It’s just before midnight in Whelans. Onstage, Hudson Taylor are playing to an entranced crowd. Standing in front of the enormous collection of signed CDs, photos, paintings and more, Peter Meade, the Man in Hat, stands with a grin on his face. There’s a twinkle in his eye as he takes his hat off and runs his fingers through his hair. He knows he’s made a difference tonight. This humid, sweaty room have all come together because of Peter and his partner for the night, Keiron Black.
The Man In Hat auction was organised to be the biggest auction of its type. A monster collection of signed CDs from Irish artists (everyone from local acts like Gypsy Rebel Rabble and Sineád White to huge names like Mundy and Bell X1), photographs from renowned Irish photographers, paintings from our local talent and even a signed Pete Townshend book and a signed Mick Jagger picture. There was a guitar signed by everyone who played on the night, even signed by yours truly. All the proceeds from the auction are going to helping the homeless, a tragedy Peter himself is all too familiar with.
Barry Jay Hughes and Carol Keogh were first and second, respectively. They were a perfect introduction to the night, with Carol Keogh in particular breaking the ice with the crowd. Keogh and The City Fathers warmed up the small crowd with a singalong, earning rapturous applause when Carol announced their cover of the night, A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke, prefacing it with her own speech.
The main event of the night, the auction, was up next. Hosted by Ian Whyte of Whyte’s, the auction itself opened online earlier in the week. Wasting no time, the first lot up for sale was the main lot; a collection of over 200 items (“245 exactly,” confirmed Peter with pride), everything signed. The auction opened on €500, with Whyte’s own website listing the estimated value at €2000. Side stage, Whyte had an assistant calling in bids from all over the world. The cost grew gradually, the tension in the room growing with it. In front of me, Peter shuffled and spun on his feet, unable to look at one spot for too long. My own heart was racing, and I was just taking notes. Whyte closed the bid at €1500 to cheers and an elated Peter giving me a hug, his smile bigger than the lot he just sold.
With over 8 lots to be auctioned (I forgot the actual number in the excitement), the money raised totalled over €2500, a success by everyone’s standards. With the auction complete, Peter and company were now free to relax and enjoy the night they had orchestrated.
Gavin Glass and The New Shakers were undoubtedly the strongest performers of the night. If there is such thing as a perfect performer, Gavin Glass is it. With sweat pumping, he tore through his set, playing songs from his new album, Sunday Songs. No one does it better than Glass, and he proved it, leading me to question why he wasn’t the headline act. The bass rumbled through the room while Gavin’s voice soared, keys tinkled and drums pounded, a euphonious assortment of sounds. One of the few pauses in his set was given before Good Fortune. He stopped and looked into the crowd. “This is for Peter,” he said. “A song of hope.”
From the back of the room, Peter asked “for me?” before Glass and the New Shakers launched into the most sentimental song of the night.
The crowd that had built up for Gavin Glass thinned ever so slightly by the time Cry Monster Cry came onstage. An unresponsive crowd left the room a little awkward, but a stripped back, acoustic cover of Dancing In The Dark won them over, and Cry Monster Cry showed why they deserved to be on this incredible bill. The transition from full band Gavin Glass to Cry Monster Cry was a little odd, but with the addition of a stomp box for their rendition of Ooh La La by Faces, the energy and power was regained. The cover was ultimately a crowd pleaser, with a singalong starting naturally.
Throughout the night, the room unfortunately never filled. I’m sure there are a multitude of reasons why, but it didn’t seem as if anyone involved really cared. After Cry Monster Cry, the crowd grew, however. Clearly all here to see Hudson Taylor, the ratio of men to women shifted to overwhelming female, all present to be serenaded by the bashful brothers. The changeover took a little long though, and the crowd began to grow a touch restless. It thinned again, and after a quick bit of detective work, I found a lot of people outside having a smoke break. Upon my return, Peter introduced Hudson Taylor, still beaming from his earlier success. The crowd erupted in feverish applause, and the brothers took the stage.
What followed was a fantastic set of pop songs on acoustic guitars, with the crowd joining in at every opportunity. Numerous times, Hudson Taylor stopped to teach the gathering a melody or some lyrics, but the crowd knew it all already. That, coupled with the sharp spike in numbers, made me realise that most of these people were here just for Hudson Taylor and not the auction at all.
Just like Cry Monster Cry, the band used a stomp box. It was no substitute for a drummer though, and often the impact was lost from overuse. A violin player and extra harmonies, with the occasional keyboard addition, really added to the sound, filling it up, trying to match the energy that Gavin Glass had earlier on. Through their whole set, the brothers kept eye contact as much as possible, but didn’t really interact outside of that.
The highlight of the Hudson Taylor set came towards the end. They unplugged their guitars and stood at the edge of the stage. Probably rehearsed extensively, but these are not raw musicians used to playing to drunk crowds. They serenaded the crowd, the crowd sang back. A beautiful ending to a compelling night of charity.
The venue emptied, the winners of the auction gathered their items and everyone went home happy, content in knowing that they helped to make a difference.