Mike the Pies - Unplugged

Fergus Dennehy talks to Aidan O’Connor, the owner of one of the hottest music venues in Kerry at the moment, ‘Mike the Pies’; Aidan chats about the inspiration behind the music venue, the bar's recent award win and why he thinks the bar holds such an allure for bands

Aidan O'Connor, Mike The Pies
Aidan O'Connor, Mike The Pies
The Mike the Pies award

Another Thursday, another sold-out show for Listowel music venue 'Mike The Pies' and another busy night for its owner, Aidan O'Connor.

With Brian Deady, Columbia Mills and Stephanie Rainey all booked in to play sold-out shows over the next few weeks and months, it's easy to see why the name 'Mike the Pies' has become synonymous with the term 'live music' here in Kerry.

Since taking over the running of the bar on March 1, 2014, Aidan has seen the bar go from strength to strength - with Christy Dignam, 'Fang Club', 'Damien Dempsey', 'Hudson Taylor' and 'The Frank and Walters' just some of the acts to have played there over the past number of years.

Add into this the fact that the venue has won both the 'Hot Press Live Music Venue Award' last year and more recently, the IMRO Overall Best Live Venue award and you currently have yourself one of the hottest music venues in the country

From the off, despite his own success in running the bar, Aidan is keen to emphasise the history of the premises and how its previous owners - his great grandfather, grandfather, uncle and father - all helped in shaping the bar into what it is today.

"My great grandfather bought the pub in 1907 and he ran it until the 1920's when my grandfather took it over, and he ran it until the 1960's. My grandfather's mother was called Mary McElligott and she was from Moyvane; she used to make meat pies for the family, neighbours and friends in the area and this is how the bar got the name 'Mike the Pies'," said Aidan, speaking to The Kerryman on Monday.

"My father Eamonn took over in the 1980's and ran it for thirty years and I would always say that my father helped to create a great family atmosphere in the bar; something that I hope has continued on into my tenure," he continued.

After inheriting the bar, Aidan said that he wanted to add his own take and his own spin to the bar; after trying out a few cover bands in the venue over the course of a few weeks, it was a meeting with the 'The Frank and Walters' frontman, Paul Lenihan, at the Brixton Academy in London, that he credits as the start of everything.

"I got to talking to him after one of his shows, back in November 2014, and in an off the cuff, throwaway comment, I told that I had just taken over a bar from my dad and that he should come down and play there sometime," he said.

"Unexpectedly, he said that they'd love to come down, he gave me his number and I gave him a call a few days later and we set it up for March 2015 and it's all taken off from there," he continued.

"I honestly never expected it to take off as it did and lead us to where we are now. No way in the world did I think it would lead to all this - we've had so many great acts since then."

Raglans, Declan Sinnott and 'The Four of Us' were acts that quickly followed and he and the rest of his dedicated staff haven't looked back since - with Aidan telling me late last year that he had "bands beating down the door play" there.

So, what is it about the small regular pub turned intimate venue that has attracted such huge talents? Well, Aidan thinks that it is down to a multitude of factors.

"A lot of the bands that play here, they have commented on how well they have been treated, how great the crowds have been, the intimacy of the venue - there are 100 people max allowed at a show - and the wonderful acoustics of the bar itself," he said.

The wall behind the stage, which bears the posters of all the acts that have graced the humble and lively music venue on Patrick Street, is a testament to Aidan's hard work these past four years.

"We try to have one or two acts play every month on either a Thursday or a Friday. If people come along to one of our shows, I add them to a text list and so they'll know who's coming up over the next few months," he continued.

On a quick sidenote, what Aidan is again keen to point out about his venture over the past four years, is how important it has been to him, to ensure his regular "bread and butter" customers are not annoyed at the bars sudden change.

"At the start, when I was starting out, I would always make sure to keep my regulars happy. They are the people coming in here 28 days of the month when there are no concerts," he said.

If you've ever been to one of the shows at Mike The Pies, you will have met Aidan; the first thing you will notice is how relaxed and friendly he is, but more importantly, what you will notice once the band starts, is how much of a music fan he is.

This writer can speak from personal experience that after watching Aidan at a show, he is someone who knows almost every word to every song of every band that has played there - an observation which cause Aidan to laugh out loud, before acknowledging how true it is.

Aidan's hard work has not gone unnoticed - with editor of Hot Press, Niall Stokes, last year commenting on Mike The Pies huge success.

"Getting into the music game and doing it well isn't easy. You have to be smart and good at building an identity and a feeling that the venue is a bit special - and Aidan O'Connor has done that brilliantly, with what was after all essentially a family pub," Niall Stokes told The Kerryman last year.

"The enthusiasm that someone like Aiden has about what he is doing, and the energy he puts into it, communicates itself to musicians and bands. Which is why people like Paddy Casey, David Kitt and The Strypes have been queueing up to play Listowel," Niall continued.

With such a reputation and another award under his belt, Aidan can look forward to a great 2018

Anyone looking to find out more information about upcoming acts in the bar, they can head on over to the 'Mike the Pies' website at www.mikethepies.com or by going to 'Mike the Pies' on Facebook.