Let us get one thing straight, Kevin “Webster” Mac Neely is slightly a bit of a legend when it comes to the music scene in Castlebar and Mayo.
But lets try and put that in a better perspective,
Webster is not just a legend in his own hometown which he loves so well but he is also a legend through out the music circuit in Ireland.
For years Webster has fought for a live music scene in the area. Born in Peckham London, growing up with a vast knowledge of music including reggae ska and soul which he took back home with him when he returned to Ireland.
Webster moved back to Castlebar when he was 14. His family (Nee Hynes) were originally from The Main Street in Castlebar and ran a tailor business where he learnt his trade, but music was always Webster’s number one passion.
According to DJ Mark Kavanagh of The Star newspaper in 2017 Webster was listed as one of the top 10 music promoters in Ireland.
Apart from his recent incarnation of Greenroom bookings/promotion, Webster has a long history in the business. In recent times Webster has transformed the popular Christchurch building in Castlebar (the oldest building in Castlebar) into one of the most intimate and interesting venues in Mayo for live contemporary music events.
Webster has worked with hundreds of national and international acts over the past thirty years and beyond, the list of acts is really endless and i was delighted when Webster agreed to do a feature for our website, because we believe that he has a very interesting story to tell that even we wont be able to explain and fully acknowledge in one article.
We met Webster recently in his usual haunt called Cuppa Joes as he refers to as his “office” on The Market Square in Castlebar, we shook hands, complemented each other and began a very informative chat about the music scene in Castlebar over the years.
We began by talking about Webster’s early years in the business, i asked Webster about how he started out in the DJ’ing and promotional business.
I started a club called “Desperate Dans” which took place at the old St Gerald’s social club on chapel street in Castlebar. I would DJ on a Friday night and on Saturday nights we would host live bands from all over the country.
I remember the names of some of the acts, there was “The Saddle Sore Cowboys” “Little Fish” , we would also bring punk rock bands over from London on a regular basis. Webster was also helped at the time by Tony Donegan (RIP), and Pat Quinn.
We had 13 bar exemptions throughout the year but we ran late every weekend. I remember one night members of The Stunning, The Sawdoctors, and The Waterboys all shared the same stage together.
It really was a great time. Even the nights we did not have a bar exemption we would have someone keep a lookout to ring a bell in the building to let me know if the cops were on the way.
When Webster was 19 or 20 he ran a record library upstairs on linenhall street where Atlantis is now situated, managed by Helen and Aldo Jordan.I also Dj’ed for a pirate radio station upstairs in the Humbert Inn for a while at the time When Liam Moran owned the Humbert. It was called Mayo Community Radio (MCR).
I remember it very well according to Webster, there used to be a Crow in the wall in the Humbert that Tom Counsel would feed from time to time.
After a while Webster, Tony Donegan, and Mattie Neary rented a room from Pat Jennings to put on a club night, but the guys did not foresee or expect what was going to happen next.
On its first night people travelled from all over Mayo. It was then that Webster and Tony knew they were on to a good thing.
Panama Jacks was born and this is when the bands began to roll in, We brought so many bands to the TF it was astonishing, some of these acts included “Cactus World News” “Too Much For The White Man” “Hothouse Flowers” “The Blades” and many more.
Eventually Webster found himself working full time for the TF. The first major dance night in Castlebar was a nightclub we called Ecstasy in the TF Ballroom.
I remember it well according to Webster, It was massive, over 1000 people turned up! Webster began working the circuit around Ireland with different DJ’s leading to working with some of the best known DJ’s in Europe which included Paul Oakenfold, Too Many DJ’s “Tall Paul” and a host of others.
While interviewing Webster during this time he wished to make it clear that he wanted to mention many of the Irish DJ’s that he had the pleasure of working with and without the following guys involved the nights he put on would not have been a success,If i have left out anyone along the way i do apologise,
Webster would also like to pay tribute to Mark Logan (rip) and Keith O Hanlon of The Disconauts who passed away last year (rip) for supplying amazing music and wonderful memories for all of us here in Castlebar.
If there is anybody i have left out along the way that i may have forgotten to mention my sincere apologies, you know who you are.
Mark Logan (rip)
Ray O Donoghue (aka Razor)
Jonno O Brien
Jason King (rip)
Keith O Hanlon (rip)
Dave “Baz” Barry
Anthony “Rat” Rattigan
The first major gig Webster put on in the TF Ballroom was The Prodigy in March of 1994 just before “Music for the Jilted Generation” was released, it wasn’t very long until word was getting out about the raves and the growing dance scene in Castlebar.
Every weekend bus loads from around Connaught and further afield would make their way to the Travellers friend hotel in Castlebar.
The club scene in Castlebar was booming. Often there would be 4 floors open to the public in the TF on Friday and Saturday nights, the main nightclub upstairs, The Blue Room, Brasilia, and the main hall, all under one roof.
It was in 1998 when Webster put together the first Coastal Beats night on with Ray O Donohue aka (Razor).
Coastal Beats became a national phenomena and Webster and Ray O Donoghue (Razor) decided to take the show out on the road. In 2000 Webster and Razor took the show to The Failte Suite in the Welcome Inn Hotel.
Webster would like to thank many of the wonderful DJ’s that performed at Coastal Beats in The Welcome Inn over the years and he recognises that it is almost impossible to mention everyone and if i have left anyone out i do apologise, some of these included
Cian O Ciobhain
Mr Ray (Razor)
Alan O Malley
Keith O Hanlon (rip)
Jason King (rip)
Mark Logan (rip)
Dave “Baz” Barry
Coastal Beats ran from 1998 to 2003 and after this Webster sat down with Tony Mchugh and they both came up with the idea for Mantra Nightclub that still currently runs today.
Webster says that during his time in The Welcome he had total respect and admiration for working with Tony Mchugh (rip) proprietor of the popular hotel. Some of the many great acts that performed at The Coast Beats upstairs in the Failte Suite included The Beat and Disconauts and a whole host of others.
It wasn’t very long until Webster returned to the TF where he came up with the new idea that was “Choice” nightclub, during this time Webster got to work with The Strypes, Ed Sheeran (who opened for Professor Greene) in The Ruby Room, Grandmaster Flash,The Beat and many others.
Webster recalls paying Ed Sheeran €100 and being approached by Ed when he asked him for advice on his career.
Ed was a really nice guy to deal with and it is amazing if you work hard enough in this tough business you will be rewarded. Below are just images of the some of the artists Webster brought to the TF during his “Choice” years
In 2014 Webster set up his brand new promotional company titled “Green Room Promotions/Bookings” and since then has being very successful in bringing some of the best contempoary Irish acts to Mayo, working closely with Foxford Wollen Mills, Westports townhall, and of course the lovely venue in Castlebar, Christchurch.
I am very proud of the work that i have achieved with Christchurch, but not only with Christchurch but with Greenroom Promotions/bookings and i would like to thank everyone who has supported me down through the years.
For us it is so hard to compile into one short article the immense work that Webster Macneely has done down over the years for the live scene in Castlebar and Mayo.
We can guarantee you though that if you walk down the main street in Castlebar today and ask anyone about their fond and happy memories of growing up around the live music scene in Castlebar you can be sure Webster Mac Neely had some part or hand in this.
We are delighted to hear also of the brand new announcement that Webster will be working with the Bridge Street venue in Castlebar when Greenroom Promotions/bookings will be bringing Chris Difford (songwriter and vocalist of Squeeze) to the venue this May in Castlebar. Check out the Greenroom promotions/bookings Facebook page for further details.
Finally Webster would like to thank his family, sons Danny,Jake and Ryan and daughter Lorna who have supported him through thick and thin over the years, Greenroom Promotions/bookings would not be the success it is today if it was not for them.
Also a very special thanks to my two close friends Johnathan Rice and Damien Keane and especially Tony Donegan (rip) (for being Tony Donegan) for all the help and good advice through out the years .
As we conclude our piece, we ourselves would like to thank Webster for providing us with us so many great memories over the years and thank him for continuing to bring so many wonderful live acts to the town, we wish him, his family and Greenroom promotions/bookings continued success for the future and we look forward to working closely with him at the Bridge Street Venue.
For further information on The Chris Difford gig taking place upstairs at the Bridge Street venue in May please see the wonderful artwork created by Studio X and Ger Duffy below: