- 25 Apr 17
The Great And The Good And The Rest Of Us Celebrate The Mighty Levon
Levonstock, Levon Night, Helm’s Deep, call it whatever you want, the annual celebration of the life of Band drummer, and belter of a singer, Levon Helm organised, with love, by Hot Presser Roisin Dwyer, has now reached it’s fifth year. As a night out, it’s hard to fault.
The vibe, if you’ll allow me to go a bit brown rice, was all warm and fuzzy, both in the crowd, with many people making a return visit, and amongst the bustle in the green room, everyone happy to be involved for a good cause, the Irish Cancer Society.
RTE man Cathal Murray, whose marvellous moustache set pulses racing, was the master of ceremonies for the evening. A real pro, he wasn’t afraid to tell audience member to pipe down a bit for the quieter sections. Bidding us all welcome, he brought out opening act Johnny Rayge, who gave it a spot-on bit of Neil Young with ‘Helpless’ and ‘Four Strong Winds’. Kudos to him also on his rather magnificent suit. The Mountaineers’ funky ‘Cripple Creek’ got the crowd singing, followed by current indie darlings, ahem, Darling with strong versions of ‘Forever Young’ and Neil Diamond’s ‘Dry Your Eyes’. The artists formally known as Rag Mama Rag, The Straw Hall House Band, led by Fiacre “The Gent” Gaffney, gave a rollicking good account of themselves, lifted up another notch when Nicole Maguire walked on and knocked us all out with her ‘Evangeline’. Gavin Glass was all guns blazing with a powerful ‘Atlantic City’ and ‘Highway 61’, complete with the scorching stinging Bloomfield guitar of Jack Maher, before getting everyone roaring along on ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’. From one proper soul man to one proper soul woman, Bronagh Gallagher is a force of nature, and her crack band, featuring local legends Conor Brady and Rob Malone, had everyone hollering for more. Have pity then on the man who had to follow her on stage to host the prize raffle. I didn’t catch his name, but I could only marvel at his professionalism, and stunning good looks.
Such was the heat coming off Skinny Elvis, and Foxy Murphy’s guitar playing in particular, that they could probably get a few nixers doing a bit of welding. After their own blistering rockabilly set, they were joined on stage by Patrick Bergin; yes that Patrick Bergin, who added some raucous harmonica and shouting.
Final act of the night was good time rhythm and blues merchants Square Pegs, with the guitar duel between Conor Brady and Colm Quearney causing many a jaw injury as chins smashed off the floor. Special mention goes too to The House of Horns – Michael Buckley and Ronan Dooney – who were beyond funky. Drummer and Levon nut Graham Hopkins paused proceedings to speak with genuine affection about time spent with his late hero. He tells the same story every year, but it’s a great one, as the howls of approval attested.
Fair to say that super special secret guest Glen Hansard raised the roof on a night that had already seen the rafters rocked a few times. Eyes closed, huge grin, lost in the music, beautiful to watch – “Big Red” sang his arse off. He then led the great and the good in an emotional finale of ‘I Shall Be Released’.
And that was our lot, everyone smiling going out the door, practically guaranteeing you a chance to see it again next year. Long may it run.