Article and photos by Sharon Armstrong.
In the performers booth, tucked away in the corner of the Deutsches Haus at 200 S Galvez St, the words “Exactly Ten Minutes Too Late” printed boldly on a red Fuchsia Band T-shirt defied casual comprehension.
The rainbow selection of female underwear also for sale in the booth, proudly emblazoned with a rather stylish flower motif as well as the Fuchsia Band name, weren’t too shabby either.
Luckily, and not a minute too soon for the perpetually bewildered or the adventurously underdressed, Fuchsia Band front man Máirtín de Cógáin soon put everything into a very Irish perspective, and the Fuchsia Band’s first New Orleans show was off to a brilliant start.
Dark haired, bearded and with strangely Billy Connelyesque eyebrows, de Cógáin glowered playfully at the mixed crowd sipping from their huge German beer steins.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, the quick sing-song of Cork thick in his voice, “We want to take you away on a magical carpet ride, to a place far away from here…. ” He paused, scanning the crowd. “Fuchsialand.”
The Germans in the crowd didn’t need to be told twice. The Irish didn’t need to be told even once. They both jumped on that magic carpet and from the band’s first song, it was Fuchsia Land Ho!
“Thumbs up,” shouted Máirtín. “If you at anytime feel the urge during the songs to give us the thumbs up…do it…magically.”
The audience obviously felt the urge; a sea of thumbs greeted each song.
This is the fifth American tour for the Fuchsia Band, but the first time they have made it to New Orleans.
With de Cógáin, (vocals/bodhran,) Brian McGillicuddy, (banjo/mandolin/vocals, Mick Heffernan, (flute/guitar/piano/vocals), and Eoin Verling (music box/guitar/vocals), these lads from Co. Cork, Ireland rocked the Deutsches Haus en route to Little Rock, Memphis, St Louis, Jefferson City, Kansas City, and Fort Collins.
With infectious joy and musical verve, the Fuchsias mixed humorous songs of leprechauns and spousal murder with Gaelic love-songs; haunting airs, stomping reels and powerful renditions of folk classics such as Ewan McColl’s “Song of a Road.” They even managed to fit in a few barn dances and perfectly-harmonized a capella's. Joining them on stage, young members of New Orleans’ own Muggivan’s School of Irish Dance also showed that the heart of Ireland is still beating here in the Crescent City, as they danced to the crashing beat of reels, jigs and polkas. A magic carpet ride indeed.
“New Orleans is amazing,” Máirtín said after the gig, as the band packed their stuff and sold and signed that last lonely set of underwear to the delighted German and Irish New Orleanians in the audience.
“ The lads are in awe of the place. There is a real otherworldly feel about this town, there is something. I suppose, amongst the homogenized villages and towns and cities of America, it’s what they have lost. New Orleans seems to have - out of its struggles and hardships and poverty here in the State of Louisiana - they seem to have kept some of that special something that I can’t explain. But it is a fantastic town.”
The Fuchsias had hit the town the night before with the members of Gaelic Storm, who had played at the House of Blues with (Celtic artist) Danny Burns.
“They are lovely fellas,” said Máirtín. “Patrick Murphy is from our town, he is from Cork City, and sure they are great lads. We’ve known them for years. We met them at the Irish Fair, a couple of years ago, and they have been very good to us. They have shown us the ropes, and they have been showing us what’s what, and helping us through the difficulties of the road, and they have been spreading our name as well. And we went out last night with them after their gig, and we went gallivanting, as the fella said. And that is all I am going to say about that now.”
Máirtín now lives in the U.S. and as well as playing with the Fuchsia Band, he can often be found touring with Jimmy Crowley, under the name Captain Mackay’s Goatskin and Stringband.
“We are going to be at the Northeast Louisiana Festival, ” he said excitedly. “Just myself and Jimmy at that. And we are playing the Milwaukee Festival, we got the big gig! Jimmy’s first time ever playing at Milwaukee. So if you want to see details in that go to www.captainmackey.com.”
Although the other Fuchsias still live across the Atlantic, the band is hoping to spend more time this side of the Pond.
“The lads are heading back to Ireland,” Máirtín said. “They only come out for a recess. We have new management now, and new negotiations, so for future development, watch this space.”
“I’ll be back here as much as I can come. The lads too. If there was enough gigs we would spend a week here. It’s great kind of craic that you have here. The Irish craic. That’s C R A I C. Not the other kind. The Deutsches Haus is a great place. They are very friendly, they do have moustaches and beer bellies and things like that but that is very German, And they are very efficient, and the place is gorgeous, I must commend them on that, and the bar staff are brilliant. I have my own teabags, and sure I had hot water right away. Boiling water! There was none of this "oh I have a hot tap behind the bar." (What) a fantastic venue for our kind of music. I recommend for people to go to the music here, there is a great spirit here, you know.”
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