Guess who opened for The Cranberries in the ’90s

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I will forever be grateful for the privilege of being a teenager in Limerick in the ’90s. The year was 1994 and The Cranberries were casually spoken of in the same breath as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Oasis and, Counting Crows to name but a few. St Clements secondary school in Limerick city is where I began to find my way around the drums and guitar and there were some dismal attempts at songwriting. A wall separated my school, St Clements, from Laurel Hill, the school that Dolores O’ Riordan had attended a few years earlier and everyone knew someone who knew someone who knew her or the boys in the band. There was a palpable creative energy in the Limerick air at this time, a great time to be alive. While I was attempting to find my way musically, The Cranberries were in America and Zombie was number 1. They were one of the biggest acts on the planet and these were our people, Everything felt possible.

Fast forward to 1999, by now I had become a drummer in an aspiring Limerick Indie band. Nighttime consisted of tuning in to drumming and percussion frequencies by listening to my favorite bands before drifting off to sleep. Two albums namely, “Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we” and “No Need to Argue” were on nightly rotation in my ears. Fergal Lawlor’s stand-alone drumming style captivated my senses, for me, Fergal’s style stood right next to Steve Bowman’s eloquence on Counting Crow’s “August and Everything After”. The two Hogan brothers Noel on guitar and Mike on bass, both playing in their own unique identifiable styles. The collective congruence, genuineness, and authenticity of The Cranberries were led by Dolores’s beautiful spirited Limerick accent. These were four people being who they were meant to be, this was a world-class Limerick band telling me the truth.

On a bleak December morning, my phone rang, our band manager could barely contain himself as he blurted out that we had been offered the opening slot for The Cranberries gig in The Millstreet Arena on Saturday. We had the bones of a few days to get ready and this included playing a gig in Limerick city the night before the big one, we were buzzing. Saturday morning arrived and we had struck a deal with a friend who agreed to drive us to the gig in his van and help us load in the gear as long as he was considered a band member for the day, fair enough. Having been given our backstage laminates shortly after arriving at The Millstreet Arena, we began to feel very much a part of this world if only for a few fleeting hours. We were peeling back the curtain that revealed how the other half lived. A room backstage with our name on the door had been provided and it had beer and food laid out for us, man this was amazing.

A stand out moment was being invited to watch Fergal, Mike and, Noel sound check. With only us, the sound engineers, and 4 crew members in the entire arena, the 3 boys took to the stage as if it was packed to capacity. I will never forget the level of passion these 3 troubadours poured into their soundcheck performance. This was later expanded to an accelerated dimension when the 4 Cranberries took to the stage that evening.

It was time for us to do our thing, we were assigned no less than 10 people to help us get our gear on to the monumental size stage. All of a sudden the arena doors burst open and floods of Cranberries fans started to pour in. There was a sudden realization that a soundcheck might not be on the cards for us, this was affirmed when our sound engineer whilst placing the last mic on the drums shouted “when I get to the sound desk start playing and just trust me” and that is precisely what we did. Our 30 – minute set whizzed by in a delicious flash and I tried hard to hold on to each moment as it passed. Then, just like that, I was standing backstage when a female cranberries fan asked me for my autograph, could this day get any better. From side stage left we watched as The Cranberries took The Millstreet Arena by storm that evening.

When the show ended I remember being backstage chatting with Fergal Lawlor about drums and why he preferred one make over another and then with Mike Hogan about the gig in Paris that they had played the week before. Did this really happen? is this really happening? and then Dolores was standing right in front of me, there was a brief exchange of compliments “well done on your set”, “I really enjoyed the show” and then she disappeared, this was the first and last time I saw Dolores in person. I left The Millstreet Arena that night feeling significantly expanded and fulfilled.

Yes, this was a delicious experience, everything felt possible!

The lived experience of that day in The Millstreet Arena has greatly inspired and influenced my own indie-folk style of songwriting and two decades later I am still impacted by The Cranberries’ genuineness and authenticity as I endeavor to always reflect my own Limerick congruence throughout my music.

If you would like to join me on this current phase of my musical journey and experience the songs that were inspired by my cranberries moment

click here to listen to my album “All Runs Clear” 

Thank you for being a listener and for making it all matter ! Eoin – Birdthistle

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