Deadsplinter Up! All Night: That’s It!

Lives are made up of different chapters, some short, some long. We all go through different phases as we figure out who we are and who we’re going to be in the future. No time is this more true than when we’re in our teens and twenties when we’re trying on all the different skins we can find. One of the more interesting in my life was my rock star era. I wasn’t actually a rock star. Not even close, but I did get to jam with some in a pretty unlikely place. And I wasn’t playing rock music. When I was a senior in high school, I started playing mandolin in an Irish folk band called the McMartin Gang. No one was named McMartin and I, being a Jewish kid from New Jersey, was far from Irish. I was also a terrible mandolin player. But, we did have a genuine fresh off the boat Irish guy in the Gang who could play any instrument ever invented and he showed me what to do. Which was mostly play the D, G, and C chords which seem to be the backbone of most Irish folk songs. We played traditional tunes and Pogues covers and would busk in New York City, and play gigs at hole in the wall bars.

One day we were in the East Village and stumbled across this little café that had just opened that was owned by an Irish guy. Sin-é (“that’s it” in Gaelic) it was called. It was a cute little place, and in one corner was an upright piano that had been left there by the space’s previous tenant. Eamon, our actual Irish guy, sat down at it and started to play Dirty Old Town which was our big number. There were a few people in the place and they seemed to get a kick out of it. Shane, who owned the place, came over and started chatting. During the late 80’s to the mid 90’s, New York was flooded with Irish immigrants almost like 100 years prior thanks to an immigration lottery that was biased in their favor. They all seemed to know each other, or someone who knew someone they knew and Eamon and Shane had one of these connections. Anyway, before you know it we had convinced Shane that we should play there. The place was kind of struggling and maybe music would bring some of this new crowd from the old country in. So, we became the Tuesday night house band. I don’t remember why it was Tuesdays, but it was probably because they didn’t have a liquor license and our lead singer liked to get roaringly drunk on the weekends.

Sin-é started to get packed on Tuesdays. Turns out people like listening to music and while we weren’t the most accomplished musicians except for one guy, we played a lot of favorites and began doing Irish covers of rock songs. Our 10 minute epic audience participation rendition of Brown Eyed Girl always brought down the house. Before long, real rock stars started coming in. Sinéad O’ Connor bussed tables for a couple weeks and sang Dirty Old Town with us. U2 showed up one night and Bono played piano. We did a song with Marianne Faithful. And Shane began treating the place like an actual venue. We were no longer the only band and eventually bigger acts wanted to play on Tuesdays, so our time, and my rock star era, came to an end. Members of the McMartin Gang had started going off to college anyway, and being a professional mandolin player was definitely not my destiny. Towards the end of our run, this young guy began playing fairly regularly. I had no idea who Jeff Buckley was. Not many people did at the time. But, he was utterly captivating to watch. He just loved singing and rocking out and it was infectious. Much more exciting than 10 minutes of sloppy Van Morrison.

Jeff’s first EP was recorded live at Sin-é and it’s a classic, I think. I never got to know him, but his untimely death hit hard mostly because of the Sin-é connection. It was like we were in the same family. And I remember saying when he started to get a following that he owed his career to us. Which was never true because he was a star wherever he played.

Jeff Buckley live at Sin-é.

Thank you for your continued support of Deadsplinter!



  1. …right…so I’m coming back with a tune…but it might be a while because that’s an awesome story & I think I need a minute?

    also it somehow feels wrong not to say congratulations on getting to do all that stuff…

    • Thanks! Full disclosure, though: I wasn’t there the night Bono showed up. But, I like to tell people I was.

  2. Very cool story Jonee! I’ve never been a huge Irish folk music fan but love Irish punk but my favorite Irish related band is Afro Celt Sound System. I saw them live at WOMAD before they stopped doing WOMAD in the U.S. because of visa problems (Thanks Pres. Bush). For anybody that doesn’t know, WOMAD was a creation of Peter Gabriel. He brought in acts from around the world on different stages and before or after each act they would have people come up on stage and learn about the instruments and the music (especially kids). Afro Celt closed the show with Peter on stage and other musicians from around the world. They put out an amazing sound with a mix of African percussion and traditional Celtic instruments.

    • I love ACSS. It is with great regret that I never got to see them live. I think this is one of the most beautiful songs ever made.

  3. wow, what a cool story. Sinéad O’ Connor and U2/Bono (I gotta look up Marianne Faithful). any Phil Lynott stories?

    I guess you know what comes next now!

    Thin Lizzy – Whiskey In The Jar

    • Unfortunately, Phil was gone by the time Sin-é started. I always wanted to cover Whiskey in the Jar, but I guess I was outvoted because it never happened.

      • is ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ popular in Ireland, or is it something Americans think is popular in Ireland but that’s not the case?

        • …in my (admittedly not exhaustive) experience they tend to leave the e out of the whisky…possibly because they need two to spell Eire?

          …but their version of moonshine is no joke

          …I’m pretty sure someone once told me the penalty for smuggling that stuff across the border (it was the illegal sort of moonshine) to Northern Ireland was steeper than if you were running guns…& that was during “the troubles”?

  4. What a great story teller. And what a fun life. Here’s to a wild life, Drgn King.

  5. Jonee, that’s funny because I had this Jeff Buckley song all queued up for tonight. Yes, Jeff spent quite a bit of time playing covers at Sin-é, as well as washing his fair share of dishes. That is so cool that you got to see him in his early days!

    The song that I prepared is Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing” which Jeff performs along with his mentor, Gary Lucas.

    Jeff had cut his hair short for a while because he kept getting comparisons to Michael Bolton!

    • That’s funny. And we did Sweet Thing a few times. I was thinking of you with this post because I know you’re a Jeff fan. I might have mentioned my Sin-é connection to you once in the Kinja DUAN days. I only remember seeing him play a couple times actually, but he was amazing.

  6. Another piece of the Jonee story. You are a fascinating person, I can’t wait to learn more.

    I’ve been thinking of a couple of folks from my past recently and this Tim Buckley song comes to mind.

    I also went through a rock star phase. A lot of my friends were professional musicians, nobody famous, sessions guys. But they had their own bands that played out and I was known to warble a tune with them. One night I was at a music industry party and met Roy Buchanan. He was a mess, spent most of the night trying to borrow money from the guys in his band to buy crack. A month later he was gone. Such a loss.

    • Wow, that Roy story is depressing. A definite rock star moment, though.

      • It was sort of an up close and personal view of decline. Very sad.

  7. …right, so – where was I the now?

    Ah, yes…I was lucky enough to spend some summers as a kid on the south coast of Ireland where there were beaches & boats & rocks to climb & waves to try to ride (poorly in my case) which was a wonder in a great many ways

    …but was also other kinds of wonderful as one got (not much) older in a place where an order for a large whisky at the bar could see you walking away with a half-pint mug with more whisky than ice…so compared to the live version I was thinking of when I went looking this one sounds entirely too chipper…the accent should be strong enough to have you feeling their recollected hangover as a premonition of your impending future, really

    …but in honor of your tale, Jonee – which I doubt I could top of I lived to a hundred & ten…

    • Excellent choice. Surfing in Ireland sounds amazing. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

      • …mostly body-board-ers & windsurfing but there were a few beaches with a just about respectable break on the right day

        …I tended to do most of my sailing in a boat rather than on a board because friends had one…actually one sailboat & one with a motor we’d use to go out & haul in a net once a day so there was always fresh fish on the menu

        …them were the days, you know?

        …but some of the lads & lasses on those windsurf rigs treated the breakers like skaters treat the half-pipe…which was about the craziest shit I saw on water until kite-surfing got to be a thing?

        • Ireland has some big crazy waves if u are into winter thick wetsuit action:

          • …I was down on the wussy south coast rather than up on the west where the really big waves were…but it’s surprising to me even now what those windsurfers could pull off even when the swell wasn’t much bigger than the the wash from a powerboat

            …all in all though…I’m glad it was the summers…I mostly didn’t have any kind of wetsuit

  8. Because every night should be Wednesday night:

    • Welp! This isn’t available in my country so I went out of my way to check it out…you got me again!

  9. Jonee> amazing backstory and intro. Thank you for sharing!

    I’ll stick with the Irish part of the theme and with the once-in-a-while-mentioned crush theme:

    • Hadn’t thought about them much since they were popular for a hot minute back in the late 90’s, but I do know what you mean………………

  10. Sloppy Van Morrison? No wonder, he was real real gone.

  11. That Sin-é tale is wonderful. I love origin stories. Deadsplinter is one of my favorite music blogs going. You guys tell me if I start to post too much, OK? It’s just that I so want to share this unusual, doomed music known as doo-wop. I wasn’t even alive when this music was made, but it just reaches into my chest and grabs me down deep. Someday, I’ll tell the story of the Sunday morning, 5am, decades ago when my life was saved by this music.

  12. Great story!!
    Here’s some Marianne Faithful…the Irish side of my family likes to play this one at funerals so it gives me a big sad.

    • Holy shit, someone get Marianne a carton of Camels and a fifth of bourbon, stat!

  13. Finest Kind, Jonee.

  14. wow… closest i came to having rockstar years was kinda living like one for about 10 years…by wich i mean i was on every drug known to man and partying damn near every night…i took work to live very seriously lol…most people didnt even know i existed before nighttime as no one ever saw me during the day

    i’d probably have my own house now if i’d been a little smarter lol
    oh well..i had fun and survived the experience (and somehow never got addicted to any of the drugs…alcohol is my weakness tho)

  15. No songs tonight from me, except one of my favorite ‘Jovi’s:

    I was lucky enough to see the boys sing it live, when they were here in MN, the only night they performed it on The Circle tour, years ago, and the *only* other song I’ve EVER heard have more magic in a concert was Prince’s encore a different year–when he closed out the evening with (of course) Purple Rain.

    I’m also sharing a couple of really *good* stories, because we could all use a bit of happy & “things going right in the world” these days; (shared this on one of Rooo’s TSB/GT posts the other day😉💖)

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