Eight years ago today

Author // Dan Walsh

5th December 2009 is a day I will never forget. Music has been my number one hobby my entire life and I really do mean my entire life. My parents swear that I was singing in Gaelic before speaking English owing to the Irish music I was listening to in my early years! Tales of me lying next to a tape player listening to Paul Simon's Graceland or Irish folk music are plentiful and the first ever 'what do you want to be when you grow up conversation' ended with me pointing at a busker. So it really has been my lifelong passion. So unsurprisingly live music experiences tend to be very significant for me and going to see my favourite bands has always been something that has excited me beyond belief. But none quite like this gig...

I was fortunate to grow up in a house where my parents listened to a wide variety of (mostly) really great music. My mum had some great blues stuff like John Lee Hooker and Elmore James. My dad had Irish folk stuff and the Beatles. But my dad's favourite band were always Horslips, an Irish rock band from the 70s massively influenced by folk and traditional music. They were one of the bands I grew up listening to as a result and they were always one of the bands that meant a lot to me. Three albums in particular - The Tain, The Book Of Invasions and Aliens epitomised what I loved best about them. Genius use of trad melodies as rock riffs, superb lyrics often about aspects of Irish history and wonderful guitar parts from the legend that is Johnny Fean.

Not only were they a massive part of my childhood but when I went to university I seemed to obsess over them even more and they had a huge influence on much of the stuff I was writing, particularly on the rockiest of my albums Tomorrow's Still To Come. Then Sword Of Light became a live solo favourite while Walsh and Pound recorded Wrath Of The Rain. But here's the nub - while Horslips had very much become my favourite band, they disbanded in 1980 so sadly it looked as though I'd never get to see them live. Then came the news...they were back! I happened to be watching some videos on youtube of them and noticed one from only a year or so back on Irish TV. This was their reunion and the more I read the more excited I got - three uber fans had put on an exhibition of Horslips memorabilia in Derry and persauded the band to come and play an acoustic set. Then these TV appearances happened. And then...I went on their website and they really were back with a gig at the O2 arena in Dublin scheduled for December 5th 2009 two days after a gig in Belfast, their first full live public gig in 29 years! I couldn't believe my eyes - I got straight onto the phone and asked my dad the question I never thought I'd ask: 'would you like to see Horslips'. Within about an hour we'd booked flights, a hotel and of course those all important tickets. I couldn't comprehend it: I was going to see Horslips!!!

The guys in Horslips are very funny guys and in a later DVD about the concert, Barry Devlin joked 'this was probably the first gig I've ever been at where the band were feeling quite relaxed and the audience were bricking it'. He had a point. As Dad and I sank a few pints of Guinness during the day in Dublin, we did worry 'what if they're shite...'. We figured they'd have to be really really shite for us not to have a good time, but at the end of the day these were men pushing or possibly even in their 60s who hadn't played in 29 years and only one of whom had really consistently gigged since. We got to the arena with a sense of massive anticipation and then the lights went down and that chugging opening riff to King Of The Fairies kicked things off. Myself and my dad were in heaven. Here was our favourite band who we never in a million years thought we'd ever see live (again in my Dad's case, he did catch them once in the 70s) playing a huge venue with thousands of people who all knew the words. I'd spent my life sharing my love of Horslips with Dad and my mate at school who I introduced to them. Suddenly here they were rocking an arena and best of all - they were bloody awesome. Johnny Fean in particular was on sterling form and showed why he is the most criminally underrated guitarist I've ever come across. The full range of their output was on show and Dad and I sang every word and then came Dearg Doom, the band's anthem. Almost involuntarily I was pogoing up and down like a madman and looked to my left and my Dad, not a man particularly given to boogieing it's fair to say, was doing exactly the same. I could have cried with joy, in fact I'm pretty sure I did. As a folkie as well, there was something rather special about 12,000 people rocking out to a melody so old no-one knows who wrote it...

It was the perfect gigging experience and can never be topped. Even my great hero Paul Simon didn't quite top it although he came bloody close - at the Albert Hall last year he was unbelievable and musically if I'm being honest it was just perfect. But nothing could quite top the all round experience of seeing Horslips the way I did. My favourite band who barely anyone in my life seemed to have ever heard of and who I thought had disbanded for good nearly 30 years ago had rocked an arena with 12,000 people, played the gig of their lives, were obviously themselves stunned and overjoyed at playing that kind of venue so successfully (they weren't exactly massive in their heyday) and best of all I shared it with my Dad who was the man who introduced them to me in the first place and was as ecstatic to see them as I was. I wish I could experience it again somehow but I guess I just have to be grateful to have done so at all. What a night!

New trio!

Author // Dan Walsh

Dear all,

I'm delighted to tell you all about the new Dan Walsh trio featuring the mighty Ciaran Algar on fiddle and maestro Nic Zuppardi on mandolin. We'll be touring the UK throughout May next year and we've done a little video to show you what you can expect:

I hope you enjoyed it! Tour dates to be released soon....

In the meantime, it's been a fun month. I had a nice little run of solo gigs starting at the Woodman Folk Club in Kingswinford which as always was a great blast. Then a trio of gigs the following weekend at National Forest Folk Club in Leicestershire, Royal Traditions in Sheffield and then up in Penrith, the land of my birth, at a rather special songwriters circle night. All three were highly enjoyable in different ways. National Forest is sort of an old favourite as I'd done the festival a good few times but it was only my second visit

Good old Canada

Author // Dan Walsh

Dear all,

What a long time since my last blog, dear me. Where on earth does the time go? It's nearly October!!!! Anyway...I've been to Canada. But quite a bit happened before that as well so let's head back to August. First up, the wonderful Broadstairs folk week which has been a staple of my calendar for much of my career - a truly wonderful festival run brilliantly by the now retiring Kim. I've always loved this one and UFQ's set was as much fun as we expected. Fantastic! Next up was another cracking festival Folkeast which showcased my duo with John Dowling and I also made an appearance in the Young 'uns hilarious live podcast and there was even the unlikely event of Will Pound and I playing something together for the first time in five years.

Then two more belting festivals to see out August - first guesting on banjo with Chris Quinn at Shrewsbury Folk Festival and then a set with UFQ on the raucous Chai Wallah stage at the flamboyant Shambala. Then just before Canada there was time to squeeze in two more festivals - Didmarton Bluegrass with John and then solo at Fleetwood Folk and Blues. Didmarton was a real belter in fact it was possibly mine and John's favourite so far as a duo and then Fleetwood was just a lovely little festival too.

So then it was off to Canada...I've been to the east coast three times before and loved it so I thought it was about time I headed to the west coast and

Automated machines?

Author // Dan Walsh

Dear all,

Festival season has been in full swing though unusually I've also done a bit of UK solo touring, rare for me in the summer months. Firstly, let's bring you up to speed. The first weekend after my last blog saw festivals galore, firstly with Urban Folk Quartet as we played the Secret Garden Party down in Cambridgeshire. I have to say, the state of many of the audience allowed me to see why its kept fairly secret but anyway they seemed to have a very good time, as did we. The next day saw a solo jaunt up north to Hull to play Hull Folk Festival out on the pier. It was a lovely gig although I felt a very long way from the audience! Then it was off to Cumbria to play Music On The Marr on the Sunday with UFQ and that was an absolute blast! I even sneaked a solo set in during the day as well.

I should add that during this weekend, the banjo gremlins struck again as a troublesome pickup played up again which made the gigs rather hard work. Something had been wrong and several apparent fixes hadn't lasted! And so here I propose a vote of thanks to the wonderful Eagle Music shop in Huddersfield and particularly to Matt the banjo doctor. So many

We want the sport!

Author // Dan Walsh

Dear all,

Well July has seen a milestone - yes everyone I am THIRTY YEARS OLD. Good god above. Yes my twenties are over and I am now allowed to be a slightly grumpy sod rather than prematurely grumpy. It's interesting to reflect back on my life thus far. When I was a little kid my dream was to be a performing musician so I guess I've acheived that. Admittedly not quite in the way I imagined back then - I probably had images of massive venues with people dancing and singing all the words etc. Of course the reality of playing the banjo not in Mumford and Sons and being into rather more 'niche' music has long since manifested itself but that's in no way a problem. At least I've had my bit of playing in the sorts of venues I'd imagined thanks to my guest appearances with the Levellers, Seth Lakeman, Joss Stone, Imelda May et al. Plus I appeared on stage with a Saw Doctor - four year old me would be over the moon and 30 year old me is pretty chuffed too. Just to clarify, when I say a Saw Doctor I mean a member of the Irish band the Saw Doctors not anything more sinister. That part of my act is yet to come...

Well that's a brief assessment of my life. I'll do the rest when I'm 40. Anyway, let's catch up. First after my last blog was a trip to Portslade in Sussex for a gig at Railway Roots. It was a right belter as well hosted by political songwriter and all round gent Robb Johnson as well as a ludicrously talented 15 year old opening act Anouska Marshall - big things to come from her I think. Owing to an illness for the organiser, long time favourite Hales Club was sadly postponed til another day so instead it was up to Cumbria