Blooming at the races

by Gazette Reporter
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There is seldom anything better than a good venue and a cooking band to create a memorable summer night.

Bulmers Live At Leopardstown are bringing one of the nation’s treasures, Hothouse Flowers, to the stage at the southside racecourse on July 18, and Gazette Music caught up with the band’s guitarist and founding member Fiachna O Braonain. We began by asking him about the unusual venue for the show.

“The shows at racetracks seems to have caught on and become fairly popular in recent years. We played at Cheltenham on St Patrick’s Day last year, and that was a different sort of a show, but a lot of fun.”

Although it is almost a decade since their last album, Into Your Heart, was released, the band have been anything but idle in the meantime.

“We haven’t put anything out since 2004, and it’s hard to believe it’s going to be 10 years ago next year. We were never the most frequent record releasers, as for most of the time, we were off on stage somewhere.

“In recent years, we’ve all branched off and done different things – Liam focusing on his solo career, and I was off doing my own things, working with Michelle Shocked and radio production too, as well as making a record with Cait O’Riordan from the Pogues and Dave Clarke from the Flowers in 2007 which we toured here and in America.

“But all the while, the phone keeps ringing and people want the Flowers to play, and that’s what we do.”

“I think the fact that we play and enjoyed playing over the years, the fact we thrive live on stage, people remember that, and they want to come back.”

The Flowers bloomed after years of germination while street performing and playing live, and their soul-inflected traditional rock hit a chord with music lovers at home and abroad. Their burgeoning popularity led to them getting international exposure via the Eurovision half-time show in 1988, and the songs from that time became ubiquitous on Irish radio and in the charts.

“We were really lucky in that those records – People, Home and Songs From The Rain – were well received. We were on a big record label and it was a time when there was big promotion in the record industry, and the world got to see our band, and we were pretty good!”

Time flying by hasn’t hindered or diminished their power live, as the Flowers have proved at their recent live shows earlier this year – the joy of performing still gushes from the stage and involves the audience as much as it ever did, something that means that fans flocking to Leopardstown for the shows will be a part of.

Fiachna says that fans going to the show can expect “everything and anything”.

“We rarely write a setlist any more, we react to the vibe from the crowd. They are very much a part of a gig at a Hothouse Flowers show.

“We’ll work out what we open with, and maybe the second song, and then improvise from there. There are some cornerstones, some traditional Irish things, and maybe a wee hit or too as well.

“We want to make music that makes people want to dance, and has been something that we’ve always done”

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