There was this one gig that ended in a bar brawl, a swarm of cops, and our fiddler having to be escorted to her car. It was St. Paddy's Day, and let me just say, for some reason the more folks drink, the more they think they're Irish. You throw some hootenanny music on top of that, and they'll behave like freaking hooligans at an IRA rally. Well, this crowd was becoming more Irish by the minute. On top of that, our original bassist, Brian Kelleher, wanted to play one more show with us before he had to move to Chicago, and he too was feeling especially Irish that night.
During our first break Shelly walked up to a line of women waiting at the bathroom door. Apparently they'd been beating on it for some time, so they gave it up for the porta-potties outside, leaving Shelly standing there alone. She gives the door an additional knock. Suddenly some gal throws it open and gets in Shelly's face.
"What's your problem, Bitch?" she says. Which I think this was her way of saying "Hello" in her Irish dialect. She blocked the door and wouldn't let Shelly in. Just then, Brian steps out of the men's room to witness the translation error. And, like Kate Danaher's big brother in The Quiet Man, he helps the misinterpretation along with his own Gaelic flair. Next thing you know, the bathroom dragon's boyfriend and several of their minions are all tangled up as the situation escalates out in the stage area. The Irish bouncer - Wait! He was Scottish... Anyway, the bouncer intervenes, and everyone goes back to their green beers.
During the next set, the bathroom dragon and her cronies start heckling Shelly and Brian on their side of the stage, flipping them off and such. Meanwhile, I'm oblivious to all this because there's this lady throwing down some interpretive dance moves to Daniel's blazing mando solos and begging us to play "Piano Man." Because her husband left her. And her dog just died. Keep in mind we're a string band. No ivories in sight. Between verses, I say, "We'll see what we can do," which translates to, "You're going to be too drunk to remember your request anyway."
Now, there were some fans of ours in the crowd who realized what was going on with the hecklers, so they stand up at the edge of the stage as a sort of screen. And they're standing there clapping along to our tunes, which only made the hecklers more eager to express themselves at that side of the stage.
Toward the end of the show, I thank the venue, and thank the bouncer for looking out for us, because I thought he had booted the hecklers from the place as I'd recommended after they'd incited a fight during our second break. When dead-dog lady heard me announce it was our last tune and realized it wasn't "Piano Man," her face flipped from ecstasy to rage, and now she's coming up on the left side of the stage swinging, and looking at Shelly as her target for some reason. So I move to block her.
Brian has launched into that distinctive bass intro to "Crazy Train," which was weird because we had just played "Crazy Train" fifteen minutes earlier. So, what the heck, we go with it. But it was clearly not "Piano Man." Then we suddenly hear the low reverberating drone of the bass, and turn to see that Brian has abandoned his instrument and the stage to discuss his Irish heritage with the hecklers.
Meanwhile, dead-dog lady is in my face. Actually, at this point the whole place is up in everyone's face, like a powder keg waiting for a spark. Fans eager to defend us are swift to gather round, not to mention there were a few guys without necks who'd been looking for any reason to kick someone's ass all night. So they're just staggering around trying to figure out who to slug first. One of the waitresses was perceptive enough to anticipate what was going down and called 911. This pretty much ended the party, and as the hecklers were leaving they were arrested.
It's these sort of gigs that inspire Irish drinking ballads, or in our case a blues song. Shortly after, we wrote "Side Effects," about the dangers of mixing alcohol with hootenanny. Be warned!
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