Month: October 2014

A Marvelous Night For A Moondance

Van, The Man.

Van, The Man.

There is something innately special about the thought of seeing a favorite artist or band play their hometown. Dylan in Minnesota. Bruce in Jersey. Wilco in Chicago. To see these guys perform where it all began, before all the hype and celebrity nearly guarantees a unique and powerful performance unlike any other.

Van Morrison, having long been revered amongst the extended Kane and Fitzpatrick family, would easily fit in this camp. I have fond memories of listening to “Wild Night” on repeat while drinking Tahitian Treat by the case load and battling my brothers in NHL ’95 over and over again at my dad’s house nearly 20 years ago. He has since stayed on my short list of favorites through the years; with a more recent highlight being able to witness, along with 100,000+ of our closest friends, Morrison deliver a blistering set to close out the 2010 New Orleans Jazz Fest.

So last week when I discovered Van was playing an intimate show in his hometown of Belfast, it was a no brainer: I was hopping a bus and heading north. What made this gig even more compelling was the venue of choice, the historic Europa Hotel. Known as the most bombed hotel in the world after suffering nearly 30 attacks during The Troubles, it has persevered through the years and is now a main tourist destination and top hotel for Belfast City. President and First Lady Clinton stayed here in 1995 and 1998 while working on the peace process in Northern Ireland. NOTE: I unsuccessfully tried to book into the Clinton Suite for my stay on Saturday night, although the fine folks at the front desk did put me just down the hall on the 10th floor.

Maybe next time I'll gain access to the Presidential Suite.

Maybe next time I’ll gain access to the Presidential Suite.

After a five-hour journey with connecting busses from Galway to Dublin and Dublin to Belfast, I arrived at the Europa Hotel Saturday evening just in time for the pre show ballroom dinner. Yes, when you book a ticket to see Van Morrison in a 300-person room in the most famous hotel in his hometown, you get a full course meal and all you can drink wine before the show. Who says Van is a total curmudgeon?

At my table were a great group from Belfast who had all seen similar shows from Van at least four or five times previously. They were pleasantly surprised to hear my story of why an American living in the West of Ireland decided to travel north for the night to see the show (when it was established that no one at the table was familiar with Pearl Jam or Wilco I decided to hold off on describing any of my other previous rock n roll pilgrimages) and remarked how they were fascinated by the amount of people they have met who travel from all over the world for a chance to see the legend play his hometown.

The most bombed hotel in the world, the Europa

The most bombed hotel in the world, the Europa.

Moments after the final plate was cleared the band took the stage, launching into the instrumental “Celtic Swing,” with Van leading the way with his signature sax.

What struck me most about Morrison last night was his effortless skill as a bandleader. Directing his seven-piece group with both a casual persona as well as a striking professionalism of someone who has been at the top of his game for over five decades. He truly appeared to be enjoying himself on stage too, remarking halfway through his set, “Hey I’ve finally got a pulse tonight!”

Whether it was because it was a hometown show or just a lucky Saturday night, the crowd was treated to two hours of amazing music from one of the greatest musicians the world has ever known. With a songbook as rich as his to pull from, there was no sign of the massive chart topping hits that are played at karaoke bars every night the world over, and I don’t think the crowd would’ve had it any other way. If you told me some 20 years ago that one day I’d witness Van The Man perform in such an intimate and historic venue right in his own backyard, the word “surreal” would immediately come to mind. Last night confirmed it, a night I will not soon forget.

Until next time.


P.S. For you history buffs out there (looking at you Kev Murph and Dan Fitz) check out this BBC documentary on the history of the Europa Hotel during The Troubles. Fascinating stuff.

Fall is here

8 October 2014

Hello friends,

We are officially past the incredible spell of September weather and into October. I woke up this morning to thunder, lighting, and a flood watch for Galway City. No matter what we are dealt over the next few months it won’t change the fact that the last six weeks have been absolutely gorgeous. Stunning weather for the beginning of fall in the west of Ireland.

recent sunset in the city centre

–recent sunset in the city centre

Here are a few updates on what we’ve been up to in Galway over the last month or so. I hope you and yours are enjoying the fall season, no matter where you are in the world.

A highlight of last month, and really my entire time in Ireland thus far was having lunch with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. I was fortunate enough to be invited by the IDA and NUI-Galway to help welcome the Mayor back to his parent’s hometown. Both from Connemara, about an hour outside Galway, Walsh’s parents immigrated separately to the States in the 1950s before meeting in the dance halls of Dorchester and getting married in Boston. Mayor Walsh was back in town to visit family and friends as well as take the opportunity to promote and discuss ways that Boston and Galway can collaborate more in today’s global tech economy. When asked what’s the biggest difference of coming back to Galway now as Mayor compared to the years coming over to visit family, the Mayor replied “It seems I have even more cousins now than I ever remember. Oh and people seem to want to take more pictures with me.” He also spent time with a group of BC college students who are on a semester abroad trip at NUIG. Unofficially dubbed “Galway’s Son” he couldn’t have been nicer and more engaging. I look forward to following his progress as the new leader of Boston over the next generation.

-editor in chief of, welcoming Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh back to Galway.

–editor in chief of, welcoming Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh back to Galway.

At SmartBear EMEA HQ we are pressing forward towards some aggressive Q4 growth targets after finishing up our first quarter together as a team. Summer holiday season is officially over and our expanding customer base has joined us on the mad dash towards yearend.

Amongst our growing team I am fascinated on a daily basis by an unintended dynamic. Something I didn’t foresee when hiring our first group was the unique cultural differences/rivalries between the different parts of Ireland. Of our current roster of 12 we list the following as birthplaces across the island: Galway (x4), Belfast, Mayo, and Limerick (in addition to Moscow, London, Stillwater, Glasgow, and Bangalore). Suffice it to say we are truly an international sales team, and there is a fair bit of “slagging” that goes on between the lads from Galway/Limerick/Mayo. Being a Minnesotan who survived six years in a Boston office, I can relate.

Those of us “blow ins” have also been getting a crash course in the finer points of the Irish vernacular. Some of my recent favorites:

Yer man – direct translation would be “that guy”. Example: “Do you see yer man over there, he was quite pissed.” I was thoroughly confused the first few times I heard it used in a sentence, and now catch myself using it frequently.

G’won (go on)– best translation would be “step up” or “all you” in American slang. Used frequently went attempting to coax someone into a bet or a dare.

Fair play to you– meaning well done, or nice work. Example: When one of my reps closes a deal with a difficult customer, it would be common to here a teammate shout, “eh fair play to you on that deal lad.”

Played a blinder of a game – American version would be “crushed it.” Saw this in an email today describing our new sales engineer’s first external presentation in front of 100+ software testers in Spain. Google told me he did well!

Bye, bye, bye – quite simply, Irish don’t just say goodbye to finish a phone call. They say it a minimum of three times, and aren’t afraid to go for five or six if the situation calls for it.

Lastly, here is your weekly dose of why Galway is one of the most incredible places on earth, shot during the International Oyster Festival last month by local filmmaker Hugh Sweeney. In case you were wondering, the offices of SmartBear are a two minute walk from where this video was shot. We are living the good life on Ireland’s west coast.


Until next time.