|Eileen Ivers fiddles around, up and down
By Jason Kuban
long, sad note cries from her blue violin, slicing through the heat like
a sword through velvet. The vigor of Eileen Ivers and her band, Immigrant
Soul, pulls her crowd together like a lighthouse summoning a wayward fleet.
Such is the scene when the six-piece band boards the Piggly Wiggly stage
at Milwaukee's Summerfest the last day of June and sets hands clapping
and feet stomping.
grab some anchor bolts, the benches were hopping off the ground!
Ivers and Immigrant Soul, along with Black 47, Hothouse Flowers, Saw
Doctors and several other Irish performers are part of the American Fleadh
Tour, hitting major cities coast-to-coast. The Milwaukee gig is in the
middle of the high-juiced jaunt
Ivan Goff — the pipe and flute player for Immigrant Soul — wipes down his
pipes and tucks them neatly into their case. He prefers touring with groups,
rather than playing solo, because a band provides more of a communal and
Goff says the most stressful part of touring is stepping off of the
bus minutes before a show starts. Other times when touring becomes stressful,
he says goes off into a corner by himself and plays his flute. Overhearing
his secret, the pack of Irish musicians around him laugh. But Goff is no
loner. He's busy maintaining his title as the Fleadh Tour Foosball Champion.
Soul bassist Emanuel Chulo Gatewood doesn't let much get in the way of
his performance. To prepare himself for a gig, Gatewood simply stays quiet.
"You got to be quiet inside, get rid of any ego barrier and let the voice
come out through the music," he emphasizes. Gatewood therefore can focus
on "that which is always there: the music." He adds, "Just shut up and
let the spirit play."
Ivers Speaks Out
Eileen Ivers, front person of Immigrant Soul, then speaks about the wide
range of venues where the band plays. In addition to festivals, Her group
has played more formally with symphonies and at performing art centers.
Immigrant Soul has played with the Boston Pops on PBS and with the National
Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. Be it to an auditorium of suit
and ties, or a lakeshore of t-shirts and sandals, Ivers and Immigrant Soul
invite these challenges.
prefers the informal scene of festivals, although she considers it an honor
to play alongside symphonies. "It's part of Immigrant Soul's nature to
be compatible to both," she explains, adding that it is the wide array
of musical backgrounds comprising the band that makes it appealing to such
For instance, Ivers says that the group's Latin and African element
draws in a hip hop crowd that otherwise would be less exposed to world
music, much less the strains of folk or bluegrass that filter through her
a degree in mathematics, Ivers admits she never dreamed of having a music
career. She laughs, saying she once imagined working for NASA. Ivers dispels
the rumor that mathematicians cannot be musically creative. "Math skills
facilitate the creative process because they aid in critical and analytical
thinking, which are powerful creative tools," she points out.
Recently, Zeta Music has sought Ivers' out to develop a signature series
violin crafted to her specs.
Black 47 Takes the Stage
after Immigrant Soul wrapped its set up, Black 47 took the stage, fortified
with percussion, bass, trombone, tenor and soprano saxes. Front man Larry
Kirwan came on armed with a Stratocaster and an old, beat-up Fender amp
from the early '60s.
Black 47's style of music may not summon the same foot-stomping response
as Immigrant Soul, but its improvising musical nature drives the audience's
imagination to a state of militant loyalty.
It takes minimal effort for Kirwan to get the first few rows on their
collective feet. The fans poise like a battalion, extending right arms
up and forward in salute as the drums slow to a marching beat. But there's
always an element of surprise with Black 47, that improv nature lurks mischievously
in the near future, ready to spin the musicians into a new groove.
In fact, the audience is surprised when the march recedes and Black
47 bursts into "When the Saints Come Marching In." Then the same number
takes another unexpected turn, and closes with a few romping bars of classic
American R&B boogie-woogie.
Black 47 bassist Andrew Goodsight laughs after the upbeat show. When
asked if he had any pre-show rituals, Goodsight laughs and says, "I'll
have to talk to my lawyer before I can answer that one!" Obviously, Goodsight
relies on his humor when things get stressful. For Goodsight, hardest part
of touring is the driving from gig to gig and all the sitting around waiting
to go on stage. Goodsight rarely writes material when on the road. The
hustle-bustle of touring gives him little chance for reflection, he confirms.
Though he refrains from drinking alcohol at home, Goodsight admits that
he drinks, eats worse and sleeps less when on the road.
Band Tours Year Round
Black 47 tours year round, mostly on a three-day-on, four-day-off schedule.
Within this time frame, the band sees a lot of different venues. Goodsight
says that Black 47 plays to audiences ranging in size from 50 people at
a bar and up to 7,000 at outdoor venues. "I don't have a venue preference,
it's all about the crowd," he affirms, adding that fan reaction is what
makes or breaks the gig. "The more positive the response, the bigger the
payoff," he says, going on to state that Summerfest is among his best touring
Black 47 founder Kirwan prepares for gigs sometimes with yoga and other
times with a beer or shot of whiskey. His trick is to eliminate any nerves.
"No nerves," says Kirwan, "thinking is a distraction, I must stop thinking
in order to be creative."
For Kirwan, the most stressful part of touring is the short period just
before going on stage. It is a time when he has to transform himself from
an ordinary guy into a rock and roll showman. Kirwan says that it's a pact
among other members of Black 47 to roll with the changes.
"There's no smile required to be in this band," he says. "But
try to take however you're feeling that day and turn it into energy onstage."
When things become stressful, Kirwan simply dismisses the challenge as
being a part of the business.
Scope Has Not Changed
Kirwan proudly says that the original scope in which Black 47 was founded
has not changed. He still believes that music can facilitate social and
political change. Kirwan also incorporates his theater background into
"Every Black 47 song is a small play, with a character, all of which
must be interpreted," says Kirwan. On Black 47's web page, Kirwan calls
the band's early days "sexy, booze-driven marathons." When asked whether
this description still applies, Kirwan smiles and says, "Not so much anymore."
Black 47 used to do up to four sets a night but now the most they do
is a "double header," which consists of an afternoon and evening set. Kirwan
says, "If there's an audience I'll play in a pig sty."
In addition to Black 47's reduction of performances per day, Kirwan
says his lifestyle has taken a turn for the better. He watches himself
on the road, drinks less than he used to and sometimes spends nights in
the hotel staring at the ceiling. The years have helped Kirwan realize
that he cannot give the audience their dollars worth if he parties like
a rock star every night.
Kirwan is a road warrior who occasionally misses his relatives back
in Ireland. Otherwise, he loves being on the road. Every city is a home,
there are places all over where he can go and be welcomed by someone he
knows, he says.
"I'm like Dylan in that sense," says Kirwan. "He loved being on that
Eileen Ivers' Summertime Schedule:
10 – Falun, Sweden Falun Festival
12 – Vikedal, Norway Vikedal Festival
17 – Ramapo, NJ Ramapo College
18 – East Greenwich, RI
19 – Mashpee, MA Boch Center
21 – Ocean City, NJ Ocean City Music Pier
29 – Cleveland, OH Cain Park Summer Arts Series
01 – Steamboat Springs, CO Strings Music Tent
02 – Arvada, CO Arvada Center Amphitheatre
03 – Copper Mountain, CO Copper Mountain Ski Resort
04 – Santa Fe, NM Lensic Theater
10 – Lorient, France Festival Interceltique
12 – Galway, Ireland Town Hall Theater
13 – Dublin, Ireland National Concert Hall
17 – Dundee, NY Glenora Wine Cellars
21 – Alexandria, VA The Birchmere
22 – Orkney Springs, VA Shenandoah Valley Music Festival
23 – Lowell, MA Boarding House Park
25 – Lenox, MA Tanglewood Boston Pops Orchestra –
29 – Tonder, Denmark Tonder Festival
30 – Tonder, Denmark Tonder Festival
31 – Tonder, Denmark Tonder Festival
Black 47 Schedule:
12 – Troy Brewery, Troy, NY (with The Fabulous Ruffians)
13 – Solarfest, Green Mountain College, 1 College Circle, Poultney,
15 – Port Jefferson Irish Festival, Long Island, NY (Jeanie Johnston
18 – South Street Seaport Music Festival, Pier 17 @ Fulton St. 6PM.
Pre-show appearance at J&R Music, Park Row, NYC
19 – Ocean Mist, Matunuck, RI
25 – Beachcomber, Quincy, MA www.beachcomberquincy.com
26 – Cavanaugh's River Deck, Philadelphia, PA
2 – Stephen's Talk House, Amagansett, Long Island, NY
8 – Delaney's Irish Ale & Steak House, 980 Route 6, Greenville,
NY 12771 (845) 856-6435 (for tickets 845-858-2917
9 – John Boyle O'Reilly Festival, Springfield, MA
11-28 – Vacation
29 – Blackthorn, E. Durham, NY
30 – Blackthorn, E. Durham, NY
31 – On The Waterfront Festival, Rockford, IL (815) 964-4388
5 – Birchmere, Alexandria, VA
13 – TBA
20 – Altamont 2000 Festival, Albany, NY
4 – Hoboken, NJ
13 – Roisin Dubh, Galway, Ireland 091 586540 Tickets: Mulligan 091
564961 or Zhivago 091 509960
14 – Whelans, Wexford St., Dublin (01) 4780766 Tickets: Ticket Master:
0818719300 or www.ticketmaster.ie
15 – Whelan's, Wexford St., Dublin (As above)
16 – Talbot Hotel, Wexford, Tickets: Whites For Music 053 22067
18 – The Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney Telephone (064) 71555
28 – Bodle's Opera House, Chester, NY