Published on March 24th, 2009 | by Sinead Keogh6
Songs from a room
It’s not often you can be decently entertained for a fiver. It wouldn’t get you a cinema ticket or pay for an evening out, but if you find yourself around Portobello on a Thursday night you could do worse than call into The Lower Deck. It’s a quintissential old man pub, and when we walked in (three girls, fresh-faced) we were greeted with a healthy suspicion by the all-male patrons. Thankfully, two of our number ordered Jack Daniels (one with ice, one neat) and we were judged and found acceptable enough.
Quality of old man pub aside, (and it is a clean and friendly spot), we were just drinking to pass the time before the doors to The Saloon opened. The Saloon is, more accurately, The Lower Deck’s cabaret room, and they feature up-and-comers in their kitshcy basement space on Thursday nights (the next one is April 25th). It’s an interesting venue, you walk down a wooden flight of stairs into a dark room of little round lounge tables, candles, carpet and rafters overhead. It’s clean but just past-it enough in the style stakes to seem sort of appropriate for the times. You feel like you might be getting an insight into the sort of nights out your parents had in the eighties.
Sadly it wasn’t to be a long visit to The Saloon because Culch is but a wonderous hobby, and the day job beckoned on Friday morning, but an hour’s visit was long enough to catch singer-songwriter Nico Fitz taking to the stage. A long standing bias against the whiny offerings of singer-songwriters was put to rest as Nico and co offered up some quality tunes for what has to be said was a good crowd for an out of the way bar on a Thursday night. Quiet chat around the table in between songs confirmed that everyone was having much the same thoughts about why they liked the guy. Though it was an acoustic set of songs with very personal lyrics, there wasn’t a hint of navel gazing or self-pity. In fact, from Dave on drums to Dan Whelan’s bass playing and Natalie Turner’s supporting vocals, it was an entirely professional outing of musicians in the true sense of the word – people who knew how to play their instruments – coupled with an engaging singer and lyricist. Nico’s ‘Ball Song’ – so called because it’s about going to the NCAD Ball – and not anything duurty – had everyone engaged in it’s story but it was ‘Patient Man’ that was the hit of the night for us at least. The YouTube video doesn’t reflect the quality of the performance in The Saloon, but it does illustrate well enough the kind of foot-tapping quality that comes so rarely from one man, one guitar.
Give the guy a listen. The Ladies Table, still humming ‘Patient Man’ days later, are pleased to report that he ‘gets it’and we’re hoping for more of the same from this Saloon place with it’s flaky-paint ‘Cabaret Room’ sign outside and its candlelit basement bar. Atmosphere, say we, and plenty of it.