MUSIC REVIEW: Clubbing The Blues in Dublin

Twenty four hours in Dublin over the weekend, for the very first time and Sabine Koch found what everybody knows  – it’s a bustling place where you can have a heck of a good time.

I came to see Sea Wall at the Dublin Theatre Festival, but I wanted to spend my time getting to know the music scene as well. And by that I didn’t mean the customary Irish folk music, sprinkled with the rowdy shouting of drunken tourists.

So I got a room via airbnb, because usually that means, you have a built-in guide to the cool stuff. Airbnb hosts tend to be interesting, funny, entertaining, likable and smart and Luke was no different. Being a documentary film maker working on his passion project, he had lots to tell and interesting tips on what to do and where to go. I also did my research a bit beforehand and relied on him telling me if that was cool or not.

On my first evening  I hopped along to an old blues club called J.J. Smyth’s one of the city’s oldest continuous licensees, which has remained on precisely the same site since the 1730’s.

JJ Smyth's Dublin

JJ Smyth’s Dublin

There was a concert going on from Donal Kirk Band featuring Jimmy Smyth. It was supposed to start at 21.00, but due to technical difficulties the musicians went on stage at 22.00 – just in time for me to arrive. The music was great and I loved the atmosphere of this seasoned club, although the sound was not the best that night. But I did love the décor of the place.

JJ Smyth's started off as a family owned grocery and public house back in the 1730's,

JJ Smyth’s started off as a family owned grocery and public house back in the 1730’s,

It seemed very authentic, especially since the audience was made up almost exclusively of Dubliners. Most of them were regulars, as I found out. While standing at the bar I got into a chat with a lovely man who offered me to join him and his friends at his table for the remainder of the concert. That was really nice and it made me feel very welcome in Dublin – thanks for the chat Noel.

A perfect start to a perfect weekend. The next night I stopped by at Whelan’s, another club, which caters to a younger audience and offers DJ sets and live music as well. At Whelan’s you have the choice of the main venue, the upstairs and a tiny space cramped into the window of the front bar.  I had the pleasure of seeing  One Horse Pony, a band I have never heard of before. This five piece outfit from Cork plays wonderful Blues and Gospel music and won the whole club over, including me, within seconds of their first song. All five musicians played instruments and sang harmonies and their rousing choir made all their tunes more than special.

Everybody was dancing, singing along and following Reverend Rob’s every command. At one point the audience was crouching down for a quiet moment in one song with the Reverend wading through the crowd like a farmer wading through a field of corn before everyone jumping up again.

One Horse Pony from left to right Reverend Rob Hercules, Meerkat Milot, Kevin FF Germany, King Bart, John The Badger

One Horse Pony from left to right Reverend Rob Hercules, Meerkat Milot, Kevin FF Germany, King Bart, John The Badger

This was one of the best gig experiences and the intimate venue only added to that pleasure. Even if you didn’t care for this type of music, the sheer joy of those talented artists would make you love it. For the second part of the set I stood next to the stage, close enough to touch the musicians – as you can see in the photo. After the concert all musicians mingled with the crowd. I approached Rob Hercules and we had a nice conversation in which he told me he felt good every time he could see me in the corner of his eye bopping my head.

I asked Rob when they might be touring in Germany and where one could buy their music. That’s when he offered me their CD to buy right there for 10 Euros, something they didn’t even mention when on stage. Hey Rob, one word of wisdom from an old media pro: don’t be shy about self-promotion. If you got it, flaunt it. And you guys got it in spades!

I will certainly keep track of One Horse Pony from now on and encourage everyone to check them out.



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