My name is Keegan McInroe, and I am a singer-songwriter from Lubbock who’s been living in Fort Worth off and on since 2001 when I began my four years of study at Texas Christian University. Over the course of my ten plus years writing, performing and recording original music, I’ve played hundreds of shows and traveled thousands of miles throughout the United States and Europe. My latest tour is a four-month trek and ramble north, east, south, and west around the Old World. Whether you’re a fellow musician, a fellow traveler, or simply a reader who loves a good tale from the road, Texas Troubadour Abroad –– my bi-weekly travelogue published here on the Weekly’s website –– will have something for you.
“We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?” — The Eleventh Doctor (Dr. Who)
I’m being serenaded from somewhere upstairs of this north London flat by what sounds like “I Wanna Be Like You,” from Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book. A couple of families are enjoying this unusually hot day in their back garden out the window below me. A Jack Russell Terrier stands at the kitchen table next to me, front paws on the window seal, alert, intrigued, enticed by smells he’s taking in at heavier-felt doses than I am, no doubt.
There’s talk of Peppa Pig. Peppa Pig is seemingly, mysteriously inescapable. Children’s voices and laughter. A woman is breastfeeding. A baby is suckling.
Yes, and I’m informed it is indeed “I Wanna Be Like You.” My old buddy and host the last two nights, Mr. Andrew Balkwill, is learning it for an upcoming gig.
This marks the second time I’ve found the swinging cartoon soundtrack favorite in my ear-hole this tour. Back in Rudolstadt, end of June at another back yard garden party, I was treated to a live rendition on guitar, sang with an amusing flavoring of slight German accent. One of my favorite witnessed performances of the summer — and it would be followed by another: that epic “Sex Machine” jam and interpretive dance episode I relayed here a month or so back.
“Like a sex machine! Like a bridge!”
Oliver is whining. Running back and forth between the door and my line of vision. Jumping up beside me. He wants to go and investigate the children and the food. He is pleading with me. Oliver is not interested in my story or my focus.
But my story has now taken in Oliver. And that’s the way of it. There’s been many characters taken in and said goodbye to these last two weeks, and he’ll be next.
The Irish-wake-hangover gave way to the new day’s drink shortly after brunch back on the outskirts of Dublin. There was a celebration of two women’s births and free fried foods and snuck ass-flasks of booze and a late-night dance party and an even later-night conversation until sun-up covering everything from Eastwood’s American Sniper to the feasibility of the ending of Interstellar to politics — as usual — to the consensus that our world is in big trouble.
“Fucked” was the echoed sentiment.
And in the spirit of laughing into the abyss, there were swinging chandeliers and more drink.
That weekend Cody and I kicked around Dublin with no shows, yucking it up with my friend, local songstress Tania Notaro. We went through some euros and some pints and some nice home-cooked meals and a number of bottles of Jameson.
Monday we headed to Galway to sit in on a set with Mr. Karl Clews, a fantastic individual and musician I met at the Suwałki Blues Festival back in July. He was playing bass with Tom Portman in a trio the night I arrived in Poland, and we had some laughs together with his bandmates and the hilarious, fun-loving people from the festival into the wee hours, two nights running.
It was decided we should try to get together if I found myself in Galway. So I found myself in Galway.
Upon arrival by bus, Cody and I passed a couple of nice, young American girls with fake, yet sparkling jewels glued to their faces and glitter make-up, hula-hooping for travel funds amongst the buskers of Galway’s vibrant street-performer scene. We ended up at a jam session with them and an Irish uncle on banjo and an elderly Irishman’s up-tempo take on Townes van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” and when the jam slowed, Cody and I made for the other pub to sit in on Karl’s gig, and then to the home of Tom’s drummer, Bri Gosker, where we were being put-up. Nightcaps and tea.
Per capita, Ireland does not seem as dense as some other European nations when it comes to particularly striking females — or females who particularly strike me, I should say. I wondered aloud about this at Bri’s. The following tale was relayed as a possible explanation:
“Many moons ago, when the Vikings came here, the Icelander and Norwegian Vikings, they came and they took the women. And they took them back to Iceland. And, in fact, if you look up — the Icelandic government have done a survey of the gene pool of the women on the island of Iceland, and they can trace back — I can’t remember the exact percentage — but it’s more than 75 percent of the Icelander women can be traced back to Irish heritage.”
“So, they came and took the picks of the litters.”
“Yes. They took our women. They took the best ones.”
They didn’t get them all, certainly. There are a fair number of fit Irish women, to be sure, to be sure, to be sure. It seems probable that some fine Irish woman stands bravely back along my family tree in at least a few places after the raping and pillaging occurred. And look how nice I turned out — ahem.
But this story sheds light. So much of human history so often swings on these strange, tragic little tales of war and rape and greed and survival.
Cody went off on an overnight adventure of his own the following day. I tried my hand busking a while, and benefited from some of the good in humanity — generous persons willing to toss a few shekels to a troubadouring lad from abroad, insisting upon himself in the middle of crammed pedestrian thoroughfares, hollering out lyrics between sips of gifted Guinnesses.
The current most popular country singer in Ireland at the moment apparently sat in front of me on the patio of the pub I’d set up shop across from. Nathan Carter. I’d never heard of him. But he was nice enough, and sang along with me from his chair on Haggard’s “Rambling Fever,” and nodded approval and recognition as he walked away to the old song Lefty Frizzell first made famous “Long Black Veil.”
And he and his posse also dropped a good portion of the day’s take into my guitar case.
The next day was meant to be spent with old friends in a sleepy town in central Ireland called Mullingar, but some difficulties arose around that plan. We opted to stay in Galway an extra evening. As we made our way out for the night, riding along in Bri’s Volvo station wagon, rounding a corner, I spotted two familiar faces.
“Stop the car! Stop the car!”
Cranking the window down, I began shouting my surprise to two equally surprised American musician friends, Matthew Schultz and Cassie Carter of Red Rooster Moving, standing on the corner.
“What the hell are y’all doing in Galway?!”
They’d just arrived after wrapping up their own tour to take in the city for a few days. An old friend of their’s and a fellow Oregonian stood with them, along for the ride. Bri parked the car, and we made our way back to the American threesome on the corner. A bottle of whiskey appeared and was passed around until empty.
I met Matt back last year in Rome at a hostel bar, and we ended up playing music in the streets with a group of crazies well into the new day. I stayed with he and Cass when they moved to Berlin at the close of last summer’s tour. We rode around on bicycles throwing back whiskey and staying alive. Roma. Berlin. And now Galway.
We joined forces for a long night of strong craic, questionable decisions, photo-booth silliness, bad cheap wine, bathroom madness, and music. Matt’s got a big voice and he was using it and Cody was playing guitar and there were strangers now friends pouring more of the bad wine and I kept sucking it down with eyes closed and by the time Cody and I walked the 40 minute or so trek back to Bri’s, the sun offered plenty of light for our stumble, and seagulls on the morning prowl over the water provided the soundtrack.
Then back to Dublin for a return gig at Gypsy Rose, where we’d played the week before, which ended with the bartender pouring me a Leffe with a shot of some sort of cinnamon liquor inside of it. I hope to never experience such again. But it was strong, and I had asked for strong. Then an after-party, Cody — who is quite adept at getting kidnapped — and I got split up, I ran into more random friends, enjoyed a smoke-choked alleyway, a glass of late night Bushmill’s, and a bloody fantastic time.
The following day, Mr. Admire and myself — it only recently occurred to me while in Ireland that Cody Admire’s last name is the word “admire,” the revelation on the heel’s of some received admiration he was getting from an older lass for whom the name did not lose it’s meaning upon initial greeting — yes, Cody and I reconvened and headed north to Northern Ireland for our show in Portrush at The Atlantic Bar, one of my most frequented haunts the last three years of European gallivanting.
Portrush is a charming sea-side town, jutted out on it’s own little peninsula into the Atlantic. I’ve played it when it has been full of tourists and when it has been devoid of them. It’s good fun both ways, but it’s high season now. It’s also home to one of the best hamburgers I’ve had in Europe, or anywhere, the Harbour Burger, from a place called The Harbour. I took Cody there straight away. We both ended up getting another one the next day, which was a day off spent drinking with local friends until we hopped the last train to Belfast.
Our intention was to get to Belfast late, half-cocked or fully-cocked and loaded, make our way to the airport, sleep hard in said airport, and catch the 7:25 a.m. flight to London the following morning. Upon arrival in Belfast we learned the airport closes at night, so there would be no hard sleep there. With little reason to get a hotel, we made for the pubs.
And we drank in the pubs. Memorably, Cody avoided the unleashed, full fury of a man spilling his drunken gut up and out onto the dance floor. I avoided witnessing it. The man continued dancing. We closed that pub down, discovered there was a Chinese restaurant serving beer until 3:30 a.m., and headed there with a new lovely young German companion in tow, ready to help us chase the party all the way to the airport.
I remember soup. And beer. The restaurant closed. We were among the last escorted out. Then there were calls from strangers for music from the guitars on our backs. Guitars were pulled out in the drizzle, but before they were played, a taxi was hailed and we were ushered into the cab and driven to the family home of a man well into his middle-age where there were promises of more liquor.
An angry wife came downstairs with questions. A sleeping baby upstairs. And the man’s parents, slumbering gently, somewhere above. But the man, sure of his plan, rejoins us in the now-quiet sitting room with a full bottle of vodka, practically empties the bottle into our four large snifters, and the angry wife reappears, getting angrier, and within minutes the man’s octogenarian parents have both surfaced, looking surprisingly amused by the whole drunken spectacle, except they try to get their “boy” to pipe-down a little bit given the sleeping baby and impending divorce, but he’s on the drink and in to the hilt and reason has drowned in vodka, most recently, and God knows what before.
The parents give us a ride to the airport, happy to offer a potentially de-escalating service. Cody engaged the couple driving the sedan in loud conversation. The beautiful young German woman and I engaged in conversation of our own. Then it was auf Wiedersehen and some drunken, childish antics which I’ve attempted to repent of, and the flight to London.
On arrival in London we met up with a friend of a former bandmate — Mr. Travis Dixon of Catfish Whiskey infamy — got a nap in, and headed to a pub. Closed down the pub. Hit up the off-license for a fresh bottle and ended the night listening to heavy music, nudged awake with the business end of the Jameson bottle or a healthy chaser of Sambuca several times before being left to my increasingly strange dreams.
I had the next day free. I journeyed with a friend up to Cambridge where there was sight-seeing and pints and history and an ancestor apple tree and fine Scotch and Cuban cigars and a relatively early night to a big bed for a good long snooze.
It was Cody’s last night of the tour, so we made something of it. I was sleeping soundly in a park when he made his leave, but I was also in good company, and after being allowed some hour or so rest, I was brought to consciousness and, eventually, following some confused wandering, to a smaller bed and another good long snooze.
I barely surfaced the following day. When I finally did, I managed to lose 20 pounds at the roulette table. Black. Nope. How about red? Nope. There goes a 20.
The next night, after a sojourn to far east London for a visit to the Dr. Who museum, I had a show at one of London’s most storied venues, The Troubadour, a small basement club which has seen the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, and Elvis Costello grace it’s stage over the years. My buddy Andrew was on the night’s bill with his band, as was a fine singer-songwriter from Birmingham by the name of Guy Jones, and an impressive young woman from Jersey, Bitter’s Kiss.
And there were many familiar, friendly faces that made it out to the party, including a friend of mine who has started his own clothing company and another friend who is doing quite well with his new company selling his designed mechanical stainless steel pencils. It’s nice to see creative friends doing creative things.
Yesterday was quite warm. The moment was seized when, after several bloody marys, Andy and his housemates and I all made for a swimming hole. There was some more drink and a return to the casino last night. I sought no vengeance for my earlier losses. I laid no money down. I lost no pounds to chance.
Poker is my game of choice, but sitting down at a poker table when you’re in a group is not ideal. If I sit down at the table, I’m likely to be there for many hours, not wishing to be disturbed or hurried. So, I just had some drinks and caught up with my friends, watched others win and lose, tried to swallow and suffocate the poker-lusting beast within with more drink and laughter.
It does feel nice to wake up in the morning with no regret of lost money. And my today began in just such a way. And Oliver is out for a walk. And the family barbecue is over. And the children’s laughter and excited little voices have quieted. And the teet is covered and gone, the baby full of milk. The sun is finally sinking. This little kitchen is finally cooling.
And somehow a whiskey soda has made it’s way to my hand. I suppose my night is about to begin. And with all this free time on a Saturday evening, perhaps I should wander out alone, pop into the casino for a look-see. Sit down at a table — see if I can’t come up a little.
As nice as it is to wake up a non-loser, it’s even nicer to wake up a winner.
August 22, 2015