Gig for Medical Aid for Palestinians
Organised under the broad collective of Irish Artists for Palestine, and colloquially known as the Gig for Gaza, this concert sold out in a flash when scheduled at Vicar Street, so an ambitious move to 3Arena announced an intention: fill the biggest indoor venue in Ireland and raise money for medical aid for Palestinians. It has worked.
As long queues form at the venue, Lisa O’Neill plays Mahalia Jackson’s Trouble of the World, followed by Pothole in the Sky. Early on, there is a solemnity in the diverse crowd. It will be an evening of chapters and moments.
Joe Brolly’s MCing is occasionally a little excessive, but a wonderfully tender moment sees Ibrahim Alagha speak on stage about the 40 days his family spent under bombardment in Gaza – “40 nights, hunger, thirst, blood everywhere ... I’m glad I’m here with you. I’ve been living here for 15 years. This is my home now.”
Lankum, the most remarkable Irish band of their generation, recently had a show cancelled in Leipzig. “It hardened our hearts what happened in Germany,” Radie Peat says on stage, “but this is beautiful”. All night, the reciprocal gratitude between artists and audience is pronounced. New York Trader is excellent, but Go Dig My Grave floors the crowd. The respect and attention the audience offers Lankum is strangely moving. This is a band held dearly by Dublin.
The Mary Wallopers arrive, a tornado of energy, the crowd leaping to Cod Liver Oil & the Orange Juice, Eileen Óg, The Blarney Stone and Frost Is All Over. It is clear by this stage that, along with the cause underpinning the evening, the concert is accidentally serving as something of a cultural tipping point. It’s impossible to ignore how core Irish traditional and folk music and its various remixes, evolutions, revivals and revolutions are to contemporary culture in Ireland.
Damien Dempsey sculpts a set of pure love and hope, packed with singalongs, with the tail end of Apple of My Eye evolving into chants of “Free Palestine”. A roof-raising rendition of Rocky Road to Dublin follows. His precedes his song Colony by saying, “I’m no better than you; you’re not better than me. One race: human.” A smattering of tension and jeering ripples through the crowd when security attempt to confiscate a Palestine flag. (This is a “no flag” gig, although many seem honestly unaware.) And then, one by one, the colours of Palestine emerge. One man climbs another’s shoulders in the crowd and raises his flag. More in the seated section crop up. Soon there are too many to confiscate. They are hardly tonally incoherent with the evening, and the audience is hugely respectful in any case.
The energy of any focused crowd can cause chaos or create connection. It can inspire or depress. It can riot or sing. Following a tense and fraught week in Dublin, with huge stress and fear among people of colour, this night is a gift of hope at a time of huge pain for Palestinians and anyone yearning for peace. It also offers perspective, and a sense of solidarity and togetherness for those in attendance to bring with them into the capital. A huge achievement for the organisers, a credit to the crowd and the artists, and a beautiful demonstration of the importance of art as a tool of resistance and release.