Thursday, January 25, 2007

Irish Pubs Part 6

In the last years of the 1990's I spent a lot of time in South Boston. Most of my band, The Delusions, lived there and my roommate Aldo had a rehearsal space on Second Street.

Aldo had become fond of his local Irish immigrant pub, right off of Dorchester Street and called "The Abbey".

Not to be confused with the Somerville, MA rock club the South Boston "Abbey" was yet another off the boat Irish concern that had displaced a fading dive bar. The new regime had spruced up the place, even to the point of restoring the fireplace. This was a huge selling point for Aldo, a Calabrese Italian who never quite took to New England winters.

South Boston, unlike the communities discussed earlier, was hard territory in the 1990s. The working class and poor Irish Americans who comprised the majority of its residents were not so quick to embrace their cousins from across the Atlantic. By the same token the huddled masses from Northern Ireland who seemed to gravitate towards the neighborhood's west side didn't trust or respect the natives. The Abbey, I would soon learn, often served as a forum for these differences.

The bar's owner sang with a cover band called "The Altar Boys", which specialized in covers of songs by Elton John, Van Morrison and the like. He was a curt, muscular man of about 30 with a shaved head and he spoke in a deep brogue.

My friend Mike's sound company provided P.A. for him and his band, who hosted Fleadhs every Sunday afternoon.

I wound up working these pretty regularly. After the first couple the bar changed their name to "Nancy Whiskey's". We would load in at 10:30am so we could be ready to go by noon, which was and is the earliest time a bar can serve liquor in Massachusetts on Sundays.

There was heavy tension between Americans and Irish as mentioned, but that didn't take away from the various non-ethnic disputes over booze, broads and blow. The donnybrooks were predictable, almost to the point of being on schedule. Much like an office worker uses coffee breaks and lunch hour to break up the day I would "watch the clock" by keeping track of the early afternoon fight, the mid afternoon fight and the dusk fight.

Often times the donnybrooks would be juxtaposed against the owner/Altar Boys' singer performing Elton John hits like "Rocket Man" and "Candle in The Wind"as the fists and bottles started flying.

The authorities tired of the place, which was out of hand even by Southie standards, soon enough and it did not survive the decade.

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Thomas said...
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