Friday, November 01, 2013

Houndmouth, band and ale, all around this November.

In the summer of 1985, I was in Ireland.

I was in search of an Irish stereotype, preferring it to be a regular provincial town and not a larger city, once with scenery nearby for rambling through. There needed to be pubs (as though one could locate a square inch of Ireland without three or more of them) and cheap eats. It needed to be accessible by train, because that way, tickets already were paid with my Eurailpass.

A place just like Sligo, in fact.

It was to the northwest of Dublin, on Ireland’s opposite side, and a place utterly alien to me that sounded estimably Irish. There wasn’t enough time to explore Donegal, to the north, where the original language still could be heard. Sligo was my choice, and it proved to be a good one.

Exiting the train station on a sunny day, I saw an orderly settlement of perhaps 10,000 inhabitants (a quarter-century later, it has doubled in size). There were pubs and a lively main street, a small river surrounded by decaying gray mills, and green fields on the periphery, rolling out to meet Knocknarea and Ben Bulben, two limestone hills looming nearby. Near the bus station I passed a normal row house with a hand-lettered sign in the window offering a room to let for travelers just like me. The husband and wife both were teachers, supplementing their incomes during tourist season. It was ideal.

Back in France, a British rock and roll magazine parked atop the breakfast table had trumpeted Live Aid, Bob Geldof’s benefit concert for Ethiopian famine relief, scheduled for worldwide transmission by satellite on July 13, 1985. Early in the morning that exact day, Gerry was off to play golf at nearby Strandhill, and he dropped me off at the foot of Knocknarea. I hiked to the top for an examination of the ancient burial mound, then descended and hopped a weekend bus back to Sligo. Live Aid was underway at Wembley in London, and the pubs were more crowded than I'd imagined with people in the pre-big screen age, watching the concert.

At some point, I went back to my lodging, and found Gerry and Mary intently huddled around a tiny black and white television in the kitchen, upon which there were fuzzy images of U2 taking the stage. This was much to my delight. It was a band I knew well, just a few albums into its ascension, and as Irish as Irish could be. Sharing this viewpoint with my hosts, they nodded amiably and proceeded to inform me of their abysmal ignorance of pop music -- but U2, well, it was a different thing altogether, even if they didn't know a single song.

"They're Irish boys, one of us."

Fast forward too damned many years, and I feel the same sort of pride about Houndmouth. They're New Albanian lads, and a lass, although the difference between anecdote participants is that I know and like Houndmouth's music, which to the uninitiated is hard to describe. Accounts of the band often evoke comparisons to The Band, and I'll leave it at that. We all got together early in 2013 when Houndmouth suggested we brew a beer just for them, and while such pairings don't always work out, this one seemed worth trying, and so we did. It was a genuine collaboration. We sat around a table at Bank Street Brewhouse, tasted and chatted, and the final verdict was a hoppy American Wheat Ale. David Pierce and Ben Minton took it from there.

Houndmouth was on tap for Houndmouth's season-opening outdoor show at the Iroquois Amphitheater back in April, and it will be pouring again on November 29 and 30, when the group plays indoors at Headliners. NABC's web site has the details, along with news of the St. Matthews Mellow Mushroom's month long Houndmouth beer promo.

Mellow Mushroom in St. Matthews is putting on the Houndmouth all November long

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