When did this place get so lively?
Has Dublin always been this active? I only ask, because in the past week here’s what I’ve managed to see. Last Friday, there was a cracking gig in the gloriously ramshackle surroundings of the Joinery gallery in Stoneybatter, where, for the princely sum of ¤8 you got four performances, from a solo jazz drum and electronics set and some quality rock and roll, to a blissfully moody improv set from the Buzz Aldrin Allstars featuring members of Adrian Crowley’s band, Halfset and 3epkano.
The following night, Medusa were putting on a terrific party in the Centre of Creative Practices were, for a few shekels more, there was belly dancing, DJs, fire dancing and a buzzing atmosphere, with a few hundred people packing into the rooms of this beautiful Georgian building a stone’s throw from St Stephen’s Green or sprawling out on massive bean bags in its courtyard.
Then on Monday night, I was involved with 3epkano in a live screening of Man With A Movie Camera with a live soundtrack in the bucolic surroundings of Fitzwilliam Square, all thanks to the organisational skills of Fitzwilliam Square and Peter O’Brien.
This weekend, Monster Truck Gallery in Temple Bar is having a Friday night knees up with two bands playing and a BYOB policy. Improv quartet The Troupe will be giving vocal duo Lupo a run for their money. Your money will remain safely in its pocket as the event is free.
And while you’re at it, why not pick up a copy of Punt, a new magazine that is a “platform for narrative journalism in Ireland, providing critical but optimistic analysis, along with a healthy dose of the arts, photography and illustration, interviews and satire”? Yum, yum.
The point is that all of these arty events are a world away from the pints in a pub nights that had become the norm. It seems like everytime I check a listing, there is some funky event happening that is intriguing and imaginative. Regular gigs are fantastic, I’ll always take a chance on theatre, and sometimes nothing beats sitting in the dark and having a calm, collective cinematic experience – but the amount of really adventurous events happening in Dublin at the moment is quite staggering and we are all the richer for it (there could well be plenty of events like this outside the city, and I’ve heard of a few, so do let us know about more).
Perhaps this isn’t a new thing, but the more I talk about this to people the more I here the argument that the city seems to be a better place to live in now. The obvious reason is money, or rather a lack of it. With cash tighter than Kylie’s jeans, it seems paradoxically easier to organise events.
A few years ago, when the banks were still rock solid and the property myth was still casting its spell, organising an event or gig definitely felt more difficult. If you wanted a venue, the first thing to come up was cash, and the rates places were charging for hire would bring a tear to the eye. Sure, there was insurance costs, security, staff and engineers and all sorts of other inflated costs to consider (that packed, overpriced bar over there with the young fella on the verge of a nervous breakdown beneath his avalanche of orders is barely paying its own costs, you know).
Now, with audience numbers thinner on the ground, venues are more willing to take a chance at events that raise the prospect of getting a few bodies through the doors. And the BYOB policy of nearly all the events listed above also makes for a much cheaper night out.
Also, because there is so much vacant space about the place, it seems that are dozens of funky alternative spaces opening up for gigs, exhibitions, parties or whatever you are organising yourself. Though I would still love to see something happening here.
Maybe it’s just me (or a current bout of anti-nostalgia – is there a word for a celebration of the present? Contemporama?) but it seems like this city is really kicking against the pricks and the arts scene is livelier than ever. And who wouldn’t raise a off-licence bottle of wine with a straw stuck in it to that?