A hot night singing in Brussels

A hot night at Celtica in Brussels, I’m thankful for the airco!

 

Just another Saturday evening for this busy solo singer/guitarist. My working day commenced at 7pm and had to load the car with my guitar, my backpack of cables, my portable mixing desk, and a little monitor. The tom tom on my iPhone was set to arrive at Celtica in Brussels, right bang in the centre of the party district downtown! We are right in the middle of the summer at the moment and an average daily temperate in the mid-20’s is pretty hot. Night time gigs can be quite relaxed with people wearing shorts and light clothing and generally being more chilled out about things.

I begun my night to a moderate audience, not so busy, but the connection was immediate. With an opening set of a few irish songs, I got the audience hooked. Granted part of my gig was quiet to start, I enjoyed it immensely. The people were enthusiastic and friendly, and not a single rude person was in the building. Sometimes when i play Celtica in Brussels, I tend to have sound troubles, feedback/buzzes that sort of thing. I took the liberty of bringing my own Allen and Heath Zed fx 10 with me to the gig and my FBT jolly monitor and had a beautiful sound. To be able to hear oneself so clearly makes it a pleasure to perform, and carry all this gear two hours in the car from Delft and lugging it with a trolley from the carpark is so worth it, in my humble opinion. If something tends to make me feel that little bit better, I tend to do it, as really its all in the best interest of the performance and the gig result.

The gig in Brussels was a success my the measure of the audience and my own self worth. It went well, and I’ve been practising some performance techniques that I’ve been working on recently: keeping in the zone and practising the art of giving instead of making a performance all about the artist, yeah most of the time you’re entertaining the people, and that’s what a performer must remember every single night and practise is like a meditation. The audience were a slight mix of young 20 somethings and a little older drinkers (expats) sitting at the bar, these guys really enjoyed the irish tunes.

Back in Brussels next month, see you then guys!

5 of the best Irish pubs in the Netherlands

Being an Irishman, living on the continent and travelling around with my acoustic guitar in hand and singing songs, one cannot avoid what is known as “the Irish Pub circuit”. One cannot escape it, by means of hatred or of love or from simply missing home or for getting work, I’ve seen quite a few. This is my little review of my favourite Irish Pubs in The Netherlands for anyone paying this little country a visit!

 

5: O’Shea’s Irish Pub, Eindhoven

In the large student city of Eindhoven is a popular night spot on the weekend.  Having played there with a cover band on many an occasion I recall it having a lively atmosphere, good craic on the weekend when they have LIVE Rock cover bands, a packed bar and lots of singing and dancing. The bar staff are quite young and not the friendliest i’ve met in my travels, but I guess most are students and don’t really care about hospitality. Worth a visit when in Eindhoven on the weekend!
Check out the facebook page for O’Sheas Eindhoven.

4: O’Ceallaigh Irish Pub, Groningen

A little irish pub made famous by it’s tiny living room quality and vibe. The owners husband and wife have been running the place for years and have developed a friendly family run business. They have regular live music, of all sorts from cover bands to sing-songwriters to trad irish music, but always on a weekend and mainly one night a week. I played and stayed over a few times and Groningen is buzzing city, the crowd can be mixed in the pub, but the craic is great!
Check out the website for O’Ceallaigh Irish Pub, Groningen.

3: The Wolfhound Irish Pub and Kitchen, Haarlem

The newest pub to the circuit in Holland, but by no means the least in any way. Another family-vibe run pub, that has a big keen interest in live authentic music and a kitchen serving the best and tastiest pub grub you’ll find around. The pub itself is quite unique in it’s own as they have a basement cellar which is where they hold the live music every weekend. I absolutely loved it when i was there, and if you sing and play the guitar and want a gig, the live scene is fantastic in Haarlem. Definitely worth a visit, if for the food alone! Check it out! www.thewolfhound.nl

2: Mulligans Irish Pub, Amsterdam

Mulligans is like a little piece of Ireland right smack in the middle of one of Europe’s most vibrant cities – Amsterdam! Everything is authentic there, from the few locals, the irish that come visit, the musicians that pass through on weekend tours, almost everything. They all in total make up an atmosphere that if all else just comes close to being in Ireland. I love getting asked to play in Mulligans, it’s always good fun and you never know what kind of a crowd is gonna walk in that door, that keeps it exciting.
Check them out http://mulligans.nl

1: Paddy Murphy’s Irish Pub, Rotterdam

And taking the number 1 spot in my list of favourite Irish Pubs in The Netherlands is Paddy Murphy’s in Rotterdam. Proprietor Dan O’Donovan had his head screwed on when he opened this place up. Rotterdam is a working and tough city, and it’s hard to make things work, but he made a piece of Ireland in there with Cork charm surrounding the place and creating something appealing to all walks of life in Rotterdam, to a 50 year old fishing fan who visits west cork once a year, and to a young bouncy party mad student staying in Rotterdam for the city: they all seem to love the place! For me it’s like a second home, I perform mostly on the famous Bingo Monday parties, where all the students come, get drunk and party like its the end of the world! Paddy Murphy’s proudly boasts live music 7 nights a week and he has been continuing this for over 15 years in total! all i can say is wow!

I hope you enjoyed my little review of these great Irish Pubs. Do remember that every establishment is also just 4 walls, and the people in it are what make the atmosphere, so be nice! And see you on the road somewhere or sitting at the bar having a pint!

 

Irish pint, guinness, irish pub

 

 

Brian’s "BREXIT" Irish concert with Fjelljom

The Norwegian tour/Irish concert with Brian Clifford & Fjelljom Choir

Thursday June 30th

5am was when it all began. Waking up in the darkness to a cold sweat from the couple of hours sleep I had the night before, was not one of my most fondest moments. I had an early train at 6:30 to catch to the airport, and was suffering for the last 24 hours from some kind of flu virus. I tend to get colds a lot, it’s a big negative for a singer, but it happens unfortunately. One can try to protect themselves from all infections but yet when you’re stressed and low it comes and hits you hard. A flu virus with a fever on the other hand is not something I get often. My temperature was soaring up and down in the hour and every hour, going from too hot to too cold and I was getting more and more anxious about how the hell i was ever gone make it to Norway.

Most of the time a singer/guitarist like myself sings in pubs/clubs and cafes and tours around entertaining people. It ain’t a bad life.. but for many a business that live music is an extra. If you can’t make it to perform for some reason, the world won’t stop turning. This of course doesn’t help job security so much, and cancellations are unfortunately a harsh reality. My planned Irish Concert with Fjelljom choir in Røyrvik in Norway, which had been prepared for and planned for months now was about to go Live on July 1st. The choir had been working really hard up there, and this was gonna be a huge concert in the town hall, where people were paying an entrance fee of €20.
I knew in my heart this was one gig I couldn’t cancel and the fighting Irish Spirit had to step up and take control! And that he did!
I packed my bags the previous night with enough paracetamol to control my fever and strepsils for the sore throat that i was most worried about. I also packed enough fruit and snacks for the long trip ahead to keep my blood sugar level at a manageable level, as this was gonna be work, and work needs energy doesn’t it?

Time for this Irish Singer to catch his plane to Norway

7:30 am I arrived at Schiphol airport and immediately checked in at the KLM desk, which was of course a machine that took my suitcase someplace far away! This time I was taking a new airline as i wanted to fly direct to Trondheim airport. Most times I fly around scandinavia I use SAS (Scandinavian airlines) but this time was a new experience with KLM. The dutch airline company are not the cheapest, they do however provide a very good city hopper service to city destinations all over Europe. I was delighted to board the plane promptly with my guitar in it’s hard case and on my back, and not have a single argument about putting it in the luggage locker, they in fact requested I did.. 🙂
One hour into the flight, I was provided with a little slice of cake to munch on and the offer of whatever drinks I wished. Sensibly I requested water and orange juice… the more fluids the better, I was sick after all.

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Having touched down safely at Trondheim airport i remembered my train was a mighty four hours away.oh god what to do? I had pre-booked the ticket and it seemed the flight from KLM and the train didn’t match up. Luckily for me there was a hotel though, a Radisson Blu not far from the airport. I walked it with my guitar and suitcase and went for lunch. The place was simple enough, but had food and coffee and very fast wifi, so I watched a good movie while basically “hanging around”. About 4pm I walked to the train terminal and waited outside to help control my fever, I was hot and I needed to keep cool. The train arrived about 15 minutes late and was fairly packed with suitcases and baby prams and such. I had to walk through the carriage with a pouring sweat before i could get to my reserved seat, and had to lift the weight of my luggage over all that was in the way blocking my path. On most days a pain in the ass, this day I found it a challenge indeed.

Waiting for a lift to Røyrvik

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My good friend Bernie picked me up at Nammskogen station by car. I nearly missed the stop as i was dosing in and out of sleep and had my earphones in. We had an hour or so drive to get over the Børgefjell mountain to reach Røyrvik village.
When we arrived at their place, i was greeted by Vanessa, an 8 year old polish girl who lives across from Bernie and Lynn, she asked in her best english “can you play the guitar?” I really had to disappoint her and say tomorrow… I was feeling like utter crap.
I spent the next few hours chilling out and chatting with Bernie and his fiancé Lynn before heading to bed for what was to be a good 12 hours to try and kill my virus.

Brian Clifford Irish Singer/Guitarist

Day of the Irish concert with Fjelljom

Friday – Concert day had arrived. My alarm was set for 12pm and i awoke sort of refreshed, I had slept, i was also awake a lot, but the best thing was the fever had gone, and the voice, although not 100% healthy seemed like it could do the gig. After a shower and some food it was time to have a rehearsal with the choir in the hall downtown. This was sort of a short dress rehearsal and it went surprisingly very well. The sound man was there and he tested everything, and the choir practised their entrance with me and also we practised some songs. I left the session feeling optimistic and hungry, it was dinner time, back to the house we go!

Irish Singer/guitarist Brian Clifford with Fjelljom choir in Norway

Irish Singer/guitarist Brian Clifford with Fjelljom choir in Norway

19:25 I met with the choir again, we were to begin at 20:00 and this was the warmup time backstage. There were some oohs and hmmm sounds and various funny noises going on, which all warmed up the body and the mind which in turn helped the voices of everyone there. We all got a bit loose. The opening song was Whiskey in the jar, where I strummed back stage, the choir sang an intro and walked through the hall onstage. I followed on with my guitar and got onstage and plugged in. It was a big opening! Following a short speech by one of the choir members, i played a few solo songs alone and then went backstage. The choir then continued with some other songs they had been rehearsing and i later joined them again for another 4 songs, before the grand finale! The audience loved the whole show! If i said it went without a hitch id be lying.. there was mistakes, but they were covered up and went unnoticed. Whats important is to not focus on those things and just play and keep going. This was the first time in my life i ever sang with a choir and I felt “empowered” having 13 people singing in full on harmony behind me!
Time for me to do more concerts!

 

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21:00 – I had another gig to follow on from the concert, and this was in the local Hotel. There was a bar there and a PA setup ready for me to do my usual “pub thing” and entertain the locals. I played for the people, just like I do in any european Irish Pub!

My friends came out, and they brought their friends and everyone had a great time dancing and singing and drinking! I ended the evening with a little nightcap and got some shut eye for the next gig, planned for 11:30 on saturday morning.

Saturday, the main day of the Bærflækkdagan festival

2/7/15 – 9am
Alarm bells were ringing again and it was time to rise and shine. Today was the main day of the festival in Røyrvik and i was doing an outside concert for the open day at my friend Bernard’s factory Børgefjell Skinn. Those guys have an impressive little warehouse where they make Moose (ELK) skin into all kinds of clothing products from baby slippers to hats and gloves and coffee bags. Bernard had the whole day planned, an opening with me singing and dancing with the giant moose and some flyer handouts around the festival to bring the crowd. He showed movies about the village that he made himself and that filled the place. I’m guessing they sold quite a lot as well. We ate ElK burger that day and I got a little power nap after the days activities.

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My night off, and time for this Irish man to party with the local Norwegians!

7pm – The förspel (for pre-party) In Norway alcohol is bloody expensive, even for the Norwegians! How do they still have fun? before any party they have a pre-party at some friends house where they all meet up eat snacks, joke and drink lots. Then when well-oiled the hit to the party, and when the party is over what’s next ? the after party. A lot of parties for one irish man in one night. It was lots of fun and surprise surprise we all woke up sunday without a hangover! Myself, Bernie, Lynn, Ane and Cailin went walking through the mountains and got to the beach where we barbecued hot dogs and ate and drank coffee.
Good memories will last forever!