Review: Acoustic Dan & Conor O’Gallachoir – Sunflower Bar, Belfast
There is a happy buzz in the Sunflower bar as the audience piles in, expectant smiles on their faces in anticipation for the night of folk-punk comedy ahead. Daniel Gregory or ‘Acoustic Dan’ has played around Ireland for years, and most of the audience are aware of him either because they have seen him before or through his Youtube channel, on which he is constantly adding material. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0eFe1Zxksu_IpRSVZC0WGg
Opening up we are treated to a blistering set from Conor O’Gallachoir, a Dublin-based performer with a similar look and persona as the infamous Withnail from Withnail & I. Opening with an arrangement of ‘The Fresh Prince of Belair’ (altered to ‘Kildare’), Conor delivers a set that is as dramatic as it is hilarious. He switches between comedy folk songs and spoken word poetry, with perfect diction that manages to shut up everybody in the place. It’s considerably difficult to do this in any setting, let alone in a busy pub on a Saturday night, but Conor more than manages it.
O’Gallachoir is fundamentally a story-teller, so the mix of music and spoken word blends perfectly, and sounds even better in his neurotic Kildare accent. In one of his songs, ‘Omar the Drunk and the Nasty Fiend’, he frantically tells the story of an old alcoholic who dies of a heart attack and somehow turns this into a madcap tale of murder, mystery and metaphysics. Like our main act tonight, he has that rare gift of making the simplest of observations and bringing them into highly original comic territory.
With the laughter and applause still bubbling away from Conor’s set, Acoustic Dan dances towards his stool as the crowd spontaneously starts singing Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’. After introducing himself, Dan opens with a song that perfectly sums up his ethos and the message behind much of his music, ‘The One Commandments/ Try Not to Be A C**t’.
With Conor’s set we were treated to the nuances of Irish surrealism, but Dan’s blend of humour is blunt, to the point, and very Belfast. Singing in a broad West Belfast accent, Dan sings songs that are inspired by the most mundane to the most profound observations. ‘Fly Song’ for example is about exactly what you might think, a little fly buzzing around driving our protagonist nuts, complete with Dan’s strangely accurate imitation of a fly’s buzz. Then there’s the heartbreaking ‘Troll Under the Bridge’, a song about a homeless person he had seen living under a bridge on his daily walk to work. The wonderful ‘No One Gets It Easy’, even deals with our suicide problem in sensitive, humorous fashion, urging the listener to ‘Get a haul of [their] balls’.
There is a moment when Dan gets visibly emotional, as he plays a song dedicated to his beloved mother, simply titled ‘Ma’. It is his own personal account, but he gives the song a universal appeal with the moving chorus lyric- ‘And I love her, oh I love her, and if you’re lucky enough to still have your mother, tell her that you love her’.
Acoustic Dan has a particular knack for turning messy nights out and unfortunate events into songs, ‘The Night Niall Fryers F**ked My Face Up’ and ‘Please Don’t Cut Your D**k Off (You’ve Just Taken Too Much Drugs)’ are two anecdotal masterpieces that had the audience in fits of laughter. Then there’s ‘Toddler Group Twat’, a song about Dan’s unspoken rivalry with an overly enthusiastic fellow father that attends the same toddler group. Singer-songwriters should be singing about their daily lives, and Dan takes this concept very literally!
Humour is at the core of what Dan does, but behind this there is the same conscience and heart as his hero, Woody Guthrie. Dan seems to follow Woody’s mantra of ‘Three Chords And the Truth’, and it is as effective now in the Sunflower, Belfast as it was all those years ago in Oklahoma and New York City. Three Chords, No Spoof.