Gig Preview | Peter Bruntnell Trio to play Kilcreggan Farm in Carrickfergus on 02 June
By Cara Gibney
What’s the best measurement of whether something is a good idea? It’s that feeling you get when you hear the idea, and immediately start to wonder why it hasn’t been done before.
This idea is the brainchild of Pauline Brady, the Assistant Manager of Kilcreggan Homes in Carrickfergus, a charity that provides housing, day and employment opportunities for adults with a Learning Disability, Autistic Spectrum Condition, or an acquired brain injury. Kilcreggan’s service users are involved in all aspects of running their own garden centre and urban farm in this relaxed community space. It’s one of Carrick’s best kept secrets, and it’s only 11 miles from Belfast.
On 02 June, Kilcreggan will be hosting a very special intimate show by the Peter Bruntnell Trio, in a log cabin on the grounds of Kilcreggan. Peter Bruntnell is a song-writing maestro. His pedigree is noted with those who would know – just ask REM’s Peter Buck, or Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner. He’s toured extensively with Son Volt, Kathleen Edwards and Richmond Fontaine, and indeed NME famously decided that “Peter Bruntnell’s records should be taught in schools.”
He’ll be joined on the night in Kilcreggan by Danny Williams on double bass. (Black Grape and St. Etienne), and Iain Sloan on pedal steel (Blue Rose Code, Findlay Napier, Norrie McCulloch and My Darling Clementine).
“I didn’t really hesitate in offering up Kilcreggan as a venue,” Pauline explained about where this idea came from. “As Assistant Manager of Kilcreggan Homes Ltd I knew the potential the farm offers in creating a very cool, unique space for an intimate gig. I love the place, I can’t help myself getting involved and organising things. It’s a key part of my role and really … its Peter Bruntnell! He’s playing a gig in Carrickfergus, currently not renowned for its live music scene!”
“At first glance, you could forgive people for looking at our set-up (an acoustic guitar, a pedal steel guitar, a Telecaster, and a double bass), and anticipating a mellow evening of countrified tunes;” Iain Sloan explained about what was going to be happening on the night. “Yes, there will be a few of those. But I think, for a trio, we’re a pretty versatile bunch.”
“For example, Peter [Bruntnell] is probably even more a fan of psychedelic music than he is of the ‘Americana’ genre in which he is often (lazily) pigeonholed. He uses a drone generator on a few tunes and this creates raga-like, hypnotic noises, over which Danny will sometimes add almost sinister bowed double bass with distorted echoes and, on the other side of the stage, I’ll be adding layers of effects on the pedal steel or guitar too. So, we kinda take a few songs ‘out there’, if you know what I mean? Also, I’ll jump from the weeping sounds of the pedal steel to play electric guitar here and there and add some harmony vocals too. Plus, Pete might do a few tunes unaccompanied, which is yet another ‘flavour’.”
“It’s a lot of fun playing with Peter and Danny as we veer from almost ambient sounds to full-on psychedelia at times, by way of some gentler country-tinged tunes. Peter has an incredible back catalogue of material and long-time fans of his frequently talk to us after a show to say how interesting it is for them to hear our reinterpretations of those familiar songs too.”
Bruntnell himself is very happy with the hand curated team of musicians he is bringing over to Ireland. “The Trio is a great little combo, Double Bass and Pedal Steel! Perfect accompaniment for my kind of music … I can’t wait to be back in Ireland, it’s my favourite place to tour in the world … And Guinness is the least calorific pint behind the bar? It’s hard to believe but it’s true.”
He has special memories of his time in this part of the island; memories of a much-missed Belfast icon. “The last time I was in Northern Ireland, it was a night organised by the fabulous Ralph McLean. I had the best flight ever from Exeter to George Best Airport! Bap Kennedy was also playing, I can’t believe he’s not with us anymore. It saddens me so much. He was such a lovely chap, we shared quite a few events over the years. He had a pinstripe suit jacket on that night, I remember thinking how it was the perfect jacket for a singer/songwriter to wear. Shortly after that, I found one very similar in a charity shop which I still wear on most of my gigs and photo shoots. Thank you for that Bap.”
It won’t be Iain Sloan’s first time in Northern Ireland either. He travelled to Belfast around 12 years ago for a long weekend. “We took an open-top bus tour of the city on our first day – primarily to get our ‘bearings’ and to see parts of the city that we’d heard and read so much about during ‘the Troubles’. What we hadn’t factored in to the equation was quite how much self-deprecating humour the tour guide would have about such a difficult time in your history! He had us all rolling around laughing at his commentary. It was brilliant. Such a laugh. I mean, it had its serious sides too, and we expected that. But to laugh so much was a real surprise. I guess it highlighted that, no matter how hard a time it was for everyone, life still had to go on and humour was one vehicle for getting through it all.”
However, none of the trio have visited Carrickfergus, or the special space that is Kilcreggan Farm. “The Peter Bruntnell show will take place in one of our custom-built log cabins,” Pauline explained. “We have a beautiful recently completed cabin made by Wildwood Cabins near Portadown, with a covered veranda that overlooks the farm site … [they] have the character and layout to create a fantastic ambience on the evening.”
For those of you who would wonder about the sound quality for a live music event in a venue like this, it seems all is taken care of. “Bairds Music have been very helpful, and Iain Sloan the pedal steel player …. nearly blew my mind with the tech specifications for stage lay out and PA required. [It’s] probably very standard, but all new to me! So, I am confident the sound will be great.”
Pauline initially met Iain Sloan in Edinburgh when he played with the band the Wynntown Marshalls. “It was the connection with Iain that led to the opportunity to have Peter Bruntnell Trio play for us at Kilcreggan. I have seen Peter Bruntnell over the years many times in a variety of venues and he has always left me delighted to have seen and heard him play live. I loved his Normal for Bridgewater album and I’ve bought everything he released since.”
“Visitors to Kilcreggan always mention the atmosphere at the site. It can be difficult for people to articulate what they mean, but they are referring to being welcomed, the pleasure at meeting and seeing the staff and volunteers enjoying their work, and taking the time to stop and chat. The Farm was opened to create an inclusive, therapeutic space. I suppose visitors are experiencing some of that while they relax and spend time here. We are an enthusiastic, creative, diverse group of urban farmers and feel proud about our work. I imagine that is a bit contagious, it leaves visitors with a good feeling too.
“I love my role at Kilcreggan Homes Ltd,” Pauline told me. “The fact I can help put on an evening like this and get to listen to a talented band of musicians that I love moves me pretty close to having the best job in the world in a great place.”
“Ticket costs of £10 cover the band. Dobbins Inn have been fantastic and are accommodating the band, and Kilcreggan’s Dancing Goat Café plan to organise the drinks and some food for the evening, with all profits from that going directly back into our projects at the farm – guilt free food and drink. The perks of social enterprise in practice.”
Kilcreggan Homes Ltd
Co. Antrim BT38 7UY