I owe Mike two gig posts, and I need to upload pictures for this, but I want to get my thoughts down now.
What happened was, there were these two kids who used to skip school and busk on Grafton Street. And they were rubbish and a couple of the older guys took them on and taught them the basics, and they destroyed a few guitars, and they got good, and they got bands, and they grew up to be Glenn Hansard and Mic Christopher and were in a way ringleaders in a music community that was taking off with cocky young things who thought they were immortal.
And then, 29 November 2001, Mic took a fall after a gig and hit his head and died.
And Mic’s friends played a benefit for his family, and with Mic’s sister pulled his solo album together and got it released, and Skylarkin is a beautiful beautiful thing. And last night, they put together a show, a memorial, a tribute for Mic, and a fundraiser for a cause near and dear to them all. It was glorious.
Ten years ago, I watched Glenn sing Heyday at Witnness with tears tripping him. Last night, he hauled people on and off the stage, dropped notes, broke strings, told stories, hugged everyone in reach, and at one point caused Colm Mac Con Iomaire to nearly smack himself in the face with the fiddle by failing completely at being a competent MC in the best way possible – “This is our friend Connall, he’s going to sing the next one. And I don’t think I actually know Connall’s surname. Connall! What’s your surname?”
The thing with the Irish music scene is, it’s small, it’s a very tight community. You don’t have to be making it very big to be very well known, especially if you are, as Mic was, influencing so many other people. You don’t even need to be around – “If you don’t like the Coronas, you can blame Glenn and Mic, they gave us the idea”. One death, especially someone so young and well liked, hits like a sledgehammer. Glenn said last night that Mic’s death was like the line between their gang being boys and becoming men – ‘We’d lost the leader of the pack, we all had to grow up, you know?’
There were a lot of people on that stage last night. I’ll have to go back and check exactly who – we missed a few at the start, some people never got introduced, some of them I just don’t know and can’t remember. Folk who worked with Mic and the Mary Janes, folk from the busking days, folk who never met him, a few people who weren’t even born when he died. So much affection and respect and deep, honest love on that stage.
On the floor, too. Vicar Street holds 1500. It was rammed. People filtered away as the night went on – Tuesday night, work in the morning – but it stayed pretty full to the end. Or at least, we left just past midnight, when Glenn and Colm finished ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ and there were plenty left still singing. Vicar Street are perfectly capable of chucking people off the stage and out of the building past curfew, but not last night.
They sang Mic’s songs – the Mary Janes songs, the solo songs, songs that they all used to play together, songs he helped out with, songs he played to other people, songs he drove everyone else mad trying to learn, songs that reminded people of him. They read the poems and stories they associate with him. They told stories. They played the videos. Colm continued his grand tradition of dropping people in it by revealing the state of the carpets in the flat Mic and Glen shared in the Harcourt Street days. People who haven’t a word in Irish attempted to say thank you as Gaeilige because it’s what Mic did at shows.
His little girl sang. She never knew him. He adored children and never knew about her. She has about forty ‘uncles and aunties’ who can tell her about him, and she has the same startlingly, stunningly beautiful kind of voice.
That music is what I went through my twenties on. Skylarkin has been on every music player I’ve owned. The Mary Janes have made it onto about half of them. I can, and do, sing every song straight through. I didn’t get home until 3am this morning, and I’m so, so glad I went.