Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dempsey's Session - New York City

Here I am pointing to the Traditional Irish Music listing on the sign

While visiting relatives in New York City I took an evening to sit in with the session at Dempsey's Pub, the longest running session in NYC at 10 years.

The session was a good one, it started out with about 12 players and one drunk punter. The punter was wearing pointy gold metallic shoes and was stumbling a bit, bothering each of the players in turn. She stumbled into my pint and knocked it into a glass of tonic water which both went over and made quite a mess. Good thing there were no instruments under that table (there was a banjo under the other one.) Embarrassed, she left. Thank goodness. The session host asked the barman to replace the spilt drinks and I waited by the door while the clean-up was in progress to avoid the mop handle.

I watched in horror as the punter came back down the steps. She had some money in her hand and went straight to the barman, handed him the money and quickly split. Fair play to the punter. She must be a really nice person when she's not looped.

They did the round robin thing for a couple hours and I had a little less than half of the tunes played. I recognized most of them tho. I tried to start tunes I thought everyone might know, but sometimes did a solo for a bit then transitioned to another tune and folks got going. It was the usual "Do you know (tune name here)?" "Not sure, but let's hear it."

After a couple hours, the round robin gave way to folks starting tunes when they felt the muse. The session was smaller now, and the craic was picking up. Maybe it was the hour, or maybe it was the drink, but we had some really great long sets with the lead moving to different players without stopping. A couple times I had that "finger in the light socket" feeling. You know the one I mean? When you are somehow plugged into the other players and everyone is playing as one mind or spirit? Great stuff. To think this happens when I'm 1300 miles from home with people I've not even met.

About half way through a young girl from Chicago who recently moved to the city sat next to me. She was a great fiddler both technically and with great expression. I kept asking her if she knew this tune or that so I would start something she knew. I just loved to hear her play.

Over the course of the evening there were two other flute players, a handful of violins, two or three bodhrans, a couple guitars, four or five whistles, a couple boxes and a button accordion. That was until 11:45 when I left. Arbo said they went until 1 AM. The session host played a borrowed banjo a few times but mostly sat out. Doctor's orders for a bum wrist.

Polkas were a hit. They played some before I stared Maggie and Britches. Later nobody knew Cooley's Hornpipe so after once thru I went to Off to Cali and then Rights of Man. Really got everyone going and got atta-boys when we finished. But the reel fest was the best. Much like we do at the Ray, someone starts it, does a set and then someone else keeps it going without pause. I started a second super set with Whiskey Before Breakfast which most knew, then half the hard-core knew Far From Home, which I followed with something I don't remember and then a box player took the set to tunes I heard but don't know. It was 10 really strong players on fiddle, box, button accordion, flute (three at the high point) and a bodhran and guitar. Magic. That swept along in the music-drug feeling for a good 45 mins.

Oh, I played a 1840 Rudall & Rose flute for a short bit. It was surprisingly light and played all three octaves well. The low notes would really growl when Arbo the owner played it. I couldn't quite get the same tone out of it, but it was a nice flute to play.

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