Mike Austin recaps our final Session and wonders, where did all the Magners glasses go?
What a finish! The Magners Chicago Irish Sessions wrapped up last night with a great concert and party at the Abbey Pub, one of the city’s most storied Irish haunts.
The Holy Hour House Band started things off with their lively mix of songs and traditional dance tunes, and then Kevin Flynn & the Avondale Ramblers came on and spun the volume knob a couple of clicks.They delivered a solid hour-plus of high-energy Irish rock (make that, “Chicago Irish rock”) that often had many people in the crowd doing the hop-up-and-down-in-place dance, especially the huge group of people who came down in a pack from Pharmore Drugs in Skokie. The Pharmore folks had no problem raising their glasses and shouting at the band. And the band loved it. That’s probably one of the reasons they are in a band.
Partygoers were dressed in everything from after-work suits and ties, to hipster stocking caps worn indoors. Flynn himself looked like a newsboy from the 1920s, and his four band-mates looked as if they had played their fare share of cider-soaked rock shows through the years.
“We don’t have mayors in Chicago,” Flynn said, leading off his band’s set. “We have popes. Here’s a song about our first pope, Richard J. Daley.” The band ripped through an original catalog of Chicago-original songs that were harder-sounding than the Waterboys, softer than the Pogues. With a touch of the Clash thrown in. Or as iPod winner Julie Hernandez put it (and no, she didn’t win another one at the Abbey–someone else did), “They were like Irishbilly, instead of rockabilly.”
A twangy electric guitar added to Flynn’s acoustic six-string. There was also an electric bass, mandolin and a thuddy drum set. Flynn sang, played harmonica and tin whistle, and handled all of the between-song banter, including this gem about a 19th century Chicago serial killer: “He was supposedly killing 200 people while Jack the Ripper was getting all the press in London for killing only 7, so Chicago is number 1.”
Besides their Chicago originals, Flynn & the Avondale Ramblers also stormed through some nice standards and covers, including “The Irish Rover,” “The Minstrel Boy,” “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn” and “I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day.”
In that last song, when Flynn sang the line “Fill up your glasses with whiskey and wine,” the bass player, whose axe looked like a giant white chocolate teardrop with two healthy bites taken out of the sides, calmly interjected: “or Magners.” That’s a band that knows how to play to the crowd.
“This is a proud moment for our neighborhood,” said Rob Reid, an Avondale resident who made the trip up Elston Street to the Abbey for the Magners party. “I’m serious.” He then raised his glass to Avondale and the Avondale Ramblers, and said, simply “Avondale.”
Shortly after that, the Holy Hour House Band’s drummer, Tim Mulvenna, walked by. I think he had just signed an autograph when I overheard him say, “Yeah, they ran out of Magners glasses.” That’s a good sign. If you have to pour Magners into plain pint glasses because all of your Magners glasses are dirty, you are throwing a pretty damn good party.
The night ended, appropriately, with Flynn raising his glass of Magners to the crowd and launching into one his originals. “This is my toast to Chicago,” he said, hoisting his glass above the assembled fans of Magners and music. “Here’s to you, Second City.”
And here’s to you, Magners. Thanks for 10 great parties.