When they put a plaque up to Phil Lynott at Merchants Arch they weren’t far from the mark. Inasmuch as we think of Philo living the Rockstar lifestyle his music was firmly rooted in the street/buskin songwriting tradition of the early 70s. While the Lizzies investigated “Live and Dangerous”, Philo’s solo work displayed a softer side, criss- crossing various musical genres, acting, as Rock Journalist Chris Salewick put it in 1979, “like a lightning conductor for both traditional and contemporary culture.”
Philo had that human touch. The video to Dublin’s unofficial anthem “Old town” displays it best – as Philo walks down Grafton Street and Moore Street – with a word for everyone, young and old. The stories of his generosity with his time are legend. From recommending Irish Bands he’s never heard of to foreign promoters to keeping open house out at Howth to all aspirants to “three chords and the truth.” Phil had been there, seen that, and bought the t-shirt twice over, and felt it almost a duty to reach down and give the next generation a hand up.
Phil easily strode between Punk, Metal, and Trad, earning the respect of all, when such genres closed ranks during the 70s and 80s. From his first appearance on Top of the Pops with “Whisky in the Jar” Phil, both solo and with Thin Lizzy, regularly strode across out screens on the most important of all musical TV shows and even contributed the theme song, “Yellow Peril”, for a number of years. In the bleakness of pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland he was one of the few beacons of hope and aspiration – and he’d done it the hard way. He wasn’t just Irish, in an age of anti-Irish prejudice. He was black as well.
The Vibe for Philo, now entering its 23rd year, started as an off-the-cuff remark by the man himself. Since then, it’s fitting that almost every act to raise their heads since his death has contributed to the vibe. His songwriting influence was wide-ranging and this has been reflected in the rage of interpretations seen and heard over the years. Pop, Rock, Metal, Folk, Poetry reading, Jazz, Blues, Trad, Dance, Mime, Hip-hop, the list goes on. Yes, “Live and Dangerous” is ever present, but it’s the b-sides, the early album tracks, and the forgotten, which usually provide the highlight, demonstrating how wide ranging was, and still is, Philo’s influence.
Tokyo’s The Lizzyboys are back with three separate sets for the Vibe, Pre-Vibe, and Matinee. Brian Grace has been lining up his guests for The Hoodoo Rhythm Devils with Matt & Phil (Tizz Lizzy), John Conlon (Thin az Lizzy), Derek Herebert (Les Enfants), Dave McGuinness (Lir), Colm Querney (Q), Mark Adams, Paul Toal, Robbie Bray, and Richie Buckley will be joined by Emerald, Renegade, and American Rocker, Nell Bryden, a long-time fan of Phil's lyrical style. Other, playing their cards close to the chests will also appear, but the real star is the music, which has been bringing people back for the past twenty three years.
VIBE FOR PHILO XXIII - 2009
DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT - Review Taken from drop-d Music Journal (www.drop-d.ie)
For many the New Year doesn't really begin until the January 4th celebration of one of Ireland's most loved Kings. The High-King of Rock 'n' Roll, the Vagabond, the Playboy, the good looking Valentino, the Desperate Desperado, the Black Rose, one of the greatest influences in music, a man unafraid of boundaries and a man who merged influences from all angles, Philip Parris Lynott (1948-1986).
Many came to the gathering of young and old, some 23 years after Phil Lynott died of a lifestyle, with fond memories of spinning Philo's records, recording with him, drinking with him and others weren't even a twinkle in the parent's eyes the night that the king went down.
A video screen showed Thin Lizzy playing as Smiley Bolger ran around the Button Factory doing some last minute frantic organisation as the 23rd Vibe for Philo got under way.
A seemingly empty Button Factory instantly became packed as Renegade opened the five hour party with "Are You Ready" a triumphant rock anthem to get anyone in the mood to rock out, but soon the mood changed as Renegade played the haunting "Got to Give It Up". Every word a stark reminder of why this show takes place and why Philomena Lynott, during her speech at the Vibe, warns all parents of the harsh reality of drugs.
Following an acoustic performance of "Dublin", Emerald a young band from Clondalkin, playing their second Vibe, delighted the crowd before an acoustic version of "Borderline" by Vibe veteran and Philo fanatic Jimmy Coup and Japanese Lizzy Boy Satoshi. A performance which is becoming a standard at the Vibe and its clear why when the chorus takes hold of the audience and united voices in an emotional and beautiful rendition.
Smiley Bolger's dream of a "Last Waltz" style performance at the 25th Vibe in 2011 took on its first stages this year as Brian Grace's Hoodoo Rhythm Devils took the stage for the greater part of the show with rolling guest appearances from Matt and Phil (Tizz Lizzy), John Conlon (Thin as Lizzy), Dave McGuinness (Lír) Lenny and Ginger on drums, Damien Dempsey, American Blues rocker Nell Bryden and many more.
Paul Toal and Jimmy Coup joined Lenny and Brian to reform Gnasher playing early Lizzy material including the wonderful "Vagabond".
Smiley Bolger emerged on stage during the Hoodoo performance to demand that Jimmy and Brian play a song he had overheard them rehearse. "It's Really Worthwhile", a song which wasn't performed at the Pre-Vibe the night before or the Matinee during the afternoon and quite possibly never by anyone, Phil Lynott or other. It was a special moment for any fan, some of whom would never have even heard the song before as it only ever appeared on "the Lost Recordings", issued with Hot Press magazine a few years ago.
New Yorker Nell Bryden joined Grace to strip down some of Philo's songs and rebuild them based on their blues influence bringing a fresh angle, particularly to "Massacre" a song which had previously never been performed at any Vibe.
A meeting at Ronnie Drew's funeral this year led to Damien Dempsey asking Smiley could he play the Vibe again this year."Damo", as he is so affectionately referred to by Smiley performed with his heart on his sleeve. It clearly took everything in his being to fight back the tears as he offered up "Honesty is No Excuse", his favourite Philo song to the heavens. Damo's version of "King's Call" the song Phil wrote when Elvis died was poignant and emotional and summed up the feeling in the room.
Damo was introduced to Nell on stage as they were joined by Matt, Phil, Lenny and Grace to perform a quickly rehearsed "Whiskey in the Jar" which came off perfectly. The stage was full of guitarists and singers and was a glimpse of what's to be expected at the 25th Vibe.
With blood pouring from his fingers, Grace rocked on with the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils through a set of "Dancing in the Moonlight", "Still In love With You","The Boys Are Back in Town" and "Cowboy Song" before giving up the stage to Lynott's friend Ditch Cassidy.
Philomena, Smiley and his daughter Harmony walked on stage to raffle off some beautiful paintings of the Rocker before Philo's mother addressed her son's adoring fans. Half of the money raised at the Vibe will go to AWARE the rest will go towards the founding of a Phil Lynott museum in Dublin for all of his memorabilia that currently fills his mother's house. After the audience offered up a one-minute silence to remember all those who have died she declared that perhaps while searching through Philo's stuff to move it to a museum "We may even find some more recordings".
Tokyo's The Lizzy Boys brought this year's celebration to a close with high powered versions of "Chinatown" "Dedication" which singer Takuo dedicated to Philip's spirit and the ever powerful and best example of Thin Lizzy's fusion of vast influences "Roisín Dubh (Black Rose) A Rock Legend"
As Fr. Brian Darcy said during Philip's funeral mass in January 1986 "The father of Irish rock will always be remembered for his enthusiasm, for the loyalty he showed to his friends and his ability to inspire others to break the system and get through it, as he had done himself."
The Vibe is precisely this but the Vibe is not only a celebration of Phil Lynott the man but a celebration of his music and poetry the likes of which has not really been seen in the land of Saints and Scholars since his death. There isn't a single Irish musician currently polluting the airways that possess the stuff legends are made of. Phil Lynott's music is now finite, which is a sad thing and unfortunately it may be a long time before someone else emerges from the land of Éire that will be fit to join the feast at the table of national heroes and legends.
Paul Murphy - www.drop-d.ie
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