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  • Northside East

The Grove's 50th anniversary reunion was more than a feeling

Thursday, 31st August, 2017 1:38pm
The Grove's 50th anniversary reunion was more than a feeling

Last weekend's Grove reunion. PHOTO: Darren Kinsella

The Grove's 50th anniversary reunion was more than a feeling

Last weekend's Grove reunion. PHOTO: Darren Kinsella

By Andy Colbert

LOOKING back over last weekend, I can safely say that the 50th anniversary of The Grove event was a complete success.

I've been running these nights since the first Grove Tribute in 2002 at the Isaac Butt on Store Street, to the 40th anniversary reunions in 2007 at the Old Shieling, right through to last weekend’s two nights in Raheny.
To attempt to pull off a reunion in one of the venues, St Paul's, was setting myself a challenge, to say the least. Not so much the organising of another reunion, but running the events from the ground up: providing the toilet paper; unblocking the toilets; mopping up the spillages; stocking the tuck shop; designing and ordering the merchandise; picking up the cigarette butts from between the stones in the compound after the event; and organising the insurance.

Full responsibility for the entire operation rested on my two shoulders. That was the challenge.

It was a question of trying to recreate the original experience and bring it forward to a world we could have only imagined all those years ago. Back at the original St Paul's Grove, they had one phone on the premises - a pay phone on the wall of the staff room. Last weekend we had over 500 phones.

I think we struck the right balance. We added some nice festoon lights in the compound, which wouldn't have been out of place 20 or 30 years ago. And we had a Grove membership ‘photo booth’ where people could ‘renew’ their membership, as such.

Apart from that, the cloakroom and tuckshop were there, all run by teenagers, as it was back then. We didn't have off-duty gardaí as security as our insurance policy required licensed professionals.

We used CDs as opposed to vinyl as our primary source of music, even though we had a turntable and Cecil's two boxes of records with us on stage. The choice of CD over vinyl was for a few reasons - mainly because the records in the boxes are the records Cecil played in 1997, and there's been a heavy rotation of vinyl since the first Grove in 1967. I had them on stage in case Cecil felt the urge to break them out.
At such a momentous reunion, the pressure to please was tremendous. Mainly self-inflicted pressure, but it's there all the same.

During the actual Grove years, Cecil had a maximum age span of four years on any given night, so the desire to hear Wilson Pickett's 'Don't Fight It' in '97 was not what it was in '67 and the Grovers in '67 were definitely not looking for Rage Against the Machine's 'Killing in the Name'.

This time we had at least a 30-year age span, but we had the same few hours to condense the three decades of music into. No, we didn't get to play every request, not even the songs that I wanted to hear - and I was the one on the decks and the organiser of the weekend.

You can never please everybody, so in this regard it wasn't a perfect occasion. But you will never please everybody, so I'm cool with that.
There were people from the early days in attendance, not least one of the founding Grove crew, Tony Evans, probably the longest standing team member, along with Cecil. In fact, there were quite a few from the Belgrove days (pre-1975). The Belgrove Football Club burned down in '75, so a reunion back at that venue was never on the cards.

I'm guessing the Belgrove crowd didn't quite get out of the nights what the post '75ers did. Again, this was out of my control, but I know from talking to a few of them that the Grove magic was still present for them.
Regarding special guests on the night, we had 500 of them each night, most notably Today FM's Dave Moore on the Friday, who manned the decks for the metal hour at the start of the night; then on the Saturday, the honour was passed to Phantom FM and 2FM's Ray McGowan.

Marty Whelan and his wife Maria came down on the Saturday and hung out on the stage with Cecil for most of the night. We also managed to stream Saturday's proceedings for those ex-Grovers around the world who wanted to but couldn't attend the reunions.

We had a camera crew capturing the evening's highlights and interviewing ex-Grovers, gathering stories and memories. We also presented Cecil with a framed gold disc of Wilson Pickett's 'Don't Fight It' - the first record he ever played at the Grove in '67.

Other highlights from the weekend were the infamous 'Rock Lobster' dance, ‘Black Betty’ (there's a great clip up on our Facebook page taken from the back of the hall), ‘Since You've Been Gone’ and the last two songs on the Saturday night.

When Cecil and myself met earlier in the week to reconnect (I live in Sweden) and discuss the upcoming reunion, he told me that he wanted to pay tribute to us, the ex-Grovers. He had two songs in mind: Queen’s 'These Are the Days of Our Lives' and The Kinks 'Days' - both very poignant songs that he felt would capture his feelings on this occasion.

It's almost become tradition at the reunions to finish with Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', but he decided to play 'These Are the Days of Our Lives' as the finale (at the time Cecil thought it would go down better than 'Days'). Not the anthemic ‘high’ that we usually go out on, but a much more apt song in keeping with the weekend.

During this song, a woman came up to Cecil. She was very emotional and had tears in her eyes. Whatever she said to Cecil just tipped him over the edge and he broke down in tears. As the song drew to a close, I signalled for the lights to go on, but the crowd wanted more. A very emotional Cecil had retreated behind the backdrop at this point and I was unsure what to do. I had 'Days' lined up in the other deck so I just pressed play. The crowd, the emotion, the song, Cecil… it was like the end of a movie; a real tearjerker.

We all have our personal memories from The Grove. I tried to make sure that we had the main ingredients so that each person could, in some form or another, reignite those memories, those feelings.
I haven't yet read the Grove Social Club Facebook Group comments so I don't know if I achieved that, but I did my best. I set myself two goals for this year: to pull off The Grove 50th Anniversary Reunion at St Paul's and to lick my own elbow - one out of two ain't bad!

As for the next reunion, we'll be holding a smaller, more intimate night in the Abbey Tavern, Howth, on November 24. This is the anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death and the day before Queen and Adam Lambert play in Dublin, as it turns out - it all comes back to Queen!

I think Cecil wants to keep these nights going as long as he's upright. We both ran the length of Abbey Street to catch the 32 bus yesterday evening so it looks like a 60th anniversary reunion is not out of the question.

Andy Colbert was the organiser of The Grove's 50th Anniversary Weekend.

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