Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More Music Houses

  • The Me and Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, Massachusetts, mid-1970s. The 1960s "Great Folk Scare" hung on a long time in Cambridge/Boston and the surrounding suburbs. By around 1974, when I became aware of various kinds of folk music even in my upwardly-mobile WASP bedroom community, the me & thee had already been running in the Unitarian Church's Parish Hall for 4 or 5 years. As a disaffected teenager disgusted with the sking-yachting-and-Ivy League pretensions of my contemporaries, I found the place incredibly welcome. You could go in and wash dishes and they'd let you listen to the music for free, and there were usually a bunch of other disaffected types (of all ages) hanging around as well. I didn't listen to the music very much, but the sense of community was very welcome.
  • Saturday Night in Marblehead, Massachusetts, around 1979. Bob Franke and a small cast of volunteers took off from the me & thee template, running a Saturday night coffeehouse in the parish hall of St Andrew's Episcopal Church. The difference was that, with Bob booking shows, there was a much wider diversity of styles represented, and almost everybody who played there was frighteningly brilliant (I say "almost" because our trad/folk band Reynardine played there also, and we weren't brilliant yet): Stan Rogers, Martin Grosswendt, the cream of the Boston/Cambridge folkies, Geoff Bartley, the list goes on and on. The music was almost always astonishingly good.
  • Torpey's, Tulla, Co. Clare. Gone: it's a grocery shop now, I think. But the first good pub session I got to in Ireland, 20 years late (1998): while playing the Galway Early Music Festival with Altramar, we were located a session by fiddler Kathleen Mac Magnuis, who borrowed me a banjo, threw us in her little car, and drove all the way from Athenry over the Slieve Aughty hills to Tulla in east Clare. The pub was about 16 feet square, there were two local farmers playing fiddle, and after we played a while a fellow in the chimney corner introduced himself, having seen me play a session at the Plough & Stars in San Fran. I'll tell the full story another time.
  • An Spailpin Fanach, Cork City. Home pub for Seamus Creagh and Aidan Coffey. Beautiful little snug with a hatch to the bar, enough room for about 5 musicians and that's all. Matthew Allen took us there.

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