The Stand
Why isn’t the band Stand bigger?

I caught yet another breathtaking show at the Saint in Asbury Park last week and once again, I left with my jaw hanging open.

Neil Eurelle (bass, vocal), Alan Doyle (guitar, vocal), Brian Ellis (drums) and David Walsh (guitar, keyboards) have an inspired anthem sound that made the hair stand at attention on my forearms; the only thing missing was a swaying cigarette lighter dangling from my head as they peeled off “She Is,” “Full Circle,” and the gorgeous “Olivia.”

I particularly love the vocal interplay between the sunny Eurelle, whose toothy grin is a mile wide as he delights the crowd, and Doyle, a gruff but graceful shadowy presence that calls to mind the deep introspection of Eddie Vedder can offer.

In front of this small but deeply appreciate crowd, Stand peeled off tracks from their criminally underrated 100,000 Ways to Harvest Hope, a disc chock full of radio friendly hits.

You hear a song like “The Living Kind” and you think this should dominate the charts. You find yourself wondering why their career is not like the Script, another deserving Irish band that now finds itself not only with hits on their own but hits from other artists interpreting their work.

Enough is enough! The Dublin band the Stand has been building a loyal following on both sides of the Atlantic since 1994.

Let’s make a community effort here -- “friend them” on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, post songs from their website and do whatever you do to get the word out here.

With all the country and manufactured pop we’ve heard on American Idol this season, isn’t it high time we took a stand and idolized good old-fashioned rock and roll?

Morrissey Rants on Queen
WITH the visit of Queen Elizabeth in Ireland this week, eighties rock god Steven Patrick Morrissey has written an article for Hot Press which challenges in trenchant terms the appropriateness of welcoming the British monarch to Ireland.

The former lead singer of the Smiths, whose parents are Irish, dismisses the four-day visit this week as part of a new palace PR campaign to re-invent the Windsors. This is a man who wrote the hit “Irish Blood, English Heart,” so no surprise how he feels about the British roots in his family tree.

"As recently as the turn of the 1980s," Morrissey says in the article, "the Queen supported Margaret Thatcher by not dismissing Thatcher as she allowed hunger strikers to die at the Maze Prison, most famously Bobby Sands, who was 27 years old."

Morrissey suggests that the Queen's silence at the time makes her culpable for Sands' death -- and for those of the other hunger strikers.

"As Sands starved to death," he charges, "in protest at being tagged a 'criminal' and not a 'political prisoner' by the Thatcher government, the Queen sat in her palace and said nothing.

“The Queen also has the power to give back the six counties to the Irish people," he argues, "allowing Ireland to be a nation once again. The fact that she has not done so is fascism in full flow."

Wow. We definitely gotta work on that guy’s shyness and bland views on life.

Let’s tip a pint to Morrissey for sticking his neck out -- and for that great pompadour that shows no sign of standing at full attention!

Playwright Reading Nights a Hit

LET’S hoist a pint and toast John Shea and Billy Barrett, two aspiring Irish American writers who are doing the Lord’s work by hosting an open mic reading night for aspiring writers throughout Manhattan.

They’re hosting these monthly events on the second floor of the Playwright Irish Pub in Midtown. “We just want to give everyone a chance to read, especially writers that don’t do it that often,” Shea said during our chat over a pint.

“I saw some excellent writers like Jimmy Breslin read at Rocky Sullivan’s years ago when they did literary nights. Rocky’s moved to Brooklyn and although they are doing some great stuff there, they left behind a hole here in Manhattan. There is no literary pub.

“Just because a book company has yet to pick up a writer doesn’t make that work invalid,” Shea asserts.
He’s right, of course. There was some stunning talent on display at the reading night I was at.

Dublin native and playwright Honor Molloy brought the house down with a dramatic read of an unfinished essay she was working on. Not one muscle twitch was wasted as she tore into her story about a traditional seisiun in her house growing up. 

Another writer whose name I didn’t catch gave an impassioned delivery to an essay on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Irish and Irish Americans dominated the night, but there were writers from all walks of life that contributed to the evening, befitting of a cosmopolitan city like New York.

Steve Rosenstein, a writing teacher at CUNY (and alum of my school) dressed in black and appearing too cool for the room, read a razor-sharp essay about being tongue-tied when he met the playwright David
Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross) at a book signing.  His rapid-fire delivery and neurotic introspection were hilarious, leaving the room begging for more.

While the evening was filled with exciting voices not previously heard, it was not without its dim spots. A Mexican American writer read an offensive essay about how her sister betrayed the family and her race by marrying a “f**** white boy.” The racist rant went on way too long, a notion not lost on the gruff but lovable Billy Barrett. Dressed in a bowling shirt, he barked, “Move it along,” as he clapped loudly at the woman.

“You gotta know when yer losing the audience,” barked Barrett, who paced between the narrow aisles of tables. He grabbed my shoulder and pointed to the podium. “Yer up at bat.”

“Let me be brief,” says I, tipping my hat to the Mexican American writer and a few other readers that droned on. “Two things I can’t stand are prejudiced people and Latin gals with chips on their shoulder.” Based on the applause, I said what most were thinking before I launched into selections from my new book.

Based on the slow, meandering readers and the dramatic theatrical performers, I learned a lot about how to read -- and how not to do it -- at future book signings. The literary nights at the Playwright are a fantastic boot camp for experienced writers and novices alike and a thoroughly enjoyable evening for people interested in cutting edge literature.

Based on the large crowd and enthusiastic clapping, it would seem there is a market for literary nights in Manhattan Irish pubs after all!

Of course, the pub culture is exactly where the arts thrived not so long ago in our native land. So many of our pubs here in town have forgotten about this and are basically glorified sports bars, with big screen television broadcasting sports games at the expense of good conversation.

To borrow a line from my mom, let’s hoist a pint and say a silent prayer that more pubs join the Playwright and try cracking open a book instead of turning on the idiot box.