Friday, March 17, 2017
STIFF LITTLE FINGERS ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY
On March 17, 1991, I was a little over halfway through with my year abroad in London as a 2nd year law student. I was fully acclimated to this most familiar of foreign lands. With troubles in Northern Ireland still a fresh wound for everyone in the UK, before coming, Notre Dame advised us to please refrain from wearing any "Fighting Irish" attire.
A fresh wound perhaps, but at least the yobs in London still felt it was appropriate to invite Belfast's own Stiff Little Fingers to play on St. Patrick's Day that year at the legendary Brixton Academy. And the wee admonishment from Notre Dame about political sensitivity wasn't going to stop me from seeing them, one of my favorite punk bands. I wouldn't even be deterred by the fact that I was in the midst of second term finals in this my most critical year of law school.
I set aside the books I had furiously been committing to memory and ventured off to Brixton alone. No one else was stupid enough to endanger their grades for an incendiary Northern Irish band from 1977. And so I found myself amongst like minded strangers in a boiling, ever-crashing slam dance with my heroes not twenty feet away playing music that taught me more about defiance and integrity and loyalty and passion than ten Sunday sermons.
One of their last songs was a searing reworking of Bob Marley's Johnny Was, about a boy killed in Belfast by an occupying army, a true favorite of mine in my personal top ten. It was during that song, and in that pit of youth, that I lost my glasses after a particularly large surge of punks rolled my way.
I was blind without them on the tube ride back to school, where I was planning to immediately return to studies. I had an exam in a few hours. No matter. To Jake, Ali, Henry, and Phin: HANX!