When I went to Ireland two years ago, the lounge acts I heard in the hotels seemed particularly fond of a couple things: Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl” (maybe due to Sharon Shannon’s version, or perhaps because it became expected from the tourists after it was in the mushy 2007 rom-com “P.S. I Love You”) and a good deal of the Johnny Cash songbook.
I sort of get it. Cash – of Scot descent – tells tales in his music and American country has roots in Celtic music. Cash also had a treacly hit more than 50 years ago with “Forty Shades of Green,” which appears on the 1963 collection, “Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash.”
He also had that rebel, man in black thing going for him – and even made a short concert film, “Johnny Cash in Ireland,” which came out in 1993.
So it seemed no surprise that the Irish American Heritage Center would be home last Saturday night to an event called “Cash for Kids.”
With a name like that, at first I thought it would be like one of those places where you could trade in your golden (child) for money. Or maybe like that insidious 1-800-Kars-for-Kids ad.
It turned out to be a benefit for the Gompers Park children’s baseball and softball leagues.
The Facebook page for it claimed there would be “local musicians playing country, rock, hip-hop, rockibilly (sic) and gospel versions of music Johnny wrote and performed.”
Since the word hip-hop was involved, my best fest buddy Tom’s daughter agreed to tag along. And I must admit I was intrigued to hear a rap version of a Cash classic, perhaps by somebody who would call himself Cash Money for the night.
Only thing is – at least for the part we saw, and from what the printed bill had – there wasn’t any hip-hop to be had.
What there was were eight bands offering their time and talent for the cause, with two of them – The Big Wu (from Minnesota) and the Jenny Rockis Trio (from Chicago) – billing themselves as jam bands.
Having gone to college in Colorado, I developed an allergy to this form of music. Put on a Dave Matthews song, I twitch. Turn on Phish or The Grateful Dead and I want to smash a guitar like Belushi did in “Animal House,” then play the Ramones at top volume.
Being suburbanites and given the tundra on which we currently live, we got there around 6:30 p.m., with things going until 1 a.m.
What we did catch was a bit of an act from Crystal Lake called Glass Half Empty, then headed to the gift shop where I almost bought a new dance wig, something with sheep on it for Joe Cullen’s late Christmas gift, and a brown shirt that read “Tall, Dark, and Had Some.”
Only one of those is sort of true of me. One hasn’t happened in ages. Plus, the cash machine was outside – in this sorry excuse for a climate.
Tristen and I ordered some food then found a place to eat in a room where a band was setting up. With a young black kid setting up drums, Tristen thought it might be the rap act. That a nice woman offered us snacks and soft drinks only made it better.
Turns out, in addition to renting out the auditorium and the bar area for the park benefit, the Center rented the classroom to a church group of some sort that was featuring the Nigerian gospel music of Hulson James (look him up on YouTube – not bad at all).
So we wandered back to catch a bit of an act from the Mayfair neighborhood called Pin Drop Theatre. PDT has a roots rock, Americana, No Depression, whatever the hell you want to call a sound that mixes pre-rock sounds with its rock and such.
The lead singer wore a green dress for the occasion, a sort of 50s one that made me think of spring and if we will ever have one. They sang some Cash, and did a number they wrote about the dudes from the Big Wu sleeping on their floor.
I would never let a jam band sleep in my house. Never. Ever. Unless they paid me. In cash.
Speaking of, we probably left too soon to hear anyone play “Ring of Fire.”
If I am at a Cash tribute:
A) all I want to hear is Cash
B) when it’s held during subzero weather I want to hear “Ring of Fire” dozens of times
Anyway, Houli was there to catch at least some of what me missed, so he can fill you in.
(Houli here, yes I was there and thankful to catch the full set of Pin Drop Theatre, a brillant band led by Steve Davern, with Michael Stirk, Kurt Evinger, Andy Gillespie, Adam Weems, and the very sexy Torri Hamilton doing vocals and all of them carrying the torch for Johnny Cash. I was blown away by Pin Drop Theatre, a kick ass band! And yes Mike, they did perform “Ring of Fire” as their finale, bringing down the house with hundreds dancing in the aisles as they rocked out this loving tribute. I had a helluva good time! You can download free Pin Drop Theater music at www.reverbnation.com/pindroptheater)
Now back to Mike Danahey—
Ski Jump Sunday
Besides, we had to get our beauty sleep to head out to the 109th annual Norge Ski Club ski jump tournament Sunday.
It’s a big outdoor party in Fox River Grove where the crowd watches tall, skinny people jump off a man-made slope. Plus, it’s sort of Irish, as ski jumping was invented by the Norwegians, which means Vikings, those pillagers of Ireland.
As the temperature almost hit 30 Sunday, it was almost balmy by our current standards. Thus, everybody was in a festive mood.
That included an older guy dressed up like an aforementioned Viking – primarily so he could hug women – and some men – who asked to have their pictures taken with him. There was a woman in a similar hat who might have been an opera singer.
She and her pals had those annoying vuvuzelas, the plastic horns that blurt out the mating calls of drunken soccer fans. Still, at least one of the blowers was polite and apologized for his blowing.
And people were burning logs you could buy for $20 with the middle hollowed out and a hole in the side to help get the fire started. I am pretty sure these are only recommended for places covered in snow.
Women are competing at the Olympics for the first time ever this year in Sochi. I read they are getting to be almost as good as the men, and one young woman almost proved the point by having one of the longest jumps of the day at Norge. Unfortunately, she crash landed in spectacular fashion.
Fortunately, she got up like a trouper and seemed no worse for the wear. The crowd gave her a big hand.
And I still wanted to hear “Ring of Fire.”