One of our skills exchange members runs a monthly music, spoken word, cabaret night in Lismore in County Waterford, The Medicine Sessions, and has just finished her third month. Here’s the night in her words. If you’re ever in the area check it out.
The night came in, dry and warm. Downstairs the bar ebbs with a slow pulse, yet to realise itself as the hub of activity it would later become. The smell of greasy cooked goods, spilled beer and long gone cigarette smoke pervades the air, The Medicine Room hangs with a pre-gig woodsmoke and joss-stick and the sound of Quicksilver Messenger Service playing on the PA. The lull, the gathering of energy, the quiet alchemy building.
Two guys climb the stairs, enter the smokey room looking like gunslingers who’ve just spent their poker winnings on new outfits. One with a firm handshake and serious laugh, the other, quietly hiding a bloodthirsty potential behind a softly spoken Spanish lilt. They arrange their belongings, setting the tools of their trade on a penis graffiti’d trestle, airing electric nylon strings, vintage Danelectro, blood red Epi, and magic boxes holding secret images, tribal rhythms, controlled by tough soles. Later on, an auburn haired lady enters, struggling with an Orange box and a set of keys. She flashes smiles easily and speaks with a calmness that belies her power. She dresses in red and waits for a crowd. The poetry man has cancelled, his back broke.
At nine, the public ascend the Red House stairs, dressed in their best, fresh from a days work and the potential of a weekend. They know to come on time to find a chair, a place to put down their liquor. the atmosphere in The Medicine Room builds with anticipation, the breath that comes before unknown things, the chance of new discoveries, the revelations of knowledges that have so far been secrets. the night will soon begin.
The room bustling with hair and coats and scraping shoes, The auburn haired lady begins to sing. Her keys jangle with the trapped echo of a storm crushed coastal front. Her voice unleashes stories of unjust systems, wooded dells, lovelorn places cast in Celtic mires with rolling mists, City Scapes, metropolitan boulevards, thick with footfall. She finishes her set and the audience whispers their delight, an applause, soaked in stories.
A man called Joe steps out from the crowd. Tall, alert and jumpy, eyes that dart like a night watchman, his head an encyclopedia of songs and poetry. He tells the tale written by an Irishman, of the visit of an age old Monarch to an oppressed nation and the monologue of a paranoid suburban neighbour, about the man with deliveries and no swing in his garden. He lives in them as he recites them.
A stripy jumpered man gets up and delivers a Japanese minimalist piece and a poem about a Band, followed by a stripy hatted fellow, rolling in Whiskey and beer and blaming the guitar for his lost lyrics, a moment of edged abandon on a night of edged discovery.
Then the gunslingers stand, command The Medicine Room to darkness, oiled mumbling, expectant laughter. A screen fills with the images of water, vintage cars, scared birds, the hunt, bathing beauty, retro monsters, six bullets, scarred jawlines, cement buildings, the obscene terror of the past and future. The gunslingers command their tools, expertly, blacksmithing together sounds and images, sparks fly with every hammer blow, the audience intoxify on the steam and sweat and noise.
And when it finally ends, The Red House bar fills with the torn chatter of a band of witnesses. Witnesses of alchemy, poetry, stories, and smoke. The night sucks at their heels as they leave, demanding a piece of their soul, to be left at The Medicine Sessions, to be collected, good as new, next month.
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