The Arts Column with Conor Malone:

The Arts Column with Conor Malone:
It’s still pretty quiet on the arts front as the traditional summer lull continues.

It’s still pretty quiet on the arts front as the traditional summer lull continues.

Schools start back this week, so it’s traditionally a bad week for pulling houses, as people’s attentions are invariably elsewhere. But there are still bits and pieces going on if you look around and are prepared to travel for your entertainment.

Issue-based drama Pits & Perverts still has two nights to run in The Playhouse Derry – it’s there tonight and tomorrow (Thursday and Friday). The Wolfe Tones play the Millennium Forum on Saturday and Cjam Reunion 2014 relives the famous live music session at McGrory’s in Culdaff.

There’s a great traditional music gig at Ionad Cois Locha in Dunlewey on Tuesday 26th, when Mairtin O’Connor, Zoe Conway and Donal Lunny play as part of the regular Trad Trathnona music series.

And popular children’s TV Programme Milkshake! comes to the stage with Milkshake! Live at The Millennium Forum on Wednesday 27th.

Trad Trathnona Trio

If you’re a traditional music fan than you really should be making plans to go to Ionad Cois Locha in Dunlewey next Tuesday. The Trad Trathnona series regularly hosts great gigs and this latest one is particularly mouthwatering. Acclaimed accordion player Mairtin O’Connor is joined by fiddler Zoe Conway and Donal Lunny in what promises to be a fantastic gig.

Mairtin has been playing accordion since the age of 9 and a stellar career as a member of many traditional musics leading groups – the likes of Midnight Well, De Dannan and Skylark – place him firmly at the peak of his profession. His first solo album, “A Connachtman’s Rambles”, established him as solo musician while his second album, “Perpetual Motion” (released in 1990), remains one of the best accordion albums ever produced by an Irish artist. In addition to his solo work he’s played as a session musician on recordings by some of musics greats, the likes of Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, Mark Knofler and Townes Van Zandt.

Zoe Conway is one of the country’s leading fiddle players, combining a strong traditional background with classical influences. Her versatility has allowed her to play across a wide range of genres, carrying her to gigs in the likes of Carnegie Hall and The Kremlin, as well as recording with Rodrigo y Gabriella, Damien Rice, Nick Cave and Lou Reed.

And what can you say about Donal Lunny that hasn’t been said before. The Godfather of Irish traditional music, he’s played with just about everybody – Moving Hearts, Planxty, Mozaik (who, incidentally will be at the Balor, Ballybofey in October), and his career has arguably shaped and influenced the direction of a generation.

In short, a great gig in store next Tuesday August 26th in Dunlewey, practically at the foot of Errigal. Proceedings get underway at 8.30pm.

They’re getting the band back together..!

Running every Wednesday night from 1992 until 2007 in the Backroom at McGrory’s, Culdaff, The Cjam enjoyed a longevity second only to the Late Late Show. It started life as the country jam but, as the set evolved and diversified the name was changed to reflect the varied musical genres on offer.

It was a great night of live music acknowledged in it’s heyday as one of the top midweek nights out in the North West. The regular line-up featured John and Neil McGrory, Brian Bonner, Andy Davidson and Billy Toland. Over the years they’ve been joined on stage by a roll call of musicians as varied as the styles of music – the likes of Steve Wickham, Percy Robinson, Shaunie Crampsey, Natty Wailer and many more. That’s not to give the impression that all of the above will be putting in an appearance on Saturday night mind, it’s just to give you an idea of the Wednesday night shenanigans that were a regular goings-on in Culdaff over the years.

So if you were a regular Cjammer over the years or if you like good music encompassing anything and everything from Hank Williams or The Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Elvis or John Prine and more in between – country, rock, disco, funk; it was all there at the Cjam – then McGrory’s this Saturday will be a blast. For more information you can call McGrory’s on 0749379104 or visit their web site, www.mcgrorys.ie

Wouldn’t It Be Good

Another back to the future musical offering is in store when ‘80’s pop star Nik Kershaw comes to An Grianán, Letterkenny as part of his “Me, Myself, I” tour, celebrating the 30th anniversary of his first chart success.

Readers of a certain vintage – ie, my age – will remember fondly hits such as “Wouldn’t It Be Good”, “I Won’t Let The Sun go Down On Me” and “The Riddle”. As well as a performer, Nik also carved out a pretty solid career as a songwriter – Elton John once famously described him as, “One of the best song writers of a generation.” He’s written a number of hits for other artists, including Chesney Hawkes “The One And Only”. Considering that was Chesney Hawkes one and only hit, our Nik is probably imbued with psychic powers as well.

The An Grianán gig is one of only four Irish dates (north and south) on the tour, so it’s a rare opportunity to see Nik in the flesh. As well as performing all the hits he’ll also be telling stories from his career as well as taking questions from the audience.

Nik Kershaw is at An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny at 8pm, Thursday, September 4th. Tickets are €22 and are available from An Grianán on 0749120777 or online at angrianan.com

Feel Good Nostalgia

While we’re on a nostalgia buzz I might as well flag up the impending visit of rhythm and blues greats Dr Feelgood to The Balor, Ballybofey in September.

Formed on Canvey Island, Essex in the early 1970’s, they quickly established themselves as one of the most popular and exciting rhythm and blues acts in the world. Their back catalogue includes a string of instantly recognisable hits such as “Milk and Alcohol”, “Down At The Doctors” and “See You Later Alligator”.

The band has gone through various line-up changes in its 40-year history and purists will be quick to point out that the two main influences, singer Lee Brilleaux and guitarist Wilko Johnson, are no longer with the group. Brilleaux sadly died of cancer in 1994 and Johnson, with health troubles of his own that unfortunately led to him having to cancel a planned appearance at this years Rory Gallagher Festival in Ballyshannon, also left the group.

The remaining members aren’t exactly Johnny–come–latelys, though. The rhythm section of Kevin Morris on drums and Phil Mitchell on bass are both 29 years in the band, guitarist Steve Walwyn has been a member for 23 years while vocalist Robert Kane (formerly of The Animals) has been at the mic since 1999. For those of you keeping score that’s a combined total of 96 years of Dr Feelgood right there. They continue to tour extensively underscoring their reputation as one of the world’s seminal rhythm and blues acts.

Dr Feelgood play The Balor, Ballybofey on Friday September 19th at 8.30pm. Tickets are €20 available from The Balor box office on 0749131840 or online at www.balorartscentre.com.