Being from Irish decent I must freely admit to gravitating towards Irish pubs wherever I happen to be in the World. Just like Irish emigrants around the globe you are never far from an Irish Pub. If you have ever been to Ireland then you know that the majority of pubs are old small and shabby with clutter in every nook and cranny.
The Irish Pub as a global concept tends to be more like an American Irish Bar with open plan dining and drinking tables scattered over the ubiquitous wooden floors. To be honest, as much as I love the tiny claustrophobic Public House of Ireland it does not translate that well to warmer climes where you need higher ceilings and large opening doors to get the air flowing and to make the most of the weather.
A real Irish Pub transplanted to Penang would decapitate most of the revellers once the ceiling fans were installed and that just does not go down well with the locals, it’s normally the morning after the night before that you need to be decapitated.
What really sets an Irish Pub apart is the atmosphere and on Saturday night this was created at Finnegan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant located at Strait’s Quay, Penang. The large open bar could have been purpose built to host bands and as it seats close to 350 people inside and out the atmosphere is created and builds the busier it gets.
On Saturday night the revellers started arriving at Finnegan’s as the band was setting up at 9 pm and by the time they were ready to start their first set the place was starting to hum and by their first break there wasn’t a free table in the place.
The holy grail for any ‘night owl’ on Penang is finding the best places to eat, drink and listen to good music. Food is not a problem to find nor is just a watering hole but finding good live music to listen to as well is more of a challenge. I grew up in London where pubs were a plenty and band nights were scattered around the larger pubs with an abundance of live performances varying in quality from world class to bloody awful.
So when I moved to Penang a year ago I set myself the quest, in a half-hearted manner, to find the best of Penang’s live music scene.
Finnegan’s Irish Pub and restaurant was one of, if not the first, establishment open in Straits Quay when the Marina complex was opened at the end of last year, and one of the first on my new list of Best of Penang’s live music venues.
Finnegan’s continues to offer regular live music at Strait’s Quay, with the current band Acidic Bunch, a new collection of tried and tested talented musicians. Formed as a group in the last year, they showcased at Hard Rock Hotel where they have just finished a run of shows.
Acidic Bunch, which numbers 7 members in its full lineup, are all from different musical backgrounds. They offer a great pub music sound with a varied set of modern and classic popular numbers.
1. IZWAN (vocals) is an ex- PAKU member, a local rock outfit who toured London & Ireland with several hit songs and nominated for Best Rock Song in local music awards. He possesses powerful rock vocals and has been singing locally at the Hard Rock Hotel & Golden Sands Hotel.
2. RAY (vocals/rap) is of mix Thai & Chinese origin. He has a smooth voice & is versatile in singing English, Thai, Malay, Chinese & Spanish songs. Ray also raps to the latest hits and often performs in Bangkok, Thailand.
3. JASMINE (vocals) has a sexy, powerful & husky voice. She is a great dancer & performer too. She’s an experienced singer who is often in demand for corporate functions.
4. AARON (guitar/vocals) loves to play funky riffs & hard rocking grooves. He has a sweet voice that will melt the hearts of those who listen. Aaron’s a seasoned performer as seen at functions like Gurney Plaza’s Annual New Year’s Eve Countdown concert and other notable corporate functions.
5. ALWYN (drums) is the youngest member of the band. He plays powerful rock beats & grooves. He’s currently a drums instructor with House of Drums. He performs regularly in Hard Rock Penang with his acoustic band.
6. CC (bass) comes from a jazz background and he has been playing in music venues like ‘G’ Hotel, & 32 The Mansion. He played main stage for the 1st Penang Jazz Festival.
7. EZEKIEL (keyboards), the latest member, is a talented musician with a background in music production & recording. He is also a freelance sessionist & produces music jingles.
They may all come from different beginnings but they sure do blend together in one tight group with vocals and musical ability at the top of their game. The problem for all new bands is finding their sound and as the majority of gigs on offer call for cover songs that is what Acidic Bunch provide for now.
When I spoke to the band at the start of the evening I asked where their name came from. Aaron told me that they gravitated together around acid jazz and the name grew out of this association.
The guys also answered a few questions that had been burning in me for the last year. Namely, why were there not more live music venues? They put it down to the fact that most places feel that they cannot afford to have a band. This is a little like saying that a business cannot afford to advertise, if you do not advertise you will never have the money or trade to keep going or expand, the same with a live band. There is no denying that a live performance, coupled with promoting the fact, will bring you more customers and once customers come and like the place you can start to build a loyal fan.
They are still finding their own sound but it won’t be long before we hear some new and original music from these guys and we at ‘What’s On Penang’ will keep you updated.
So get yourself down to Finnegan’s on Straits Quay for a great night out and some of the best live music around.