Concertinas

I love live music. Last night I was at a gig in the Button Factory.

I was late in life to the realisation how much I enjoyed gigs – and in fact was 23 years old before I attended my first one. OK of course I had seen live music in bars or at fun fairs or at weddings. But the act of paying for a ticket and going to a venue specially designed for playing music was a late arrival in my repertoire. The first gig I ever attended was Bela Fleck and the Flecktones in the Olympia Theatre in Dublin. Apparently this is a bluegrass fusion band. I attended with a friend who had a spare ticket. And said friend remains to this day far more learned about musical styles than I am. Personally I wouldn’t blink an eyelid if ‘Love in the first degree’ by Bananarama won an award for best song ever.

Last night was the final night for a 2 week festival called First Fortnight. It is a charity devoted to the destigmatisation of mental health problems. Perhaps everyone knows about this charity but as it is still only a few months that I have been back in Ireland, there are many people, and events that mean nothing to me, despite being well known over here – the TV show ‘Love/Hate’ was apparently a phenomenon during my absence, I only discovered it last May.

I heard about the event from the Facebook page of one of the bands performing – The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, who hail from Limerick. Back in May when I flew home to vote yes for the gays (lovely people, so polite, so good at decorating – relax I am joking) I  arrived 2 days before the vote and remained for 10 days afterwards. Towards the end of my stay I was getting itchy feet. This always happened – I would be desperate to go home to Ireland, and after about a week I would be anxious to go back to Amsterdam. Over the bank holiday weekend there was a festival in Limerick called ‘Culture and Chips’ (with a name like that it has all my favourite things covered) this group were performing.  I had never heard of them but tickets were a tenner, and according to the Facebook page of Yes Equality Limerick (those intrepid people I had pounded the streets and doors of Limerick with, on the day before the vote) there was a special surprise on the door, if you said you had been involved in the Yes Equality campaign (I never did find out what that surprise was – I had only done 1 street canvass and 1 door to door canvass the day before the vote, so I didn’t really feel I could lay claim to whatever was on offer).

They did a good show back in June, I liked their Facebook page (these days I only hear about events or gigs or festivals through social media), and when I saw they were performing at this festival in Dublin I thought I would toddle along .

The Temple Bar Music Centre is, I am happy to say, as grotty as it has always been. I remember at the end of the last century about a year before I set sail on the emigrant plane to Amsterdam (75 minutes, Aer Lingus, less of the histrionics please) I was at the Mr Wonderbar final there. Wonderbar was a fortnghtly gay club in the 1990s and was the first gay club I ever danced at. They had a tragically tacky beauty pageant every year. I  say it is tragically tacky now, but back then I was convinced that this was the height of sophistication and rebellion. One year Linda Martin was the compere. This was before her revival as a panto queen and sworn enemy of Twink. I was not a contestant in the final but I won a spot prize of a bottle of poppers from Linda. This is in fact one of the highlights of my pre-Amsterdam, Dublin life. Accepting a vial of room-odorizer from a Eurovision titan.

The decor hasn’t changed much, the layout is more or less the same.
We arrived to see that State Lights were already performing – they were a pretty good band. The lead singer looked about 16 – then again he was probably not far off that age. They gave a good set and seemed proud of the fact that they were going to be doing their first promoted, solo gig in Whelans in March. Tickets are 7.50Eur.

Next up were the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra. I do wonder what that stoner vacuum Mr Jennifer Aniston has done to deserve his own celestial orchestra, that a luminary like Bryan Dennehy hasn’t done. But that’s not really my business. They were fantastic again.

Then came Ham Sandwich – a group from Navan who I saw in Dolans in Limerick just before Christmas. Their gig in Dolans was good but coincided with a Munster v Leicester rugby match meaning they did not get to the stage until after 11, by which time the audience was rather drunk and raucous, and I was wedged beside a couple having a domestic in public, for the duration of the show. They were much better tonight – or rather the audience was much better.

To finish things off was the King Kong Company – an electronic group that caused mass foot-tapping.

All the groups performed a David Bowie number which was joyous but also incredibly sad – it felt like the Broadway dimming of the lights – current bands raising their caps to a recently departed great.

One thing I did notice (and I am not commenting on the whys or wherefores) was that the combined numbers of the 4 bands was 26 people. Of that 26, a mere 3 were women. Is rock music still such a boys’ club? I guess it is.

At about 12.30 we left – my middle-aged carcass couldn’t take any more. I went to Supermacs around the corner, bought some garlic chip ‘n’ cheese, crossed the river and walked the 15 minutes it now takes me to get home.

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