Last of the written word
Smock Alley
Sept 8 2022

My gateway to music was punk rock. It was over 4 decades ago and Elvis Costello was releasing armed forces and Ian Dury was asking people to hit him with their rhythm sticks. It got noisier for me and while punk was getting thrashier I was starting to listen to more tunes but still very much of a sped up variety. 

When Dublin’s Capital Radio was playing the Blue Nile I was running for the dial to change to some other pirate station that may have some feedback. My tastebuds weren’t ready for beauty in music. My favourite songs were ones that generated feelings. More often than not that feeling was in the message the song resonated as my political beliefs were forming around the songs I chose to listen to. Songs that moved me meant so much. 

That became my reason to listen to songs. Crass, New Model Army, The Three Johns as well as Big Flame or The Partisans were my soundtrack. All bands that wanted to change the world with me in it. US hardcore came along and suddenly we were singing about ourselves and our feelings. And it still meant something. Our world was changing. 

Tonight Patrick Barrett bared his soul in a way not sung about by Rites of Spring. He played his last album in full, a record written during lockdown and a period of looking after his elderly parents. A time of beauty, strange beauty at that. And I looked on and relate to much of what he sings about. His walks through the bull wall were ones I was taking too – a parent passing was a journey I started 4 years ago. Parents born of Dublin, we were raised on the Northside, slightly closer to town than Patrick but so many similarities. We have a shared love of Pat Ingoldsby and of people doing things for themselves. People not waiting for others to guide them through life or over barriers. 

Tonight he was laid bare in the beautiful surroundings of Smock Alley Theatre, a place where people like him rarely play. A place not frequented by his neighbours in Kilbarrack. And it was beautiful. One slide for each song, a dip into his memory but always reminding us of the beauty that is out there. Not a pathway to the past but a light for the future. He forewarned us of a special guest but no one was ready for it being the voice of his Mam from 1988 singing Danny Boy. Not a dry eye in the house as I reached for my tissue. We were handed an stamped envelope and a page at the end to reconnect with people. Write a letter, be alive. 

Absolutely beautiful. 


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