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Crawling Irish New York: Doc Watson’s

The New York traditional music scene has been a home away from home for me for almost a decade. My familiarization with it began when I toured with a band and sang here in 1994; it expanded greatly when I worked on a series of internet webcasts and spent a good chunk of 1998 living in the East Village. During that hot summer of 1998 I had a weekly pub schedule to follow. The crowd of musicians I got to know so well floated in an eternal circuit from the Monday Session through to the Sunday Session. Many of the same people are still to be found on the same weekly rounds and only one of the Sessions has died off over the last seven years.

So… Sunday night. That’s the Doc Watson’s night. For the hardcore musicans, the Sunday drinking actually starts in the afternoon at the Thady Con’s Session, but I had engineering notes to prepare.

Doc Watsons is in the Upper East side and not the easiest place to get to from where I am staying in the Upper West. This business trip has been going well so I splurged on a taxi rather than the usual long A train and crosstown bus trip. The first taxi to stop was from a Car Service, not one of the metered Yellow ones. I have been around the city long enough to know to dicker the price before one goes anywhere. The ride is nicer but you could be in for a surprise if you have not got the price set first. If you are a stranger to the city you won’t know whether a price is reasonable or not so I would probably not recommend it without the advice of a local friend. The Yellow ones are safer for tourists.

I have sung at Doc Watson’s myself, although not in many years. I have been too busy surviving as a consultant to keep any material up to what I would consider professional performance standards. Since I have been there and done that, I have more to lose making a complete fool of myself on stage than most. One never knows: perhaps the day will fall when I must survive at it. It is best I not leave bar owners and public with memories of blue notes and effed lyrics to replace older,better memories of mostly competent performance. Instead, I competently hold up the bar and drink Guinness.

The pub has a Sunday anchor band that is usually John Redmond and Peter Rufli, fellows I know from years past. This Sunday John was not present and Peter had several other fine musicians with him.

Right to left: Davie Ryan, Banjo; Peter Rufli, flute & whistle;
Dominic Cromie, guitar and vocals
Photo: D.Amon, all rights reserved.

In addition to the craic of old acquaintances, Doc Watson’s has very good food and pulls a decent Guinness. I particularly like their Buffalo Wings platter.

If you have not spent time in New York, you are missing the real meaning of cross-cultural fertilization. The following photos show how Chinese culture has improved upon traditions long a part of the Irish music scene:

Traditional Irish beer balancing technique
Photo: D.Amon, all rights reserved.

Chinese improvement
Photo: D.Amon, all rights reserved.

4 comments to Crawling Irish New York: Doc Watson’s

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    Dale, could you please resize the pictures? Opera is showing two of them as being 2.3MB, and when it tries to load them, it makes everything else on my system slow down.

    Not that you’re going to listen, since I already bitched about this the last time somebody here posted giant photos in a posting, and the photos never got resized. I guess I’m just going to have to turn images off for Samizdata until this post goes off the front page, although that screws up the anti-spambot stuff….

  • Dale Amon

    I am really not sure what the problem is. The images are all between 300 and 305 pixels wide, which should fit nicely into the middle column; they are 24b colour of course, which is where the size comes from. It is also where the image quality comes from. Red eye aside anyway…

  • Dale Amon

    I mean 300 and 350.

  • Paul Marks

    Interesting stuff.