The overriding theme of MusicTown 2019 – a programme of events programmed and overseen by Aiken Promotion and Dublin City Council – is the exploration and celebration of the diversity of music styles and genres that cohabit and crossbreed in the city.
Yet despite its title, the festival (which runs until April 21st) has always been more than just about music. From spoken word, podcasts, neo-classical and film documentaries to workshops, walking tours, talks, multimedia, folk, pop, punk, rock and this year’s inaugural MusicTown Jr (a strand of events specifically for children), you could safely say there’s something for everyone in the audience.
The first week of MusicTown features a particularly strong line-up of events. It begins in proper order this weekend (Saturday, April 6th and Sunday, April 7th) with The Blindboy Podcast (Vicar Street, 7.30pm, €28, ticketmaster.ie), which sees the productive Rubberbandits thinker and talker moderate a series of discussions with always interesting figures and speakers – this time from the world of music.
Next Friday, April 12th, sees the beginning of a sequence of presentations by Irish National Opera – The Deadly World of Opera.
The first of five shows (the latter four occur on Saturday, April 14th and Sunday, April 15th) takes place at Richmond Barracks, Inchicore (8pm, admission free, but booking required via irishnationalopera.ie).
Significant questions asked during these shows – which are for opera lovers, casual admirers and non-believers alike – include why do opera singers make such an unusual sound, why does everyone sing in Italian, and what exactly is an aria?
Perhaps the most distinctive event in the first week of MusicTown, however, is My Father's Kind (Tailor's Hall, Back Lane, 8pm, €19.50, macdarayeatespresents.eventsmart.com), a creative alliance between highly regarded writer/poet/playwright Dermot Bolger and traditional Irish musicians Danny Diamond, Macdara Yeates, and Síle Friel.
Based around a suite of Bolger’s poems that explore the life and work of noted Irish traditional figures (Séamus Ennis, Mary Ann Carolan, Johnny Doherty), the performance interweaves words and music with insight and flair.
And what about the kids? MusicTown Jr events over the next seven days include The Big Free Family Gig (Sunday, April 7th, 2.30pm-4pm, Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, admission free but booking required via ark.ie), with funk/soul music act Stomptown Brass.
Also on Sunday, at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, 11am/2pm (admission free, but booking required via riam.ie) is an oral storytelling event presented in association with Dublin-based theatre group, Tales from the Shadows.
Pitched towards “mature children and childish adults”, gothic stories are mixed with shadow puppetry in an omnibus-style presentation that concentrates on legend and folklore.
Wednesday, April 10th, meanwhile, sees Our Tunes (Contemporary Music Centre, 19 Fishamble Street, Temple Bar, 9.30am-1pm, admission free, but limited to participating schools only) with composer Karen Power, clarinettist Deirdre O’Leary, and flautist Lina Andonovska.
The first week of MusicTown ends next Friday, April 12th (Vicar Street, 8pm, €42, ticketmaster.ie) with no-more-Dublin singer Damien Dempsey performing tracks from his latest album, Union, with special guests Lisa O'Neill, Imelda May, Paul Alwright, Pauline Scanlon, and Seamus Begley.
"In Damo Town," noted this paper's review of the album last year, "things are different, the colours more vivid, the language more meaningful".
You could say exactly the same about MusicTown. Dive in.
MusicTown runs until Sunday, April 21st. Visit musictown.ie for more detailed information.