Tag Archives: Phoenix

People of Norn’ Ir’n

I’m sure many of you have heard my daughter Hannah’s announcement concerning her relocating to the states in October to pursue her musical dreams. This is extra exciting news for me because Hannah and I will finally have the opportunity to record, tour, and hopefully write together. We’ve done some playing together, but not really together-together if you know what I mean. It’s pretty cool to be a dad who’s kid actually wants to be seen and heard playing music with her dad, but then again, she’s a pretty cool kid! We will have a new website and Facebook page soon to explain what we have planned. Watch for details in the coming weeks. We’re going to kick off this new journey together with a 2 to 3 week tour of Ireland/UK in October. We’re still working on booking that, but will post dates soon. This leads me into the main point of todays post…

While setting up this tour I have been lucky enough to reconnect with some good friends from Ireland-some of whom I had almost completely lost touch. It’s been fun reconnecting. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of my Irish musician friends had become hugely successful on this side of the pond. A lot of these people really helped and encouraged me along my way. They gave me gigs, shared the stage, helped me make contacts and bought me more than a few pints. They loaned me stuff, covered for me when I was sick, donated studio time and most importantly they shared their talent and inspiration. In return for all this kindness I’d like to highlight some of these beautiful people and help send some love their way. So please, read this blog and then go check these people out…

Foy Vance
I first met Foy when he came to play a gig for our class at Bangor Tech. It wasn’t really a gig; more an opportunity to try our chops at running sound and lights for a real artist. Foy opened his set with one of my favorite songs, ‘Fortress Around Your Heart’ by Sting. I’ll never forget Foy’s amazing acoustic arrangement and that incredibly powerful voice of his. We became good friends, shared some gigs, made some coffee (to be fair-he made all of the coffee), shared some great stories and a boat load of laughs. Since then Foy has toured and recorded with Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt and Ed Sheeran (to name only a few). It was a delight to catch up with Foy on his current US tour with South Carolina rockers ‘needtobreathe’. Foy is currently touring the US to promote his incredibly beautiful album ‘The Joy of Nothing’ (Glassnote Records). Check out Foy’s website and absolutely go see him live. You’ll be blown away!

Susan Enan
I first met the angelic Susan Enan when she appeared at my open mic at Belfast’s Auntie Annie’s Pub (Too many years ago to mention). She was so quiet and reserved I was afraid that people would talk over her set, but she had quite the opposite effect on a crowd. You could hear a pin drop every time she’d sing. She was quiet as a mouse, but yet somehow, incredibly powerful. Her music is beautiful and truly timeless. We shared the stage a few times before I left to follow my dreams back in the US. I’d lost touch with Susan until recently finding her on Facebook. To my delight and surprise I found that Susan had relocated to Brooklyn and was still actively pursuing her recording career. Susan’s beautiful song ‘Bring on the Wonder’ was featured on an episode of Bones and later included on the Bones soundtrack release. None other than Sarah McLachlan then recorded the tune. McLachlan’s included the tune on her 7th studio album ‘Laws of Illusion’. Susan has traveled the world playing house concerts from Ireland and UK to Europe, New Zealand, Australia and even as far as Alaska and the Arctic Circle. She has beautifully documented her journey in a short film that can be viewed on her website. Check it out at:

Ben Reel
Ben Reel was a well known local artist when I broke into the Belfast music scene in the late 90’s. I didn’t know Ben very well, but he was instrumental in helping me get some of my first gigs in those early days. It was mostly cover songs for the two of us back then, but we developed a mutual appreciation and would often fill in for each other when we had been double booked. Sadly Ben and I lost touch after I relocated to the states in 2001. When I moved to Nashville in 2010, I was delighted to find that Ben was splitting his time between Ireland and Nashville and was doing extremely well in both lands. Ben has been busy since those early Belfast days. He has released 6 studio albums and toured with the likes of Tommy Womack, Jools Holland, Alabama 3 and The Cranberries. Ben has a great down home Americana sensibility that leans heavily towards old school country. Check him out at:

Nathan Connolly
I’m pretty sure I met Nathan while doing sound for his band F.U.E.L. at Katy Daly’s bar in Belfast. I jibed him about the likelihood of future back problems from slinging his guitar so low. We later became good friends and classmates in the music program at Bangor Tech. We would often kill time teaching each other Alice in Chains songs between classes. Since then Nathan has gone on to sell over 11 million albums with Snow Patrol and has recently launched a brand new album with his own band ‘Little Matador’. I was able to reconnect with Nathan recently at a Snow Patrol show at Utah Valley University where we had a long chat over a few beers before the show. I’m delighted to say that fame and fortune hasn’t changed him a bit. He’s still that same lanky guitar slinging kid I knew back in college. One of the nicest blokes I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Good on ya’ Nathan. Can’t wait to see the new band live. I hope you’ll be around the UK in October.
Check out Nathan’s new project here:


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Hatred of City Parks

I really hate city parks. Though they seem like a good idea on the surface, further inspection reveals that they are the antithesis of what our species, or any species, truly needs. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the protection afforded what little is left of the natural world. However, I despise the idea that these little islands of nature be protected whilst we allow industry and “progress” to destroy the true wilderness.

I am hiking with my lab, Chianti, through South Mountain Park in the heart of Phoenix, AZ. We started early in the hope of achieving solitude and silence. It started peacefully enough. It was only once we’d begun to rise above the valley that I heard the noise. As we climbed, our peace was gradually eroded by the rising cacophony of airplanes, automobiles, barking dogs, horns, traffic, factories, whirring electrical cables, and engines clashing together in a flash of unnatural white noise; the eerie symphony of industry, progress; the sound of impending death.

Like the smog that smothers this valley, the pollutant cannot be witnessed by those within the belly of the beast. Atop these desert mountain peaks, where one would expect to hear the sound of solitude, one is instead confronted by the incessant howling of the gates of hell. I desperately need to get off of this cursed mountain, out of this valley, and into the arms of the deep mountain wilderness. Until then I will have to invest in some ear plugs to couple with these smog filtering sunglasses.

As we make our way back to the demon valley we are confronted by a well meaning but under informed park steward chastising us for cross-cutting out of bounds of the established trail. I somehow resist the urge to remove his voice-box and simply apologize for our transgression instead. I can’t blame the dog; she is only doing what comes naturally. As we walk away I consider to myself the problem of our eroding natural world. I strongly suspect that this erosion has more to do with the encroachment of housing, industry, mining, nuclear reactors, the Chamber of Commerce, the BLM, and “progress” than with my habitual cross-trail cutting.

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Instant Hobo @ Mugshots, Tempe, AZ. Nov 10, 2012

This review is the first in a series of essays that I have written/am writing for many of my undergraduate journalism classes. Enjoy.

Instant Hobo @ Mugshots, Tempe, AZ.  Nov 10, 2012

Reviewed by Mikael Lewis

From its location at the cross-streets of Apache and Rural, near the heart of the ASU campus, I assumed Mugshots would be a typical student dive bar. I was right on the money. Jutting out from the corner of another heartless strip mall, the vomit green neon Mugshots sign foreshadowed the faces of the clientele to be found inside. Opposite the entrance door is an array of police arrest photos revealing the bedraggled faces of Johnny Cash, Keanu Reeves, Bugsy Malone, and Jim Morrison et al; Mugshots indeed! As I ventured past the portrait gallery, I was instantly confronted by the appalling sound of hip-hop karaoke. This was not what I was expecting as the opener for a critically acclaimed Americana band. Not to be deterred, I decided to have a beer to put my senses at ease. As an alternative to the $2 PBR student special, I opted for the frothy hemp ale that was tonight’s tap special. The earthy brew was actually a rather tasty concoction that set me in the proper frame of mind to hear some good ole Americana music.

As the band was setting up, I contemplated the anticipation leading up to this gig. Instant Hobo’s front man and chief writer, John Feula, has been a favorite of mine since hearing him play in a Chandler Coffee shop some 13 years ago. With the addition of drummer James Thorp and bass player Jasun Downing, Feula’s quirky alternative folk sound has been transformed into a powerhouse fusion of old school country, alt country, southern rock, punk, and rockabilly.   Instant Hobo came together some time after I had moved away from Arizona. After following the band from a distance, I was excited to finally see them perform in a live setting.

There wasn’t much of a crowd at this show but there was definitely a feeling of shared appreciation among the gathered few; a sense that they alone were privy to a highly treasured secret. (Feula later quipped that the phrase “There wasn’t much of a crowd” should be used as his epitaph). After working through some technical hitches with a decidedly inadequate house PA system, Mugshots manager, Country, introduced the band with hearty praise; calling Hobo his favorite local band. With this introduction as a starting gun, Feula et al bolted into their set.

As the band launched into the rockabilly/train shuffle of Bitter Biscuit Line, I couldn’t help but notice that the cheap speakers, Radio Shack mics, and minimal crowd did not seem to faze Instant Hobo or minimize their enthusiasm in the slightest bit. I got the feeling that these boys would be equally comfortable playing an arena or a backwater barn hoedown. After Bitter Biscuit came the tune Some Lies Are Worth Living; a sort of pop/country romp extoling the virtues of making the best of a bad situation. The next tune, Strange Old Man, reminded me ofmy grumpy old neighbor Delbert Barney channeled through the likes of Johnny Cash or Ernest Tubb. I could almost picture Delbert sitting on his porch, shotgun in hand, just waiting for some insolent street urchin to step one foot on his precious lawn.

With the comedic No Room For Pie, Feula croons through such words as “My back is aching for seconds of bacon.” (Feula, 2010).  This strolling jazz numberhad me laughing out loud with its goofy, Bugs Bunny/Mel Brooks style sexual innuendo. The tune Marshall Pass continued the jazzy themebut drove it into more of a  punk/jazz style reminiscent of the Dead Kennedy’s tune We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now. Just as I was snapping my fingers to this punkish jazz shuffle, Hobo switched gears and launched into a dueling bass/guitar section that reminded me of Marshall Tucker or Molly Hatchett at their raunchy southern best. Then, just as quickly as he had come, Feula’s Southern Rock Hobo handed the reins right back to his virtual old school Ernest Tubb before I even knew what had happened. The musicality inherent in a band that can change directions so quickly without losing the audience boggles the mind. As I looked around the tiny room it was obvious, from the broad smiles and tapping feet, that the crowd was every bit as enraptured as I was.

After rolling through obvious crowd favorites such as the hilarious Two Story Outhouse, Mojo’s Funeral, and Rock Island Rocket, Instant Hobo completed their set with their latest tunes Gator Queen, South Americana, and Out From The Ashes. Gator Queen, athumpingSouthern Swamp Rock gem of a tune, findsFeula returning to his Florida roots as a swamp rat in search of his ever elusive reptilian nemesis. I’d not be surprised if this tune were to surface on an episode of The History Channels Swamp People. They certainly couldn’t find a better suited tune. When questioned, Feula confirmed that he did have the show in mind when writing the tune. It has been submitted for inclusion in the show but Feula has yet to receive any word.

The tune South Americana continued Instant Hobo’s new Southern Rawk theme. The song’s lyrics seem to plant tongue firmly in cheek with words expressing the virtues of cheap beer, jacked up pickups, and redneck attitudes. I have a feeling though, that this tune would be beloved by the very folks it is berating in the same way that Springsteen’s Born in the USA or Dire Strait’s Money For Nothing have been.

The boys concluded the show with their latest single;craftily penned by Hobo’s bass player, Jasun Downing. Out From the Ashes is an inspiring tale about getting back on your horse after a heartbreaking tumble. This tune certainly channels the bands beloved American southwest landscape much like an Ennio Morricone film would do. If ever there is a full feature film about the ill-fated young Southwestern explorer Edward Reuss or the anarchist writer Edward Abbey, then Out From The Ashes should serve as its theme tune. Perhaps Instant Hobo could even host the premier and finally receive the size of crowd that they surely deserve?

For more information about Instant Hobo, visit their website at http://www.instanthobo.com


Feula, J. (2010), No Room for Pie [Recorded by Instant Hobo], From the album Honey the Horse [Compact Disc]. Mesa, AZ, Instant Hobo Records (November, 2010)

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The Tale of the Burning Shorts

Phoenix, Arizona, summer 2002. It was 126°Fahrenheit and the hottest day of the year. I couldn’t help feeling that part of me was going to catch fire. I was part of a local crew setting up the outer lawn stage for the nights Aerosmith show. It was so hot that one crewmember had been assigned to ensure that we all consumed enough water and electrolyte pills to prevent us withering from dehydration. The water bearer carried a checklist that we would sign each time we drank our designated liter per hour. I remember thinking how strange it was that I could consume so much liquid and yet never feel the need to urinate. Exposed to this intensity of heat the water evaporates through your pores so efficiently that there’s nothing left for your kidney and bladder to process. The liquid dissipates so quickly that you don’t even realize you are sweating. Yet, in this utter lack of humidity there was one part of my body that never seemed to dry. I was actually beginning to walk bull legged from the chaffing below and decided to jettison my boxers into the nearest trashcan.

This would be the start of my downward spiral.

I had insider knowledge that after the band played “Mama Kin” they would move on to the outer stage. At that point I positioned myself in front of the stage right monitor so I could see Joe Perry’s fingers tearing up the fretboard. I was in guitar geek utopia when, midway through “Walk This Way”, I began to smell something burning. I looked around to discover the source. To my horror I realized that the guy next to me was holding a burning cigarette and had unwittingly set my shorts ablaze. I started to remove the flaming shorts but had to stop once I remembered that I had nothing on underneath. I really didn’t want to be the guy that got arrested for nudity at the Aerosmith concert. And so I did what any self-respecting Steven Tyler wannabe would do. I snatched the beer from my closest neighbor and sloshed it down my leg to extinguish the flames.

I will forever keep those shorts.

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