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Sunday 17 December 2017

Much Trouble In Store

Many a band has re-lived the cringe-worthy episodes of Spinal Tap's 1984 movie, says George Byrne

The brilliant 1984 movie This is Spinal Tap has rightly come to be regarded as one of the funniest ever made, and for those of a musical persuasion it's a work of art which gets funnier with each viewing. After all, this is the film which gave us the notion of amps 'going up to 11', the concept of the 'where are they now?' file, 'what's wrong with being sexy?' and countless scenes of hapless idiocy which have actually happened to so many bands over the years that some acts -- particularly those in the metal genre for some reason -- practically regard the movie as a documentary.

However, one early scene in the film, which clearly sets a marker for just how disastrous the 'Tap into America' jaunt will be, comes when the band arrive to an in-store record signing only to discover that no-one has bothered to turn up. Their mortified record company rep, one Artie Fufkin, gradually loses it and exhorts the band to "kick my ass" as uninterested shoppers bypass the stand where the band are standing forlornly with magic markers at the ready.

Most bands I know will tell you that they've had near-Tap experiences doing in-stores and that's why the film still strikes a chord.

All in all in-store gigs are a much safer prospect, given that even if a tiny crowd arrives the band still have something to do. Last summer The Duckworth Lewis Method played a short set outside HMV in Grafton Street on an unfeasibly sunny day and had plenty of people have their album signed afterwards, while tomorrow in Tower in Wicklow Street there's a chance for people who can't get to Whelan's that night to see Power of Dreams celebrate the 20th anniversary of Immigrants, Emigrants and Me.

Richmond Fontaine, who play two acoustic shows upstairs in Whelan's on Saturday, have also played Tower in the past, after which bad weather led to their ferry being cancelled and a long afternoon session with them and Glasgow's Endrick Bothers ensued.

But perhaps my favourite in-store story came when The Ramones were playing in Dublin around 1985 and agreed to a signing session in Supersonic Records (later Comet) on Chatham Street. Looking somewhat disorientated and dishevelled, the band entered the store via the back entrance and, as I was helping out in the store that day, I happened to be standing beside them.

Some of the punters were obviously fans from back in the day and they tended to produce concert tickets from the State in Phibsboro, posters and copies of the first three albums to be signed by Johnny, Joey, Marky and a very, er, irritable Dee Dee.

One inventive youngster brought a silver baseball bat to be autographed but perhaps the moment that caused the greatest astonishment was when one young fella reached into his schoolbag and produced a history book on which the band could make their mark. Folks, somewhere out there is a copy of Dan Breen's My Fight For Irish Freedom signed by The Ramones.

Power of Dreams play Tower Records at 1pm tomorrow and Whelan's on Friday and Sunday night

Richmond Fontaine's Willy Vlautin and Dan Eccles play acoustic shows upstairs in Whelan's on Saturday at 7.30pm and 10pm

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