Mick O’Malley’s Irish Pub Saturday Aug16
By Matt Thrower
Photography by Rick Ng
Murphy’s Pigs are Australians who play Irish folk music. It’s the most natural thing in the world, because in a sense, Irish music is Australian music too. Most of the old Australian folk ballads we sang in school were either actual Irish songs, or bush songs heavily derived from that country in terms of tempo, melody and instrumentation. The Emerald Isle is, quite simply, an essential part of our very DNA as Australians. This is reflected in the crowd tonight, with Irish and Aussies alike singing along with Murphy’s Pigs’ large repertoire of standards. The band themselves are fairly traditional in style, as fiddle, banjo and acoustic guitar combine with some sharp vocal harmonies and an almost metronome-perfect rhythm section. There’s even a tip of the cap to Irish music’s later imbibing of rhythm and blues (through legendary acts such as Them) with ‘60s-styled keyboard twists thrown in.
A fair amount of those aforementioned songs we all used to sing at school appear, with the result that Wild Colonial Boy and Black Velvet Band actually get me a little misty-eyed with nostalgia. When the fiddle player and a guest singer are roaming through the crowd for a rousing take on Dirty Old Town (originally a British song which the Irish made their own), it’s immediately clear the group can amiably play with an audience’s emotions – one minute, you can be crying into your beer, the next you feel the urge to pour it over your head with an effusive “whoop!”. That said, Murphy’s Pigs remain a fairly curious band to review. Most of us music critics write about shows where the performance is the main focus of concentration in the room. This show is somewhat different. Neither background music nor the centre of attention for the audience, Murphy’s Pigs populate a significant middle ground. And that is to be part of a larger, communal whole.
Murphy’s Pigs are just one (albeit important) ingredient in an overall experience that blends music, food, beer, fun, singing along and amiable social contact. There are few more agreeable ways to spend a Saturday afternoon and the whole shebang is as Irish and Australian as Guinness and lamingtons.