LA Promo Trip Blog - Day 3
Stephen Fry, KT Tunstall, Stephen Colbert, JJ Abrams and Carrie Fisher surround me in a reverent circle.
"Oh Dan. How do you write such great songs?" gushes Mr Abrams.
"Well, JJ - actually, as we're such good pals now, may I call you J for short?"
"Oh please. Anything! It's such an honour to meet you."
Tom's distant voice interrupts rudely.
"Dan. Dan? Dan! What are you looking at?"
"What?", I reply absently.
"Are you - daydreaming?"
Reality gradually but brutally reassembles itself.
"Could you step back from the rope please sir?"
Tom and I hover shiftily to the side of the Oscar Wilde Awards press call, somewhat more peripheral to proceedings than imagined. Otherwise though, I’m startled to find reality remains no less absurd than reverie.
A thousand flash bulbs burn the retinas as Stephen Fry chats genially to an excitable young journalist in front of several TV cameras.
Behind him, rather bizarrely, our pal and partner in musical crime Megan O'Neill banters equally effortlessly with an RTE TV reporter, who seems just as breathlessly amazed to interview Her Eminence as his press colleague is to collar Britain's National Treasure, Mr Fry.
KT Tunstall, who is on Megan's guest list for the event, gives her own interview to another camera beside them.
What an odd world we inhabit.
Presently Megan joins us, creditably just as struck by the ridiculousness of the situation.
"Well that was fucking weird."
"You're telling me, sister."
The event is at Bad Robot, JJ Abrams' production company, and Mr Abrams is inside chatting to a few presumably important people. He recognises Ciaran and Brian and they introduce us.
Until now my relatively low ranking in the food chain has been eloquently emphasised by the quality of handshakes I've received on this trip. Megan, the star, invariably gets the full piano keyboard smile, the "Megan, it's SO great to meet you!", and the Premium Grade Handshake-
Plus lasting several seconds. As the same person reaches Tom, this becomes a mere "Tom? Hi."
By the time they get to "And this is Dan" they are quite openly casting about the room for somebody more important, so I usually get a vaguely recognisable impersonation of a handshake which bears a slightly stronger resemblance to a handful of wilted lettuce.
I'm therefore pleasantly surprised when JJ Abrams gives me a broad smile, warm greeting and very firm handshake, and seems genuinely friendly and engaging. Respect.
The evening begins with speeches by Mr Abrams, Stephen Fry and Carrie Fisher. Each charm in their own way but none tug the strings of the heart as keenly as a poem read by the British-Irish poet David Whyte, and the humble, thoughtful words from the portrait artist Colin Davidson in acceptance of his award. Megan is later thrilled when he tweets his appreciation of her performance.
Stephen Colbert picks up a gong for his contribution to Irish culture. I dare Tom to interrupt his acceptance speech by rushing the podium and incoherently haranguing the crowd about how, in his opinion, this award should actually have gone to Beyoncé.
Speeches over, we assemble downstairs to play. The lights are upon us. The great and the good look on expectantly.
We get into it. The O'Neill pipes are in fine form. Her voice soars up into the darkened California sky. The watching throng seem suitably impressed; the set flies by and Gavin James takes over.
Gavin James joins us for a tune
A fine new Irish singer songwriter just signed to Capitol, Gavin boasts an extraordinary elastic voice that occasionally leaps up to a spectacular falsetto. He’s already topped the Irish charts but seems just as quietly bemused at the surreal celebrity circles in which we find ourselves.
When Tom and I later run into him outside the rest rooms he recounts an exchange with a man he didn't recognise and whose identity was only subsequently revealed by Gavin's manager as Mark Hamill.
"Turns out I was chatting to Luke Skywalker in the Gents'...".
Megan’s excellent and thoughtful management have had food put aside for us; we ravenously rip into it while watching Gavin's set. Having limited myself to a single beer before playing, I get a very stiff drink and try not to touch my face.
Why? Because it's covered in some sort of beauty product. Obviously.
Bloody O'Neill. I'll get her for that
A repressed traumatic memory from earlier today resurfaces and I’m once again watching a nice lady called Janice do Megan's hair and make-up for the event.
O'Neill, with customary grace, humility and generosity of spirit, insists each member of the band receives equal star treatment.
"Do Tom and Dan too!" she cackles, with a slightly malicious glint in her freshly mascara'd eyes.
I feebly protest but Janice helpfully chips in that I'll look pale under the lights otherwise, so narcissism gets the better of me and I meekly submit to this humiliation like the ludicrously vain man I am. She holds me still to rub a mysterious tinted cosmetic cream into my craggy chops.
Megan O’Neill roars with triumphant laughter. I am horrified to realise too late that she’s whipped out a camera phone.
The Great One has waited patiently to get me back for my scurrilous revelations about her showering habits in Day 1 of this blog, and seizes this golden opportunity with indecent enthusiasm.
"This is SO going in the blog!"
She snaps away gleefully. Unable to move, I try to arrange my features into the type of expression Bob Dylan might wear in the circumstances. I fail. Janice grabs some scissors and snips sharply around the top of my sideburns.
O'Neill's mirth rapidly rises in pitch until it hits a note audible only to dogs.
Message for the paparrazzi
"Oh my god, is she CUTTING YOUR EAR HAIR?"
Megan O’Neill looks at me and laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs.
I sniff sheepishly. Dignity has left the building.
Mercifully, Gavin’s re-introduction of Megan for an encore duet brings me back to the present; we all hop back up and plug in again to do the famous traditional Irish folk song known as With Or Without You by U2.
It goes well considering the rehearsal was just a quick strum through earlier, and there's some lovely O'Neill-James vocal interplay. There are calls for more so we have a swing at Heard It On The Grapevine, and in the absence of any other ideas Gavin closes up with a cheeky version of I Wanna Be Like You from The Jungle Book.
Without further ado we quit while we're ahead; there's a free bar to be ransacked and little time to do it in.
As Ciaran drives us home in our rental car I suddenly realise I never got to explain to JJ Abrams how we write such great songs. To be fair, he never got to ask me either, but I suppose he was busy.
We've had a few drinks. Gazing out the window at the LA lights, I carelessly rest my head on my hand. Then I look at my hand. My fingers bear a faint trace of tinted cosmetic cream.
Behind us the Bad Robot offices recede softly into the night.