Have you ever drunk, danced and partied all night? What about drinking, dancing and partying all night in the fireside warmth of a tiny pub, arms flailing and head bobbing to a boisterous, twanging banjo and vocal combo, one that’s so much a part of the culture it could almost represent it?
The intimate corners of Ireland’s traditional music pubs are an indispensable Irish experience. Singing is compulsory, instruments barely tuned and a raucous, heartfelt racket accompanies the swirl of shamrocks and lively conversation. The lilt of half-cut voices still slices through the salty air in the early hours, accompanied by the fast-paced drama of banjos and penny whistles each pouring from the stage, or the front-of-house musical ‘snug’ (the cozy, private, cushioned corners of a mazy old Irish pub).
Find out more — including James’ pub picks — after the jump…
Traditional pubs are so unaltered by time, that even in capital Dublin they’re still tinged with Gaelic language and aging charm (tip for the guys: In Gaelic, Mna means woman. Be careful choosing your bathroom!). They run pretty much 24-hours, too, providing you’re not infringing on holy Sundays, with laws allowing for overnight fisherman having a few drinks when they get home, creating sporadic pubs with early morning opening times.
O’Donoghues is perhaps the best place to start, as the traditional home of cult trad. band the Dubliners, and invariably the creaky wooden scene of a vivacious, beer-swilling night out. The out of town pubs like the Abbey Tavern in picturesque, seaside Howth (so close to Dublin it could be a suburb), offer still more traditional vibes. Of course, you can always take the extravagant Guinness storehouse tour, and follow it up with by exploring Temple Bar, and listening to buskers convert anything and everything recognizable into a seductive Irish twang.
Of course, Dublin wouldn’t be Dublin without “the black stuff”. September the 24th 2009 marks the 250th anniversary of the world’s most famous stout, and has been christened ‘Arthur’s Day’. To celebrate, Guinness have invited musicians as diverse as Black Eyed Peas, Tom Jones, Jamie Cullum and David Gray to grace Dublin’s venues, large and small, including an array of pub gigs entitled ‘live at the local’. They’ll be performances all around the world (including New York, Kuala Lumpur and Lagos), too, but we all know there’s only place to truly celebrate with a pint of ‘medicine’… we hope to see you there.
James Hendicott is a travel and music writer living in Ireland, and your guide to Celtic punk in the upcoming Music+Travel from Museyon Guides. More of his work can be found at hendicottwriting.com.