Street Music, Dublin

In preparation for our trip to Dublin, the students from Travel Club and DP and I watched the film Once. (I think I may have written about this already but I have strong feelings about this so here I go again… if you have not already done so, please rent this film. It’ll make you feel happier). There is a scene quite close to the beginning of the film where the musician (played by real-life musician Glen Hansard) is playing on the street and there’s a huge crowd standing around and a man in a green Ireland t-shirt is performing an impromptu jig. We thought, “Cool” and “Sure…” but we never imagined that it would look like this… that it would happen to us!

To watch a video for the song “Falling Slowly” from the film Once click here. (Pay close attention to the beginning of the video… you’ll see the guy in the green Ireland t-shirt).

Everyone in Ireland has Red Hair

They don’t, of course, but this is one of those funny things that the kids got into their heads. And our first real live busker did have red hair, you see. Shockingly red hair. We six were making our way through the Temple Bar District on Saturday afternoon and stopped to hear this guy play Beatles songs; DP and I were hooked right away but the boys had to ask whose music he was playing. (Ack!) A mother with a baby carriage stopped and her wee daughter was completely mesmerized by the musician; she literally could not take her eyes off him. When an emergency vehicle came barreling down the pedestrian street, people moved swiftly out of the way and then re-formed a large semi-circle around the busker. The boys dug deep into their pockets for change. You could see that they felt both proud and a little self-conscious as they tossed their money into the musician’s guitar case. A young man’s rite of passage.

Night Music
We had just been to see the play The Last Days of the Celtic Tiger at the Olympia Theatre and there had been more than a little cussing so the boys were very happy with the play and with us! We were all just aching for more live music but, at 11:00 p.m., there was little to no chance that our odd little party of underage boys and tired-looking teachers was going to be admitted to a bar or pub. And this was definitely not the same area that we had first visited that very afternoon. Gone were the charming used book tables and the young parents out for a stroll with their toddlers. This new, late-night Temple Bar was populated by bouncers and packs of twenty-something wolves on the prowl and girls dressed in outfits that had almost certainly not been approved by their mamas. It appeared as if there had been a sudden clothing famine in Dublin. As we walked through this wonderland of shocking outfits and (Guinness) excess, we stumbled upon a street musician who was playing the U2 song “One.” He was small and amazing and we six stopped to listen. What we did not realize was that our stopping would signal the beginning of something weird and wonderful.

Where there had been, only a moment before, just a guy and his guitar there was now a crowd. The thing about crowds is that they attract more people. “What’s this?” “What are we looking at?” “Cool!” Musician Guy asked for requests and a woman asked for some Madonna but admitted that she didn’t have any money. Musician Guy indicated that if she were to show him her silverware (yes, let’s say silverware) he’d think about it. He was lying though. He had absolutely no intention of playing anything by Madonna.

At this point we were 25 or 30 souls dancing, toe-tapping and singing along. An Italian man who had been drinking since Tuesday danced a sloppy circle around Musician Guy. The boys were concerned that he might run off with the money on MGs guitar case (just like at the beginning of the film “Once”) but there was no danger of that. The kids met a man from Romania. And then the Hen Party arrived.

For those of you who have never experienced a hen party close up, you’ll need to fasten your seat belts… it’s a wild, wild ride. It is becoming quite common for British brides-to-be and their tribes to travel to a European city to celebrate the nuptials OR her last days of freedom, depending on your perspective. Popular destinations include Prague, Krakow, Barcelona and Dublin and we suspect that the budget airline boom in Europe has a lot to do with this travelling stag and hen party phenomenon. Apparently, as many as 70 per cent of British hen and stag parties are now happening abroad. We found several of these in Dublin. Essentially, the bride and her girlfriends travel to another city, dress up, hit the town and drink themselves into utter abandon. The boys seemed both attracted to and terrified by these women who looked like adults but were not acting like the adult women in their lives.

Our Hen Party
The bride was Kate. She was dressed in one of the nicer hen party outfits I have seen: a fitted purple satin dress, heels and a short white veil with bunny ears. Her girlfriends were wearing little black dresses and the small feisty leader of their fun was dressed in a black suit and hat. She was definitely the boss. She told Musician Guy that Kate-the-Bride, would like to sing a song. “Sure. What?” he replied.

“Amazing Grace.” Amazing Grace has got to be the least hen party-ish song ever sung. Musician Guy invited Kate-the-Bride up and although she was a bit nervous at first, when she got going she was (yup) amazing. Musician Guy had a string break and while he took a moment to re-string his guitar, the hen party gals took over with a rousing rendition of “Going to the Chapel.” Kate-the-Bride pulled me up onto their impromptu stage and I sang the chorus LOUDLY to the delight and embarrassment of the boys. (That’s the thing about being a teenager. You never feel just one emotion at a time. Remember?) The women even pulled our 13-almost-14 boy up to sing and he did not die as he thought he might. Then, as suddenly as it began, it was all over… the hen-party women went tripping up the cobblestone street in their black high heels, laughing and singing. Kate-the-Bride rushed back to give 10 Euros to Musician Guy. A good tip for a street musician.

We were all jazzed and wanted more and Musician Guy played two Bob Marley songs for us: “Three Little Birds” and “Redemption Song”. Finally, it was time to move along. We walked home to our hostel humming and laughing and deeply in love with Dublin and every person in it.

Where have you seen great street music? What made the experience so memorable?

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