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Clare café tour for Luka

FOLK artist Luka Bloom is about to embark on a café tour of Clare, briefly crossing the border for a show in Gort.

The tour will kick off in the Rowan Tree in Ennis on Monday, September 9, when the county may be in the grip of All-Ireland celebrations.

On September 11, he will be at the Gallery Café in Gort, while the following day he’ll perform at the Burren perfumery in Carron. After that, it will be in the Russell Gallery in New Quay on September 14, the Potter’s Hand in Kilrush will be the setting on September 18, Guru Tea House in Ennistymon on September 19, Doolin Café on September 22 and the Diamond Rocks Café in Kilkee on September 23.

Obviously, musicians like him generally perform in arts centres or bars but he said he was very keen to do something different.

Originally known as Barry Moore, he is a native of Kildare and has recorded more than 20 albums since the ’70s.

He said he is doing the tour because he is now based in the Banner County and wants to see if bringing his show to cafés will work.

“I have never done anything like this in an organised tour. Obviously, over the years you come across a nice kind of small gig you do here or there but I’ve never organised an actual tour.

“There’s a couple of reasons I’ve done it. I moved to live in Clare last December. I’ve been coming here all my adult life from Kildare but I actually relocated. I’ve been aware of an amazing thing that happens in Clare that doesn’t happen in too many places in Ireland, which is that people play music six or seven nights a week and they sleep in their own beds every night.

“Guys like me, when I go on tour, I have to go to Australia, Holland, Belgium or America and I said once in my life I’d like to do a tour and go home to my own bed every night. This is pure luxury for me.

“The other thing is that almost all the action happens in pubs. I don’t have a problem with that, I’m not anti-pub by any means. Places like O’Connor’s in Doolin, places like that are really important to the cultural fabric of a place like Clare.

“People love to go to the pubs but I often think to myself, wouldn’t it be nice to have an alternative, if every now and then people were able to enjoy the experience of music, not necessarily in a theatre or arts centre because they can be a bit stuffy and sometimes the pub can be a bit too muck-savage. But if you can create an environment where you can have gigs and still enjoy a bun and a cup of tea… It’s an experiment for me and an experiment for other musicians and if it works, it works and I have a feeling it will work. I think Ireland is changing now and people are open to trying different things.”

He is enjoying the pace of life in Clare and said he is chilling out more than writing music. “I’m too busy trying to master the art of doing SFA. I’m very busy exploring the Burren, very busy jumping into the water and very busy thinking about 99s, then buying them and eating them.”

Home is now North Clare and settling there follows years and years of visits. “I refer to the area encompassed by Liscannor, Lahinch, Ennistymon and Lisdoonvarna as the Bermuda Triangle and that’s where I am. I first came to Doolin on the August Bank Holiday Weekend in 1973, when I got my Leaving Cert. I’ve been coming back ever since, for 40 years this year.”

He has diverse musical tastes and the lifestyle in North Clare is something he enjoys. He said it will influence his music.

“I have no idea where my head is at with my music because I try not to think about it. I don’t really make any plans. I don’t plan my music, my music comes whatever way it comes. I hate thinking about it and I even get uncomfortable talking about it because I really try to go with the flow. I tend to explore other areas of music and that’s why I’ve managed to make a good bunch of records that sound quite different from each other.

“I live in Ireland, I write my songs in Ireland but the first thing I have to do when I go to work is go to Dublin Airport. I do an awful lot of my work abroad. I hear a lot of different stuff and I’m influenced by an awful lot of it. It filters into my writing and I’ve no doubt that living in Clare will have an effect on my work as well but it’ll take a year or two for that to materialise.”

He is adamant that performers have to show respect and courtesy to their audiences. However, he feels this should go both ways and hopes that in an environment where there is less alcohol, that will be more likely to happen.

“I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt really sad for some of the incredibly gifted musicians that I’ve come across in County Clare. In a lot of pub environments, the musicians get a lot of respect but I’ve seen situations where there have been some of the top musicians you’d ever want to see and, literally, no one is listening to them. That doesn’t happen as much these days but it has happened and it saddens me.

“In Clare, you have a deep well of music and you have the finest musicians in the country performing on a regular basis. I just feel there should be some way to create a bit more of a vibe of respect for them. The other thing is that a lot of tourists coming to Ireland, who want to hear music. They don’t always want to be in a pub.”

He feels this type of a tour couldn’t have happened a few years ago. “The only reason that this tour is possible is that there has been a huge explosion of fantastic cafes all around County Clare.

“Everyone has to be resourceful these days, no-one is functioning in a comfort zone. This is one of the joys of the recession, people are open to trying things,” he concluded.

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