I celebrated the Autumn Equinox of 2023 in Ireland. It was a fantastic week! One thoroughly enjoyable activity that my photos failed to capture was visiting pubs with live music. And the local people don’t just listen respectfully, they sing along. Noisily, energetically, singing way out loud.
The first music we experienced wasn’t at a pub, it was at an art gallery. We had stumbled into Culture Night, celebrated across Ireland with art and music. We followed some signs to find an event hosted by scéal at the Warehouse on Vauxhall Street. When Eimear O’Sullivan (aka EMR) came in she had a natural presence that could not be ignored, and when she got on stage it was not a surprise that she was fronting a band, Dreamer. Their set was short, but their songs were powerful. If I remember right, they got the whole audience singing “I got a feeling” but the entirety of the two or three songs they played are mostly a happy blur. What a great band. Paraphrasing Maya Angelou, I will forget the words and songs but I don’t forget how a band made me feel. Empowered, and energetic, ready for full-on fun.
After their set my partner and I walked back to our home base, the Bracken Court Hotel. One of the three bartenders, a college-age lad who drives two hours south to university to study politics and economics, didn’t expect it to be so busy. I sympathized about the calculus, true fact about me, I have a fond spot in my heart for calculus. It is based on spirals and curves and describes the actual world and real-life problems we have to solve. It is all about the rate of change, and change and how fast it happens and what resources are available at points along that curve are very important. We didn’t work together on his homework though! It was a busy night.
Martin Freeman had driven up from Dublin to regale the crowd with classic songs, and while I waited for Denis he played some Elvis tunes. Then a group of four women who were having a grand time at a center table asked for Molly Malone. Suddenly a bar full of people were singing “cockles and mussels alive, alive oh!” Having launched into one of Dublin’s unofficial anthems, he played guitar while the bar sang its way across Ireland. Freeman then played a more recent anthem, one I’d never heard before, “Summer in Dublin.” People sang with all the passion heard in the States for Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie. Again, I was able to copy down a few lyrics and then use the Internet to make sense of what I was hearing. Turns out band Bagatelle was huge in the early 1980s, in Ireland, and this was clearly a song that took the crowd back to high school and college years. Singing along (when we knew the songs) and watching others sing was a huge joy.
When we reached Athlone all music was on hold for the night–Ireland was playing South Africa in a Rugby World Cup match and the TVs were loud and center stage at every establishment.
Music was back on the menu in Galway, again with crowds singing along. Two places we enjoyed were the 1520 Pub and the Quays Pub. We were there on a Sunday and Monday night, which was probably a blessing, because the crowds were large enough! At the Quays Pub we found a nice place in a corner behind the band, Cathel and Ray. One highlight was watching beautiful young women, and a few men, gather in a back corner until they had a critical mass then rush in front of the stage to sing and dance. They reminded me of great times at the Saxon Pub in Austin.
The heartiest sing-a-long anthem that night was “I’m Gonna Be,” (I will walk 10,000 miles)” originally by the Proclaimers. We also heard a song that hearkens back to the beatiful hills and mounds we visited that week – a subject for another post! – “Spancil Hill.” Based on my short stay, it’s easy to find live music in Ireland and tons of fun to experience.