This past weekend Dublin celebrated its “Trad Fest,” a festival dedicated to traditional Irish music, and did so by hosting several dozen, if not many, many more, Irish groups who played various venues all around the city, focusing most of their efforts in Dublin’s Temple Bar area, which happens to be just a few minutes’ walk from my flat. I had actually forgotten that it was happening this weekend; I had been so busy with all the events going on at Trinity during the week that the weekend was blocked off as recovery time without plans to do anything, but as it happened I was going out to do errands Saturday morning, picking up groceries, visiting farmers’ markets and the like, when I ran right into the middle of all of the festivities.
I had been looking to hit one of the farmers’ markets so I could grab some cheap and fresh foods, like salmon, goats cheese, breads, veggies, all of that good stuff, when I found that their usual area had been blocked off for a big stage. Admittedly, I was a bit ticked off about this, I had been looking forward to getting my food and now it was nowhere to be seen. I followed the signs’ marked arrows to where there might be my elusive vendors, made more difficult when I realized the signs weren’t made for any particular direction so the arrows were useless on any and every level.
As I walked about Temple Bar I looked at all the posters for upcoming concerts when I heard a voice, directed at me, say, “Hey, wanna come in?” I turned to the voice, and it came from a guy standing in the doorway to the Button Factory, a popular club/bar/concert venue that I had been to before, most notably several months back when I get to see the musician Imogen Heap perform there and I stood about three feet away. “Sorry?” I said back, not really knowing what he meant. He told me they were “open” today and that I should come in. I was still confused, but went in anyway just to see what was going on. Inside, the people there told me I could tour their recording facilities since it was the school’s Open Day (I learned that besides owning the Button Factory/numerous other venues, the recording studio there also ran a music engineering school). They offered me free tea and coffee and said the tour was only about a half an hour, and as long as I was interested it was worth it just for the free drink. Since I’m a sucker for free things, and I didn’t have anything better to do with my afternoon, I said screw it and joined the tour.
The five other guys on the tour were all clearly interested in sound/music engineering/production of some sort and had at the worst at least a limited background in the subject, whereas I hadn’t a clue about any of it. But I got to tour a real fancy recording studio where a lot of major Irish and other acts had recorded music (Bell X1, Gemma Hayes, Rihanna, Black Eyed Peas, Republic of Loose, etc.). Ironically enough, I seemed to have more interest and excitement about taking courses there, and seemed to get the attention of the instructors and directors than the actual potential students. Whatever. The best part though, besides seeing many millions of dollars worth of recording equipment, was that we visited the studio where they shot part of the film Once, during the recording scenes of the movie. The tipoff for me was the basement studio we visited, where Marketa Irglova’s character plays the piano. Really cool little surprise I thought. Not a bad little treat that only cost me an hour of my day.
From there I finally found all my little vendors and their goods, as well as stalls of farm animals full of chickens, sheep, and goats for the little city kids to see and pet. Quite cute. I also came across two large-enough stages with musicians playing their traditional songs, old or new, again, for free to the whole public. While the music was good and fun, the real magic came from being able to walk through the crowded sheets, though not so crowded as to drive you mad, with wonderful weather, and everyone in good and happy spirits just enjoying their day. Families with little kids running about, old folk being old, brats being brats, couples being cute and couple-y, and friends walking around and taking everything in.
With so much going on, I could have spent all day and then some just walking, watching, and listening, and I nearly did. The simplicity of it all struck a chord with me as one of those days meant to be just taken in and enjoyed for what it was, no fancy ribbon attached. Pleasure the was pure and good, and a lot of times hard to find, but this weekend it was clear as the sky above.