathers’ Day relaxation

There’s something very rejuvenating about Fathers’ Day — an affirmation that we old lads aren’t completely bad after all, not entirely without our decent points.  And truthfully, you wouldn’t have it any other way.  We raise our children and we set them free.  We don’t place obligations on them to observe ritual or custom.  We just hope they get it, and when they do, it makes us that much richer: so much the better if they come back of their own volition and say, right, Dad, let’s go for a couple of pints.

Gold couldn’t buy you that.

And so it came about that, after a long hard day slogging away at the garden, chopping down bushes and power-hosing patios, I found myself in Nancy Blake’s wonderful establishment, enjoying music played by good friends including one I haven’t seen in quite a while since he moved to Dubai.  Thank God for Ramadan, that time of year when Irish people flee the gulf en masse to visit and entertain their friends back home.  I hope we’ll catch up again before he goes back, though I expect to be travelling myself fairly soon, so who knows?

Of course, these days no trip to town would be complete without a visit to Cobblestone Joe’s where they now serve the best pizza this side of New York City, thanks to their snappy new pizza bar and even snappier new chef.

What precisely could be wrong with this? A pint, a delicious thin-base pizza and a live shit-kickin’ band in the company of those you love most in the world?

Well, two things, I suppose.

Firstly, we were thoroughly hockeyed by Tipperary in the Munster semi-final, with the result that the town was full of people in Limerick and Tipp shirts.  Never a good look.  The men of Tipperary proved me right when I said having six fingers is an advantage and the tinfoil industry got a huge boost.

Secondly, being without a camera and taking a truly bad picture on a phone, of people jiving in terrible hurling shirts and worse.

cobblestone joes limerick

For this, I apologise sincerely and promise it won’t happen again.

For all the rest, let us celebrate Fathers’ Day and give thanks to the universe for our good fortune.


IMRO Awards: Live Music Venue of the Year

Where do you reckon the best live venue in Ireland is?




Not a bit of it.

Galway, maybe?

Guess again.

The 2015 IMRO National Live Music Venue of the Year is our very own Dolan’s, here in Limerick, and that’s for a very good reason.   Dolan’s is the real deal.

This is no Festy McGonigal’s or Thumper O’Toole’s or whatever quaint name some corporate owners decided to put on it.   Instant Irish pub.  Just add Guinness and stir lightly.

See that sign above the door?  It says Dolan’s and when you walk in, you won’t see some financial controller lurking in a corner sipping a skinny latte and counting beans.  You’ll probably bump into Mick Dolan, or Valerie Dolan, or Neil Dolan or Sarah Dolan, the hardest-working family in Irish music promotion, and what’s more, they’ll know your name.

It’s no accident that Dolan’s was named best live music venue.  That happened through years of hard effort, commitment and determination, putting on big names, small names and sometimes, no-names.  Taking a chance on a hunch.  Showing faith in the musicians, the actors, the comedians, and the occasional plainly deranged performer who happens by.  Being open to a good idea, or even to a worthwhile idea.  Supporting a good cause when asked.

You don’t buy  that sort of loyalty from your customers — you earn it.  And not by bean-counting, no matter how many skinny lattes you throw back.

I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of this award.


Here’s a few memories.

Imelda May 029

Dolans imro awards 2015 002

Dolans Sharon Shannon

Dolans imro awards 2015 001

Nouvelle Vague Dolans Warehouse Limerick 01

Nouvelle Vague Dolans Warehouse Limerick 17

Andreas Varady at DOlans


Jake Clemons at the Warehouse

Jake Clemons at Dolans Warehouse.


You weren’t thinking of going?

Are you mad?  Are you crazy?

I heard this guy live at Thomond Park backing Bruce Springsteen, and later I heard him in Bourkes, a much more intimate venue.  He’s a motherfucker.   He’s great and he’s  his own man, even if he happens to be the nephew of the late great Clarence Clemons, as if any of us would not be downright delighted to claim that one thing.

But  not only is Jake a seriously talented musician — he’s also a damn nice guy as I found out when I met him.

Go to this.  Meet the guy and shake his hand.

One serious mother of a muso.

Go to this gig or be forever missing out on the greatness available to you in this world.



Where?  Dolans Warehouse

When? Sunday, 2nd November

What time? Doors 8pm

Milk Market

Horslips at Limerick’s Milk Market

This was always going to be a night for the true Horslips fan.

Horslips Limerick Milk Market
© Dermot Lynch


As the band came on stage I found myself positioned beside three immaculate Levis jackets, bought many years ago and worn proudly tonight by Belfast men in their 50s. In this company my own Levis denim shirt felt like it was trying too hard.  One did focus on clothes once especially when there wasn’t much choice. The denim clothes that became campaign uniforms will always represent an age when the Irish rock fan operated on basic signifiers.

Hair, a good jacket, and a scarf with maybe just one badge could see you through a decade.  It was a solid enough look for an Irish lad before Punk encouraged him to make more of an effort. Variations of the denim uniform were occasionally allowed but the faded Levis Jacket held its own for decades.

Those men wore denim tonight as a mark of respect for the band as much as the times they must have seen them in. This  commitment and respect was evident everywhere. Even the two-handed waved scarf made sense. This was a particular community that Horslips had seen through to the present and they were glad to see each other.

Horslips Limerick Milk Market
© Dermot Lynch

Up until the late 90s, emigration was the government’s safety valve in syphoning off the national excess and Horslips featured in the soundtrack for those who remained.  The theme of exile was a real one for all as was the concept of leaving.  It was something that had to be dealt with eventually some day and the thought of that day stayed with you whether you left or not.  Whether you sought to cut ties or you chose to stay for good and finish with any notions of exile.

The thought of that day always remains, its part of how one once processed the notion of being Irish  and a lot of those emotions are in songs by Horslips.  In their career the band kept up a healthy tour schedule. They were known to deliver a challenging spectacle that served to banish the lingering rituals that hung to the dancehall circuit. Unlike the Show bands and pop cover bands who used the same venues Horslips early shows show were bereft of the often ‘unsaid- but- followed – anyway’ traditions of the dancehall, the rules and regulations that insidiously directed social behaviour within church-monitored halls.

Horslips Milk Market
© Dermot Lynch

An impatient young rock audience saw those archaic rituals as redundant clichés.  They were impatient for an alternative but had no power.  They could only tolerate the lack of a representative culture for themselves, but no-one was going to provide viable alternatives if you were 18 and chose to remain at home.

You accepted what was left to you.

Rural youth in particular had no real opportunity to create change. The totems of the halls and their show band priests would remain intact well after Horslips disbanded in 1980 because a Horslips gig in all its loud Celtic glory was a different sort of Irishness that challenged this despondency.  Every dancehall gig by them allowed youth to temporarily occupy the dance floor of their parents and cast off an amount of frustration in the process.  Within this and in an absence of a national platform for the voice of the youth, Horslips stood in solidarity with a generation who experienced a country not of their own making.  A generation that experienced one war in the north while in the south emigration waged another.

Once a year, between 1972 and 1980, in a hall in the likes of a town the size of Castlerea, you would be briefly immersed in the sound of an alternative Ireland when Horslips came.  You had a couple of LPs and knew that the songs they brought were their own, not cover versions representative of the pop charts or any sort of familiar radio fodder.

They mixed old Irish tales with new stories and drew from the remnants of a counterculture that encouraged beatnik-approved mixes of folk and rock and roll.  They respected folk as rebel music but loved rock and roll too much to slavishly replicate it.  In this they were committed to being Irish in a way that few others chose to be.

Jim Lockhart recounts a story about listening to a Dublin musician regaling him with the Americanisms of a song he had written.  Lockhart wondered what on earth any talk of pick- ups and diners had to do with living in seventies Ireland. Surely one should make contemporary Irish music using sounds from abroad without compromise?   Horslips songs soundtracked generations and often spoke of the crux of emigration and leftover rituals at home and abroad.  With jigs and boogie riffs in the same measure they were received as a dance band but had sad songs too with tales about characters who were away too long.   They even left themselves, playing for emigrants aboard and returning with songs culled from the experience for albums called ‘Aliens’ or ‘The Man who Built America.’

In the Milk market Barry Devlin dropped historical notes on the audience from the stage as the band’s set was designed for a  celebration not just on the legacy of music but of place.  Stories referenced early Limerick gigs in the Redemptorist Hall and Johnny Fean paid tribute to all those who had travelled to Limerick and as a gracious host saluted many of them during the night. His brother Ray replaced Eamonn Carr on the drums making it a touch more local as well.

In a nice touch for the occasion, the Cha Haran band played support, featuring two  members of Granny’s intentions, including Cha himself, an ex-roadie for Horslips.

Cha Haran Band Limerick Milk Market

There was never any new album to introduce.  Instead there was a careful set list designed to showcase and celebrate their timeline, as the reaction to the first notes of the King of the Fairies showed.

The early years, the Book of Invasions section and the emigration themed songs were all threaded together before they finished with the anthem ‘Trouble with a capital T’ and reclaimed Dearg Doom from Italia 90.   The songs said it all.  Altogether, the music provided a cachet of memories from 1972 to 1980.

It will never be separated from its time and that it how it should be.  In that evocation it contained the reminder of what the band has bequeathed to modern Irish History.  Horslips created music that said that the Irish Jig was not the property of academics and rock n roll is owned by all no matter where you live.

The Blind Pig

B & The Honeyboy at the Blind Pig

Ah Jesus, I’m definitely going to this.  B & The Honeyboy.

B & The Honeyboy

Select your own music cliché from the All-Purpose Music-Cliché Generator (© Una Mulally).  Raw.  Ballsy.  Rootsy.  Gritty.

I’d say fun, musical, clever, from the old-fashioned non-approved dictionary of things not to say about a live act if you want to get a job on RTE or Hot Press.

Comparisons are odious, but I hear echoes of so many favourite artists in the work of these two, it’s impossible to ignore.  Do I hear Jenny Lewis influences somewhere in all of this?  Yes I do, though I might as usual be wrong, but so what?  All the better for it.  I might also hear Bessie Smith, or I might not.  It doesn’t matter.

B & The Honeyboy are an immaculate combination who get my thumbs up straight away in a grab-you-by-the-throat kind of way.  They’re accessible, yet they’re a little bit punk, in a pre-punk Wild Ones kind of way.  They’d be the sort of people who said Fuck You in the Fifties when nobody said Fuck You — not even Brando.  I’d follow them for their beautifully-shot videos and promo stills, but that’s just me.

You know what?  Get along to the Blind Pig and attend this free gig.


Free, I swear to you.   Free!


31st July 2014 at 9:30 pm.


Do not miss this gig unless your leg is hanging off, and even if it is, hop.

Here’s their website.



Dolans Favourites

Burying the Hatchet With Freddie White

Drink is an awful thing, isn’t it?

Well, no actually. It’s not. Drink is great, but it does have that annoying habit of enhancing our inner gowlishness, and so it was that I found myself standing in front of Freddie White a dozen years ago, holding out his Lost and Found CD for him to sign.

Let me play that reel back a little before we go on. For those who don’t know Freddie White, and I was surprised how many of the younger people I met over the weekend were unfamiliar with his name, this man has been a quietly influential force introducing people to songwriters they might otherwise never have heard of.

Freddie White at Dolans LimerickMany people might never have encountered the work of Tom Waits, Guy Clark or Randy Newman without Freddie. Many more people might not know what it is to hear a phenomenal acoustic guitar player with such a unique, percussive fingerpicking style. As a friend of mine said last night — a fine player himself — I know exactly what he’s doing. I just can’t see how it’s done.

That’s Freddie. Going all the way back to the days of the Do You Do and Live on Tour albums, he’s been beguiling his listeners with a mix of everything from Hoagy Carmichael to Frank Zappa. Did many Irish people know of Leon Redbone in 1979? Or Guy Clark, or Randy Newman? What about the late Warren Zevon? The answer is yes, they did, but they weren’t part of the demographic that Freddie educated. In many ways, you could say that Freddie White liberated an entire generation of people who might otherwise be doomed to a life of Late Late Show pap, and for that alone, he deserves some sort of sainthood. Feeling bland? Pray to Saint Freddie for salvation.

Over the years, Freddie has kept the faith with Zappa, Newman, Clark, but also Hoagy and Joan Armatrading, not to mention Tom Waits and Warren Zevon. You can see the eclectic chemistry bubbling away in that enormous musical glass retort where they formed Freddie White, those men in multicoloured lab coats.

Fred’s in a different zone these days, now writing songs and performing with his partner Trish. Last night they did a heartbreaking version of Cohen’s Alexandra Leaving and a pulsing, unexpected cover of Boy in the Bubble. They look good and sound good together. They’re nice people.

How do I know this? Well, you see, that’s where we came in, with me standing in the hallway of Dolans Warehouse back in 2002, swaying slightly and regarding Freddie with one eye shut so I wouldn’t see two of him.

He was signing copies of his CD.

All the best to Tommy, from Fred.

Good wishes to the lads in Hogans Hardware, Freddie.

Congratulations to Bridie on your massive weight loss, all the best, Freddie White.

Fred looks at me and I look back at Fred, in a manner of speaking. If you can call staring with one hand over your eye looking.

What would you like me to put on it?

I think for a minute, or maybe ten. The crowd behind me is growing restive. Wait, I have it.

Yes? says Freddie, ever-patient, though you know this man can kill with one finger if he has to.

Why don’t you write …


Why don’t you write …


Why don’t you write, Freddie’s Back — A Nightmare on Alphonsus Street?

Hmmm, Fred grunts as he scrawls something on the CD and turns back to the angry crowd.

That was then and this is now. I’m sharing the horror story with my friends when someone says, There’s Freddie sitting beside you. Why don’t you tell him in person? And sure enough, there he is, right beside me. I didn’t notice him earlier because the eyes are burned out of my head with smoke from flipping burgers at the barbecue thing in town.

Howya Fred.

Howya. This is Trish.


I tell them the story. Trish laughs. Freddie doesn’t.

Someone asks, Freddie, what did you write on the CD?

Fred thinks for a second or two. To the best of my recollection, I wrote Good Wishes from Paul Brady.

Later, after Freddie finished his gig upstairs in Dolans, I went up to buy the CDs he was selling.

Will you write something on them, please, Fred?


How about Best wishes from Christy Moore?

It was then I realised that this man could kill me with one finger if he wanted to.

Great gig, though, as I write this from my hospital bed.

Bourkes Cobblestone Joe's Dolans Music The Blind Pig

Indie Week Ireland 2014 to be Hosted in Limerick

What time is this thing kicking off? I asked.

Four o’clock, in Dr John’s.   Leading Armies are playing for about an hour.

Fine, I thought.   That’ll be half-past four then.

But it wasn’t.  When I arrived at the Pig and tried to get upstairs I found a throng, a mob, a crowd, even, crammed into the good Doctor’s little grotto of uber-coolness, enjoying the show and generally being positive about this latest initiative.

Leading Armies at launch of Indie Week Ireland 2014


What thing? you’re probably wondering.

This thing: the launch of Indie Week Ireland 2014 with a call-out to artists who’d like to perform at the Indie Week festival in Limerick between the 23rd and the 26th April.

Four nights.  Thirty acts.  Four venues.

One act will get a headline slot at Indie Week Canada 2014.

Here’s the schedule.  Follow the thing on Facebook and Twitter and watch this space for more updates.

Cobblestone Joe's Dolans

Holiday Music in Limerick

We’re spoilt for choice this holiday season, but I’ll do my best to attend everything on offer — not that it’s possible, but I’ll try.

This evening, you could drop in to Cobblestone Joe’s and catch Parliament Square.  Always a good choice.

Tomorrow, you could start with the absurd, wonderful, hilarious, ridiculously talented and completely drunk O Malleys in Nancy Blakes.  The band whose proudest boast is that they never once rehearsed a song.  And it shows, but we love them all the same.

You could follow that up with a visit to O’Dwyers to take in the Cha Haran band, featuring the legendary Johnny Fean on guitar and an assortment of former Grannies.

cha haran band

If you’re of a mind to do so, you could drop into Dolans after that and catch a bit of Brian O Connor, fresh in from Sweden and gigging with Dave Keary, Danny Byrt and Mike Quinn.  There’s no point going there for Damien Dempsey because he’s sold out, so forget that.

Tomorrow night in Bourkes, a venue taht hosts so many huge acts in such a small space, you could also catch Moscow Metro.

Where would you get it?

On Monday, the 30th you could do worse than head back to Dolans to catch Eamonn Hehir’s new band, the Flag Listeners.

eamonn hehir

On New Years Eve, you could sample Trees Fall Down at Cobbles followed by Mrs Henry from 10:30 till very late indeed.  Or else you could horse on up to Dolans again and catch the O Malleys’ ludicrous annual party.

Spoilt for choice?  For sure.  Keep it going.