One again here we are on my travels to destinations unknown. Strictly speaking that is not true because as I type, we are driving off the ferry into Belfast from Liverpool.

I’ve said this before, but I’m always amazed at the opportunities I get as a musician and the places I get to see.  If you were brave enough to read some of my previous blogs, you will be aware that we are veterans of the Derry Jazz festival. This time however, it’s a little different.

During last years festival we had a couple ask if we were prepared to play their wedding. Being that we are all of the same nature, we instantly said yes. The wedding gig was booked and we are due to play in Donegal on Thursday 30th March.

This is now our fourteenth year playing in Ireland and as you can imagine, we have made some beautiful friends in that time. One special friend would be a guy named Keith Barber, known to his friends as Gus.

The first festival we played seems such a long time ago, but I clearly remember a guy coming up to us at the end of the first show shouting in a strong Northern Irish accent ” Use guys are brilliant” From that moment we forged a friendship for many years filling our love of Ireland with many memories.
Unfortunately last December he passed away and to say it broke our hearts would be an understatement. Gus would always turn up at every show we did at the Derry Jazz festival. Even if he said during the day, “I might not make it this evening.” We all knew later in the evening he would turn up. Sometimes just at the right moment ready to help us pack away. Although this friendship blossomed over the years, he only made it over to the UK a few times where we could get together. We spent a great night during 2004 watching the Stray Cats in Brixton. Obviously for a bunch of Rockabilly types like ourselves in was a memorable evening, but it was certainly made all the better having Gus for company.
There are many stories I could write about filling the pages of this blog, but I’ll spare you those and leave it to your imagination. Beer, motorcycles, Rock n Roll and smoking cigarettes in the early hours of the morning were all times I will cherish for many years to come.

Unfortunately I couldn’t make the funeral, but thankfully my two band mates were able to travel to Ireland and represent the band. A few days after the event my father sadly also passed away, highlighting how short this wonderful life we have is. I’m sure that as time passes, I will write about my father, but for now all you need to know is that I still think he is here. My Dad was a brilliant trombone player and influenced my music taste during his life. Through people such as Gus, my Dad’s memory and love for music will be strong as ever each time I sit behind my Drum set.

As we drive into Derry the realisation that Gus will not be here hits us very strong. We usually talk constantly when travelling, but a deathly silence fills the van as westare out of the window not knowing what each other is thinking. We pass Free Derry Corner and still we sit in silence. Our love for the country has gone way past just liking being here. We’ve met people who were involved in the troubles during its history and heard both sides of events. Sometimes I feel awkward being British; sometimes I don’t know how I feel. The truth being, the people of Ireland are wonderful, kind and welcoming people. I have learnt a lot from my time in Ireland and I urge you to research and educate yourself before judging. Without these wonderful people, we would have never had a strong career playing in Ireland and most of all, never met Gus.

Tonight we play Spaghetti Junction in Gus’s memory also raising money for Action Cancer. Rest in peace my good friend, my love for you will always be strong as will the memories of our time together.

As I finish writing this blog, I am at home working through flight logistics and van hire ready for leaving once again for Ireland this Friday. Playing drums is a dream job for sure, but the great people I meet whilst travelling is a beautiful reality.

We have six shows this weekend as part of the Derry Jazz festival. It’ll be hard work, but such a pleasurable experience. As I said, life is very short so lets make friendship the priority. You never know when you might not be able to.

Enjoy your day