It was always going to be emotional event.
The annual tribute gig for Philip Lynott, ‘The Vibe for Philo’ had reached its thirtieth year.
From early on the 3rd January there was a definite air of anticipation as supporters from all over Ireland, the UK and beyond began to arrive in Ireland’s capital. There was, for me a noticeable increase in the amount of vibers from America which was great to see. Much of the day was spent meeting with and chatting to friends, new and old.
Vibe Day – A very noticeable increase in numbers arriving into The North Star as many more from oversees arrived. The atmosphere upped to another level. I always enjoy meeting up with people at the North Star. There are always new people also who look a little in awe of the whole occasion but once you introduce them to fellow vibers they are soon at ease and immersing themselves into the experience.
I had intended to go to the Young rockers Vibe on Sunday afternoon in view of the kind of work I do with the radio show. However car problems on the way to Dublin meant that I was not going to make it on time. However, I did hear reports of a great attendance and performances from all concerned. Credit to Belinda Rogers on all her hard work in the organisation of this event. The nurture of young talent is vital and this event gives the young musicians the experience of a properly organised live event and also an opportunity of perform with seasoned musicians who in turn can teach them the art of stagecraft.
Following a much needed meal I set out, along with a number of friends to the Pre-Vibe. This was not an event I normally went to, mainly as I would normally not arrive in Dublin until the 4th January but as this was the milestone 30th Vibe I wanted to be there earlier. As it turned out the venue was packed to capacity and, rightly so, no more were allowed to enter.
So, onward to Bruxelles and the statue. Bruxelles is the obvious hostelry the Lizzy faithful gravitate to and when we arrived that too was packed, not to capacity thankfully. ‘Philomena’s Room’ was occupied as you would expect with Thin Lizzy supporters and was the main bar and out side. It was a really lovely way to spend a few hours in the company of like minded people some of whom were in Ireland for the very first time and it was especially nice to see their reaction to the seasoned Vibers and to the Irish ways. Eventually we all found our way back to the hotel and the evening was rounded off with a few more drinks. Even at that late hour, more supporters were arriving and the cycle of meeting and greeting began all over again. Bedtime beckoned and with a busy day ahead I took advantage and took my leave.
Man on a Mission.
By now, those of you who were at the Vibe for Philo will know what happened when I popped out on stage to surprise Smiley. I’ll write more about that later.
I first had the idea to do something special back in August of 2015 when Smiley launched the Vibe. What first struck me was the fact that it was coming up on thirty years since Philip Lynott had died but more pertinently, it struck me that this was going to be Smileys thirtieth time organising this event. Granted the very early vibes were not as large as we have come to know but nevertheless they still had to be put together. So, thirty years, thirty vibes. He never missed one of them personally. Never allowing anything to get in the way be it, illness, death or weather conditions – the show must go on. With all of that a factor, I felt that something needed to be done. We all know that Smiley is MR.VIBE but even so I still felt that a proper presentation had to happen AND IT HAD TO HAPPEN in front of the Vibe audience. It could have been done after the show at the after party but again I felt that it all needed to be seen by as many people as possible.
I live in Waterford in the south east of Ireland. I have a friend (Thanks Ken!!!!) who works as a master craftman. I was very fortunate indeed that he knew what I was hoping to do and came up with the piece that was eventually presented to Smiley, which I am sure you will agree, is pretty stunning. I am forever in his debt for producing such an incredible piece of work. Once in the hotel it was simply a matter of keeping the glass in my room.
4th January 2016
A nice lazy start to the day having breakfast with people I had not seen for twelve months. It felt like it was just yesterday since we last spoke but still had a lot to talk about. A few hours rest and then back to the bar area to meet up with even more who had arrived. By now the atmosphere had built even more, due in part to the many ‘newbies’ who had arrived and their excitement was plain. There was a marked increase in the amount of Americans who had made the trip to Dublin this year and not just from the east coast but much further afield. The idea that this could be the final vibe and the fact that it was a milestone gig were the catalysts for many to attend. The afternoon for many of the traveling supporters was spent at Howth to see Philips resting place and, where possible, a visit to see Philomena. Despite not being in good health Philomena was as always ready to greet with open arms.
For my part, I was starting to set my sights on Vicar Street. I was a man on a mission with regard to the Glass sculpture that I needed to get to the venue.
My plan was, I thought, pretty straightforward. I would do the raffle and then POW, surprise him with the sculpture. That is, until I sat with Smiley at the North Star. Over the last four or so Vibes, Smiley had asked if I would do the raffle. Never really a problem apart from those damn raffle tickets. I always had difficulty telling what colour they were. So Smiley suggested that I don’t do the raffle ! ‘Ok’, I said agreeing but in my head I was thinking “aghhhhh, what do I do now?” For now I had to let that go, getting the piece to the venue and safely hidden away was my priority.
Normally I would not get to the venue until the regular times but this was different. I was there at 5.30pm and managed to find a secure spot in the green room. I knew that once the show was underway, Smiley would be down at the stage so I really just had to be sure he would not see it even if he did venture into the green room. With the piece safely stored away I took some time to stroll around the venue. I have been to Vicar Street many times, it’s one of my favourite venues in Dublin but I had never been in it without an audience. Now, there were just a few people about, all busily preparing for the night ahead. The Low Riders were sound checking while upstairs the clatter of bottles indicated that the bar was being stocked (they would need it!)
Heading back to the green room I bumped into Brian Downey. I have known Brian for a few years, not in any real close way but enough for us to know each other by name or perhaps it more correct for me to say, he knows me and what I do and my connection. What we spoke of in that short time I will not reveal here out of respect for the man as well as the musician. We spoke briefly later in the evening just prior to him taking to the stage. A really nice man, who is also a private man and one I have great time and admiration for, not just because he was Thin Lizzys drummer but for other reasons also. Like everyone else, I was delighted to see him play Thin Lizzy at this milestone event.
Likewise with Frank Murray, who was tour manager with Thin Lizzy. These days I have dealings with Frank in his capacity as band manager and promoter and me with the radio show, so our paths cross pretty regularly. I spoke with him a few minutes before he was due on stage to introduce Brian Downey and Eric Bell and he was, not unexpectedly, nervous. Nervous not just because he was unused to speaking in front of such a large audience but also the significance of the occasion. We, as supporters remember the music and the gigs we attended but for people like Frank, Eric, Brian and Smiley and of course Philomena and all those who were closely associated with the band on a day to day basis, it was a time for remembering in a way we cannot really fully understand. One he went and as anyone who was there will know, emotion got to him . It was a very touching moment and a very real moment as the memories came flooding back to him. After he left the stage, I shook his hand and congratulated him. He was shaking but I suspect he was glad to have done it. Well done Frank, Philip would have appreciated it.
Moment of Truth
The Hoodoos, Fiach Moriarty, Mongoose, John Cummins, Jerome and Gus (The Soul Brothers),Philomena, Frank, Eric & Brian and the Low Riders had all done their sets and the night had been terrific. The atmosphere was sizzling. Now came the raffle and I knew that the moment was not to far away for me to get out there on the stage and present Smiley with his award.
Now, it should be pointed out that Smiley runs a very tight ship and there’s very little, if anything, that goes on on stage that he does not know about. Timing was everything now !
Pat McGuire is the stage manager at the Vibe and has been for a long time. Another man who is superb at what he does. His part in what happened next was vital.
Carolyn and her daughter Lauren were in the process of pulling tickets for the raffle and were aware that I was poised to do my thing. (Sorry Smiley, many of your crew were in on it all ! 🙂 I said to Pat that the microphone that they were using was on the far side of the stage and that Smiley was standing immediately behind them ready to get back on and introduce PARRIS. In order to get to the mic and more importantly, get to it before Smiley did, I would need to be super human and be faster than Usain Bolt ! Add to that the fact I had the glass sculpture with me and needed to keep that as hidden as I could. In steps Pat with a moment of genius thinking. A radio mic ! A quick communication to the sound desk and the radio mic was live !
Now my friends…..If looks could kill I was dead and buried !! Smiley, on the phone to me a few days later, said he could not remember how he reacted. It was a look more of utter shock and surprise than anything else. I knew that it was something he was not expecting, like I said he runs a tight ship and in his eyes I should not be there. In that same instant I think he may have caught a glimpse of the glass and he resigned himself to whatever was about to happen.
GOT YA !
Smiley is not usually stuck for words but this time he was. It was never my intention to take long with the presentation but at the same time I wanted to be sure that Smiley take the spotlight in his own right. My little speech over – “Smiley, take a bow”, I left the stage. I regard loyalty among friends very highly and it was for his loyalty to Philip that I made the decision to do something to see that loyalty rewarded. – There’s also another reason, but that’s between me and him, though I don’t think he knows. I may tell him sometime. When he came off stage, we shared a nice moment. I immediately took the sculpture from him and returned it to the safety of green room and eventually back to the hotel. Job done !
So another Vibe drew to a close and the after party back at the hotel was as you would expect, buzzing with people recalling their own highlights. What an amazing night/weekend. All Vibes are great but this one, well this one had that little bit extra. Number thirty, Eric Bell and Brian Downey performing, Philomena and Smiley and of course the music and the memory of Philip Parris Lynott.
Will there be a thirty first? All indications point to no, and even if there is another it will not be as we know it. But what do I know ? The tenth was to be the last, as was the twentieth and twenty fifth. The call is Smileys but I don’t feel anyone would begrudge him if he stepped down. None of us are getting any younger. Could someone else take over? I was even asked if I’d do it ! Respectively, no. Besides there are far more qualified people than me. To be honest, no matter who took it on, if anyone, they could not do it the way Smiley did. He special relationship with Philip was a major part of what it was all about. Purely from a personal viewpoint, I don’t it fair to put it on Smileys shoulders again. He deserves the break. That said, come next August he may wonder what to do with himself as he contemplates and only he will know. Whatever happens, I know that come 4th January 2017 Ill be in Bruxelles, raising a drink to Philip.
“….the years, the tears, the memories and you, in Dublin”
Philip Lynott – ‘Dublin’