Different Strings

I vividly remember returning a hired Marshall amp back to a well known amp and PA Hire establishment in Dublin on a Saturday morning around 1977. I was just out of school and playing in my second band which had just started gigging. Two things stood out about that morning. Another band were picking up some amps and stuff for their gig that night. They were a colourful bunch. I remember the bass player. He wore a bright luminous green jumper, had big blond hair and was driving a Citroen car exactly the same color as his jumper. The second thing I remember was hearing an amazing album playing on the turntable in the background. I just had to ask who it was and I was told it was a Canadian Band called Rush. The album was 2112. I went and bought it straight away. Oh, and the other band in the shop? U2!

I loved Rush’s big lush sound and it was hard to believe it was coming from three guys. I remember learning A Passage to Bangkok which at the time was all I could take a stab at. From then on it was Moving Pictures and so on and Rush took their place in my record collection alongside The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and Steely Dan.

A couple of years later I met a young drummer called Ian Smyth. Ian was set to replace a departing drummer in an original band I was in that were ready to be signed. The band broke up before anything happened and that was that.

I spent a couple of years playing in covers bands with Ian to make a few quid. After that I embarked on my musical education studying jazz and theory in Ireland and in London. I played in a successful showband where the money was good and I also wrote some music. Ian and I got to work together over the years in various outfits and Ian used my guitar work on some of his compositions and projects in the studio. We also had a couple of years in a Jazz Fusion band playing the music of Dave Weckl, Tom Scott, Herbie Hancock etc.

But I was missing the guts and sweat of a Rock Band which is where I started. Then one day about 4 years ago Ian rang me with an ‘idea’. The idea was to form a Rush tribute band to see how we get on and thought it’d be a bit of craic. As I knew Rush and had learned a few of their songs I felt it was worth looking at. I had been in tribute bands before but I knew this would be different. Ian had put out the feelers and found a bass player called Mick Lindsay who was living in Wexford. Mick was a big Rush fan and was a pro musician like Ian and I.

We picked about six songs and Ian and I drove to Wexford to Mick’s house. We were all nervous. Two songs in we knew we had something. It was a great buzz. After the coffee break we were out with the pen and paper and drafting up the big plan. A year later after vast technical rehearsals Kevin Murphy joined us on vocals and keys. Kev is a prog music scholar and historian, a Rush fanatic and he has a tremendous stage presence.

On that first day in Mick’s house I never imagined it would have got to where we are now. Playing the music of Rush in theatres with these dedicated amazing musicians and having a world class audio-visual element to the show designed by our fifth member Carl McDonnell. As with all Rush tribute bands around the world we have spent a fortune on equipment in order to pull this off but it is money well spent. Our gigs are one big Rushfest party. Geddy Lee once had a tongue in cheek word for Rush tribute bands ‘good luck’! I can barely do it’.

It is a challenge we will continue to enjoy for a very long time.

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