Forty Shades Of Blue

Posted: August 26, 2014 in Humanity is a virus, It's not the heat, it's the humanity, Music nobody listens to, Shovels

Much bittersweet tonight, with what Larry Kirwan said from stage ” the last time Black 47 will ever play Milwaukee”

But a bit of glorious shambolic Irish-American-punk-folk party at pretty much the largest Irish festival in America.  Irish Fest covers most of the Summerfest grounds for four days, and has become an annual stop for many  Irish heritage bands from America, Ireland, and Canada.  Walking up to the gates, the announcements are in English and Gaelic…

Oddly, the white racists gobs never say that these folks should be giving up on their ancestral culture or languages.  Gosh, I wonder what could the difference be?

Anyway, I got my picture took with Larry Kirwan after the show, and got a CD signed for Zelmo, who was elsewhere attending to a new babby in the fambly-adjacent.

And following B47, we had a date for the Irishfest headlining gig of local zombie faves Whiskey Of The Damned.  We have been watching Eoin (pronounced Owen?) play sweaty punky drinky songs since he was helping out the DIY Refugee Stage at Summerfest. He used to play some Pogues covers with pick-up musicians there.  But  eventually he put together a band of his own, and what a goddam band.  He has partnered with Gina on violin, and I like to joke that the other three members of the band look like BOC roadies from 1975.  But they all play like motherfuckers, and trust me friends and guinea pigs, but I have to tell you that tonight they played an old classic “Streams Of Whiskey”, which had also been previously defined by the Pogues.  But tonight, o yes tonight, they re-defined that song; gloriously fast, and the Pogues version is now in second place and sorry Shane.


Eoin McCarthy’s father is Finbar McCarthy, another Irish musician who immigrated to Milwaukee because the nickname was Brew City.  Finbar played before WOTD on the stage, so it was quite a family affair.

I remember when Black 47 played Irish Fest for the first time.  Many of the older attendees were distressed about the emphasis on guitar and the addition of hip-hop rhythms and rapping vocals by Chris Byrne.  The overt populism and political bent was off putting to a crowd that had largely found that the best way to get along was to not talk about the politics.  Larry Kirwan says that “to be Irish is to BE political!” and tonight the crowd roared.  The anthem “James Connelly” was greeted with screams and cheers, and the crowd held fists aloft to this populist, working class and union hero.

On the drive home, we mused about the bands I tried to remember when I first discovered Black 47.  It struck me that it was due to an interview with some guitar hack from some small-time band  who ridiculously called himself “Edge”, who referred to this punky New York Irish Hip-hop band, that made me curious enough to search out their independent first release (which Wife Sublime famously hated; of course, now she loves them).  I am pretty damn sure that I saw them the first time they played Milwaukee after that, and after that they instantly were escalated to the Zombie Pantheon.

They once did an entire album based on letters they had received from soldiers stationed in Iraq.  Called , of course, Iraq.  With the history of Irish fighters in the homeland, and in American wars, how could they not?

On stage, Kirwan reminisced about starting the band with Chris Byrne, when they talked in a bar about the demise of the Clash and the death of Bob Marley, and there was a gap for political bands.

Amidst the musical gumbo of NY avant-garde, hip-hop, old school New Wave and Irish Heritage, I have always been in love with the political content.  Populist songs like James Connelley and the Big Fellah enthralled me; at the same time stories of working class desperation in Livin’ In America, Losin’ It,, and Danny Boy sing about the travails of real working class people.

Speaking of the travails of real people, one of the fellow travelers among some of the Usual Suspect Blogs, jurassicpork,  has been in rough times lately, but has persevered, putting together what looks like a fine book, and has been shopping it.  He has been shopping it and is getting close to a publishing deal; but in the interim has the standard Modern American Economy shitstorm need to keep life and limb and hope together and as such, is stepping up a financing effort.

He has a great setup of incentives (and a mordantly sarcastic account of why he won’t do it through Kickstarter.  Mainly revolving around potato salad).  The book looks great and I encourage you to go there and throw a couple of dollars in the jar.  More, if you want to participate.

Look, most of y’all know that I have been skint as fuck for quite a few years (it tracks pretty closely to the activity in construction Weird huh?).  It’s been a very tough several years for me, and it now seems to be loosening up — just a bit!- and although I am not taking anything for granted, I am also finding it possible to help others out.  I don’t know if I believe in Karma, and the idea of “pay it forward” is treacly bullshit.  But I DO believe in paying for music and art and writing that I enjoy.  So I punted some money his way, and you should too. 

If you ain’t familiar with the dude, check out his writing.  He’s pretty good, and he says fuck a reasonable amount.  Not as much as I do, typically, but then for me it’s a crutch.  TAlks a lot about politics, more focused than I do; We disagree on a fair bit, but I disagree with most of you as well, but you’re still basically good people. As is JP, so help him the fuck out, ‘K?

Added emphasis.  JP needs every few clinks in the internarfles jar that he can get.  It’s not just the booksicles, but there are living expenses and mediacal shit that they need help for.  I know there are a few of you that read this from time to time who have been in similar straits, and are now less skint; so open up your empathy and spare change to send him a dollar or two, willya?  Don’t be dicks.

On stage, Larry reminisced about starting Black 47 as an overtly political band.  They blistered a trail that went far afield from that, of course; but when he talked about disbanding after 25 years, that there needed to be a political band to step back into that void.

There is an argument to be made that political bands make little difference. I think it’s a weak argument, because musicians can both write political songs and be politically active; its easy to point to bands that have done both.

It’s bittersweet that yet another of my favorite bands ever have called it quits, and we will be painting the town 40 shades of blue, indeed.  But even that song ends in exultant anthemic charging fervor.  Black 47 has never been about depression, but always about fighting against the bad shit, kicking against the pricks.

Black 47 has retired, and clearly put out a call for someone to step up into the void.  They stepped up from Marley and the Clash; 25 years on, what a fine fine tradition they can claim, and I am so so happy that I have been able to be part of it all.  BUT  as Larry and Chris said in those long ago days, where is there a political band?  Black 47 and RATM are long gone, who will step up?

Who can sing. Guthrie level, you don’t have to be able to sing so well.  Springsteen and Bono tell us that singing is only OK, but passion is most.  Where is there some passion?


What do you know, there’s this guitar in the corner….

  1. Big Bad Bald Bastard says:

    Anyway, I got my picture took with Larry Kirwan after the show, and got a CD signed for Zelmo, who was elsewhere attending to a new babby in the fambly-adjacent.

    Simply put, Larry is the best… a hell of a nice guy. It’s been a long while since I’ve had a beer with him. This is what Larry wrote when he announced the retirement last year, it’s as good a “mission statement” for the band as any:

    Black 47 has always been more than a band, we’ve spoken out for the nationalist population in the North of Ireland, against the war but for the troops in Iraq, for our gay brothers & sisters, immigrants – legal and undocumented – as well as for the voiceless of 1845-47; but in the end it all comes down to the music, the songs, and the desire to give audiences the time of their lives and send them home smiling and, perhaps, with a question on their lips. We look forward to seeing you all at the upcoming gigs. Thanks for the support and the memories – let’s make many more over the next year. Take care of yourselves. Beir bua!

    It’s too bad my beloved Mary Courtney wasn’t onstage with the band.

    • Well, he had dancers from the Milwaukee Trinity Irish Dancers out for one song. I was a little disappointed that he did not bring our Eoin McCarthy from local hardcore Irish Punks WHiskey of the Damned (and subsequently disappointed thst WOTD did not bring him out on their set; Although frankly, Whiskey of the Damned did not need any help.

      Dunno what kind of mileage you get out of having a beer after some gig with Kirwan. I have seen him EVERY SINGLE TIME Black 47 has played in Milwaukee. I am always a bit hesitant to charge musicians after a show, although I went to County Clare Hotel after one show, and made some Hi-Hello with Kirwan on that episode.

      This night, I recalled that I got their first album, based on an interview with a guitarist for some crappy Irish band, who said his current favorite band was a New-York Irish Hip-Hop band…. sweet living zombie, how could I resist that kind of description.

      But for all your claims of being Larry’s best bud, I challenge you because I think I have seen Back 47, actually more times.

  2. herr doktor bimler says:

    I have some of Bob Scott’s original artwork (from the Bats) from back in 1984 which I really need to send back to him.

Go ahead, tell me how I fucked up this time.

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