THIS goulish blog post brings me way back to ‘98 when we were fledgling punk rockers pulling out all the stops to build a name for ourselves and a solid foundation in our home town of Drogheda. The only problem was – we weren’t always in control on the building site!
One of the Posters advertising our ‘Dead Keds’ Halloween gig.
It’s Halloween night ‘98 and we’re gearing up for an exciting headline gig in McHugh’s Bar, Drogheda. We always loved playing McHugh’s back when it was just a grubby function room with a dodgy crowd – our kinda crowd, a low ceiling and enough room to hold about 150 people legally… and a lot more illegally.
Back than Drogheda had an amazing original music scene, although small, with the likes of The Infidels from Slane, Cisco Pike from Mell, Conspiracy, Solomon, Blue Reign, Black Faith, Black List and all girl indie band Valeshio to name but a few. I think all the musicians appreciated how great it was back then so I remember it all today with great fondness and no regrets.
There was a real buzz around Drogheda’s youthful music scene and you always saw the same music heads and music fans at every gig. It was like a family, albeit a very competitive family, but we all got along… most of the time. It was a proper scene with indie bands, rock bands, funk bands, metal bands and us punk rock bands.
Anyway, back then if you were a friend of ours then you were usually assigned a job around gig time whether it was lifting backline up and down to our band room, which was on the third floor of an old building on Laurence Street, sticking up posters, handing out flyers, collecting money at the door or if you had a driving licence – you could be our ‘tour manager’ and drive us to gigs. Needless to say – we had very few friends around gig time (just kidding!).
So it’s Halloween night and we’ve just spent most of the day and some of the previous day ‘decorating’ the venue with all the crappy Halloween paraphernalia we could afford, find and make. We were always great at improvisation so Boey had an idea to visit some local textile factories in search of unwanted black or red material to dress the stage with and hang around the venue. He didn’t disappoint. By they time we were finished the place looked like a sort of Halloween grotto and was pretty damn cool… as far as I remember.
Now that I think of it, we had cloth hang from the ceiling, fake cobwebs, plastic skeletons, rubber bats and God knows what else all over the place as well as candles on the tables. Probably not a good idea from a health and safety point of view but the owner, TP McHugh didn’t seem to give a damn so long as we tidied it up all the crap the following day.
McHugh’s in Drogheda was a music mecca for young bands during the 1990s and early 2000s.
So it’s 9pm and our band room neighbours and friends ‘Conspiracy’, a metal band, warmed up the crowd with covers from Iron Maiden, Metallica and the like. They were followed by cool all-girl indie rock band Velashio and Wicklow band Alastair. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any of my friends play because I had this great idea to help promote the gig.
PROBLEM: McHugh’s is a short walk from the centre of town so unless you’re specifically going there to see a gig you’re unlikely to walk past it.
SOLUTION: Armed with my great idea, a beer crate, a long piece of black cloth and a large plastic grim reaper sickle I looked around for one of our trustee-friends / guinea pigs.
I saw my friend Tim, who was later ‘immortalised’ in our old song ‘The Jury’, sitting around with nothing better to do than enjoy his quiet pint so I convinced him to follow me down to West Street in the heart of Drogheda.
Once on West Street I told him to stand on the beer crate, wrap the black cloth around himself, pull it up over his head and hold the sickle in one hand and flyers advertising our gig in the other!
Tadaaa! We got the grim reaper advertising our Halloween gig on West Street – that got a few more punters in the door I tell ya. Tim honestly looked the part and certainly attracted lots of attention – some of it unwanted.
Damn, it’s almost show time and I’m half ways through this Blog post yet I still haven’t mentioned the theme of our Halloween bash. For the gig we decided to call ourselves ‘Dead Keds’ and dress up as dead rock stars. Not very original but I thought the play on the band name worked well – ya know, ‘Dead’ replacing ‘The’.
So Boey dressed up as Jimmy Hendrix, Trevor as John Bonham, Brendan as Buddy Holly and I dressed as Sid Vicious. We never did anything like this before and were pretty damn nervous about getting into costumes and makeup in the toilets of McHugh’s so we decided to run down to our band room just 2 minutes away and get prepped there.
Let me tell ya we looked ridiculous! But we laughed our asses off, fell back out onto the street and ran for the venue getting funny looks all the way but so long as we were all in it together we didn’t care.
Now you’d think this Blog was about the actual ‘Dead Keds’ gig right but in all honesty I don’t remember too much about the actual performance other than sweeting bullets in the packed venue and having to play in costumes. Me as Sid Vicious wearing a heavy biker jacket while Boey and Trevor fought off passing out under their sweaty wigs. Throughout the gig, the four of us were struggling to keep cheap costume makeup from running into our eyes. We were a mess.
So the gig’s over and we stashed our guitars and amps in the band room as per usual on the way to Fusion Night Club – our favourite haunt (excuse the pun), to continue the party. I remember we were all hyped and probably drunk heading in when a photographer from The Drogheda Independent spotted us and wanted to take our photo. Hyped and drunk we couldn’t refuse getting into a photo and neither could another friend of ours Dan Gaynor who did a lot of our artwork back in the day.
The only problem is Dan wasn’t dressed up and wasn’t in the band but sure we didn’t care. The rest of the night is total blur but I remember being both excited and very nervous about seeing the newspaper the following week. After all reputations take a lifetime to build and just one dodgy photo to destroy.
Dead Keds! Proof that reputations can be destroyed with just one photograph! Imagine having to look at this photo every time your band appeared in the local newspaper. L-R: Me, Boey, Dan, Brendan and Trevor.
The review of the gig was awesome and the photo was ridiculous as expected. We looked like a bad version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show or something, with one ‘normal’ member – Dan in the middle! Poor Dan – at least we could hide behind the melted makeup and wigs.
We were a bit embarrassed over the coming week and kept our heads down around the town but we figured this week’s news would be lining next week’s budgie cages so it was just a matter of lying low for a few days.
How wrong we were. Like I said ‘98 was a busy year for us (as was ’99) and saw us gigging in Drogheda and Dundalk quite a lot not to mention taking part in national competitions in Dublin, releasing a single and appearing on TV. We proved to be reliable filler for the local newspaper. The only problem – every article we featured in was accompanied by that damn photo of us dressed like idiots!
This went on for months and months and I honestly think people thought THAT was our image – like we were some sorta bad Shock Rock / Goth band. To make matters worse it was a broadsheet newspaper so they always used the photos extra big. They say no publicity is bad publicity but over the next 8 months or so, well into ‘99, we were beginning to think otherwise.
Furthermore, I was usually the one on the receiving end of the complaints within the band every time the photo was printed because I was meant to be ‘looking after the media’. Yeah – like I’m telling the journalists, ‘Sure. Go ahead and use that brutal Halloween photo of us dressed like gobshites…. AGAIN! For the few people in our home town that didn’t already see it!’ If this was the 80s in the height of tensions between the Mods and Rockers we would have been Dead Keds alright… for real!
In the end we asked someone to go into the newspaper offices, demand the hardcopy of the photo and delete the digital copy from their system. Looking back now I realise it was our own fault. On that faithful Halloween night the photo was taken I remember thinking to myself, “This could come back to ‘haunt’ us!”
Thanks for reading.
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Outside Fusion Night Club: Dead Keds find a bit of fake blood for Dan!
*** To read a review of the gig click on the link below