The town of Pistoia lies on the northwestern edge of the Plain of Florence and at the foot of the Appenine mountains. It is one of the oldest municipalities in Italy, dating back to the 6 century. Pistoia has always had a bad boy reputation: it is mentioned in Dante's Inferno as the birthplace of Vanni Vucci, and Michelangelo once referred to the Pistoiese as "the enemies of heaven." Indeed, the term "pistol" comes from Pistoia where it was first manufactured in the 16th century. With its picturesque churches, Baptistery, and Palace, Pistoia remains a well-preserved medieval city inside its ancient walls. Pistoria is also one of the centres for the music and arts of the Tuscany Region. Hosting contempory art exhibits as well as the Blues Festival.
It is in 1980 that the first edition of the Pistoia Blues Festival takes place. Great artists such as Fats Domino, Alexis Korner, BB King, and Muddy Waters headline the event, and the concert-starved pistoean crowd greets the festival with thundering approval.
Rory performed at the Pistoia Blues Festival in the summer of 1984, bringing with him a new addition to the band, blues harpist Mark Feltham. "Rory's brother and manager Donal called me and said the band was doing a show in Pistoia in Italy. He said that they were doing a tribute show for Alexis Korner in Pistoia with Ginger Baker, Jimmy Page, and others, and ...would (I) like to come down and be part of the setup purely as a sideman. I went down and stayed with Rory from 1984 up to 1995." --Mark Feltham interview by Shiv Cariappa, 1998. Mark proved a welcome addition to the Rory Gallagher Band. His harp playing on big bluesy numbers such as "I Wonder Who" and ""Fly Off the Handle" added an extra dimension to the band's sound. "Rory felt a huge empathy with him and cultivated a role for him in the band. The harmonica was a nice feature and it broadened the sound out." --Donal Gallagher, excerpt from the book Gallagher Marriott Derringer & Trower by Dan Muise.
On a hot summer night in Pistoia, a wild and raucus crowd await the start of the concert. Planned as a 2-day event, the festival is in financial difficulties, and rumors abound that the second day might be cancelled. Rory comes out with both barrels blazing and tames the rowdy crowd. So sit back and listen as Rory pulls out all the stops in Pistoia.
It is 20 years later in the small town of Pistoia. The blues festival has grown to be the largest in all of Italy. Rory's former bandmates: Brendan O'Neill, Gerry McAvoy, and Mark Feltham perform once again at the Pistoia Blues Festival, this time with their band "Nine Below Zero". One of the concert-goers is a well-known italian guitarist, Tolo Marton, a six-time performer at the festival and a huge admirer of Rory's. Someone hands him an acoustic guitar and he strides across an empty stage and sits before the hushed crowd. In honor of Rory he plays "Out of my mind" from Rory's Deuce album.
"Well you took me out of my mind baby
You took me out of my head
My friends have gone to look for me
I ain't been seen yet"
--Rory Gallagher, Deuce 1971
Nine years's after his death, it seems Rory is still not out of the minds and hearts of the Pistoean crowd.