Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A perfect day in the company of Crosby, Stills & Nash

What a day yesterday proved to be. Mars must have been in conjunction with something or other because here in Douglas it was almost possible to feel the great grinding cogs of the universe clicking into place.
First off, a call from Mercier Press. The Sunday Tribune ran a review of 'In Too Deep'... While it wasn't, I have to admit, all sweetness and light, I was in one of those rare moods that allowed me to wallow in the positives and ignore the more 'reserved' suggestions. And there were enough of those positives to keep me comfortably afloat. (In case anyone feels like a look, you can read it for yourself if you follow this link:


Then, minutes later, the phone rang again. Pat Cotter of The Munster Literature Centre, this time, inviting me to read at this year's Frank O'Connor Short Story Festival here in Cork. Now, reading in public is usually enough to turn even my best day to lumpy porridge, but again, a deep breath, and here I am, not only agreeing to it but actually, in a most peculiar way (at least for me) happy about the idea. Perhaps the most-welcome reading fee had something to do with this, or the fact that Friday, the 18th of September seems so far away as to be not quite real yet...

The sun was shining, and by three o'clock I'd had just about all that I could bear of my stifling attic. My sister and I decided to take ourselves over to the Marquee, several hours early, and try to take on a little bit of the concert vibe that, they say, is almost exclusive to Crosby, Stills and Nash. By four, we were sitting on a low wall outside the venue, by half past we were watching the boys arrive. The soundcheck was muffled but still, amazingly, quite lovely.
Then, a surprise. Well, a shock, really. Not the first of the day but not the last, either. By about five o'clock there were only a couple of other people milling around. Nobody was expecting Graham Nash and his family to come strolling out (in the company of a gentleman named Billy, a wonderfully authentic looking hippie/roadie with a great white ZZ Top style beard...) Graham chatted with us, signed by old Daylight Again LP, posed for a photo (which I promise to post very soon),and introduced us to his family. I'm not sure I have met many more personable people in my life. I had three copies of 'In Too Deep' in my bag, and I passed them along and it was all just thoroughly pleasant, the sort of experience that lights up any day.
The show itself lived up to my expectations and then surpassed them, leaving them wallowing in the gutter. The harmonies were truly not to be believed, even half a lifetime of listening to the albums can't properly prepare you for the beauty of their sound. I had managed to secure front row dead-centre seats (courtesy of some happy guesswork on ticketmaster's presale password) and we had the perfect vantage point. Stills played guitar like the damn thing had been invented with him in mind, Crosby might have the hair of a clown but he still has the voice of an angel, and Nash held it all together, through two-and-a-half incredible hours (with a short fifteen minute interval). They played all the old classics, Stills dug out some Buffalo Springfield beauties and there was a great smattering of covers (Dylan's 'Girl From The North Country' with Stills doing a terrific job on vocals, a juggernaut Grateful Dead cover, 'Uncle John's Band' and probably best of all, a version of the Rolling Stones' 'Ruby Tuesday' that was positively hymnal).
But my highlight was still to come.
Just before the midway point, Graham Nash took his place behind the keyboards. He spoke of meeting my sister Irene and I earlier in the day, he thanked me for the gift of copies of the book that I had given them, said that he had already started reading it and was really enjoying the first story, 'Love Sick', and told everyone in the place to go out and buy it! "We'd like to give something to you, and to Irene," he said, then launched into a beautiful version of 'Our House'!
That should have been enough, a thousand times more than enough, but there was one more little tip of the hat to my oh-so-positive oh-so-perfect heavenly gift of a day. Just before the stunning 'Teach Your Children' singalong encore, Mr. Nash wished everyone a safe journey home... (and don't forget to buy Billy O'Callaghan's book' he added, before kicking into the song).
Now, I have in my possession a copy of David Crosby's autobiography (a few years old now but still available on Amazon...). I'd been hoping, though not really expecting (given the petty nature of the marquee security) to get the book signed. Well, Graham saw me holding it up, came to the front of the stage and took it, then got Cros to scribble a signature. In this unexpected, incredible, beautiful way, one of the great nights of my life rumbled to a close...


  1. "a classy piece and bleakly atmospheric"...sounds good to me! Look forward to reading it sometime...

  2. Hi Niamh. I see you hit on the review's best line! Thanks for the comment!