“And if we could try all playing the same key it’d be fantastic”

This is the other post I owe Mike.

This is the one about the Saw Doctors, this bunch of nice lads from Tuam who’ve spent the last couple of decades writing bouncy commentary on the more hilarious dangers of, for starters, being alive, Irish, Catholic, male and really really liking girls, interspersed with gorgeous love songs, surprisingly sweet breakup songs, political commentary, emigrant tales and paens to the West. Also that one about baling hay. It’s actually got a very strong safety message. Sort of. Nearly.

The line-up has changed a lot over the years. I’ve only seen the current one live – Davy Carton and Leo Moran with Anthony Thistlethwaite, Kevin Duffy and Eimin Cradock – but if you fancy seeing an old-school version in terrifying 90s neon Channel 4 did a documentary in 1991 that they’ve put up online – Sing a Powerful Song. I’m really not joking about the neon. 

So far as the current line-up goes, they’re all very talented, they have a slightly worrying sense of humour and no shame, Davy Carton’s a born gurner and Leo Moran would really like everyone to think he’s the sensible one. Unfortunately the rest of the band have already told everyone the story of him getting his son a guitar, taking it off him to tune it and reappearing some time later with a new song. Sometimes Anthony Thistlethwaite runs out of cultural context and stands there looking confused. It’s all charmingly mad and great craic in action.

Which is how my sisters and I ended up arriving at the Academy three-quarters of an hour before the doors opened and getting our tea in the Hare Krishna cafe. Well, also because they had the wrong time on the tickets and the Academy’s only been open a few years and none of us had been before and weren’t totally sure what they were defining Middle Abbey Street as. Also it was cold. Being November. Yes, we are rubbish. Shush.

I like the Academy. It’s teeny and they have a complicated arrangement of buckets for dropping glitter on the audience.

 The Academy 


Speaking of talented, the support was a nice young man called Eoin Glackin, who was acutely aware he was the warm-up set for an audience in no need of warming up and coped by taking the piss out of himself continuously. Although when you find yourself standing making the announcement that “This is normally the bit where I say ‘If you liked it there’s CDs down the back’, but the digs are a bit of a kip and I couldn’t find the box” you kind of have to otherwise your band would probably be forced to kill you. Luckily he’s much better with the writing, playing and singing than the housekeeping. Lovely stuff, especially ‘Hello Caroline‘, a song that earwormed me for a week after a Saw Doctors show.

 Eoin Glackin 


Then the Saw Doctors wandered on. There is twenty odd years of finely honed banter-veering-into-slagging going on with Davy and Leo and you interrupt at your peril. Hecklers get gurned at. There’s also a man who used to be a teacher and so firmly instructs everyone to watch they don’t hit each other before leading a rousing rendition of ‘Tommy K’, a song with complicated actions that everyone always does wrong at least once even though Davy demonstrates them in the first three bars. My sister hit herself in the head trying to make the transition from ‘K’ to ‘DJ’. She’s not allowed to do the YMCA ever again in case she kills herself.


The week that was in it, they played ‘Michael D Rocking in the Dail‘, with emergency addendum of “Now he’s the President!” and nearly took the roof off. The man is a legend (this is him tearing into the US Tea Party at the Galway Arts Festival last year), the song possibly even more so. I think he’s the only politician to have carried out his duties so well that people wrote songs about it. Mostly we have songs about them being shysters. There was an English couple beside us who were really confused. It’s quite hard to explain the whole thing to people who haven’t had him kicking up about Arts funding, Civil Rights and the global economy their entire lives.

 Rocking in the Aras 


Another good way to bring down the house is ‘Joyce Country Ceili Band’, the one where they “pretend to be a ceili band”. It’s true, most ceili bands do feature more in the way of fiddles and less of Kevin Duffy’s fabulous red shoes.



There was much hilarity, showing off, and all the good stuff. And the first live outing of their Christmas charity single, which led to a slight domestic. Because they’d never played all of it in one go. Together. Before. So about three bars in it because clear that Leo was working a different key than everyone else and Davy went ‘If we could all try playing in the same key, he said, that’d be fantastic, you fucking losers, he said’ and somewhere in there with the attempted armlock it came out that everyone else cocked it up at rehearsal, Leo got snarky and then karma came back on him spades. Eventually, they managed to play ‘Downtown’ all the way through in one go.


The finale, of course came with ‘I promised I’d play this. Now remember, boys and girls, you should never climb up on the hay trailer, it’s extremely dangerous.’ I love ‘Haywrap’. It’s completely accurate in every respect, and also everyone does baling with their hands in the air.



And then we met these beauties on the way home. In the dark. Singing. Scaring the Guards. What have you.