Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting Cultured

There's nothing like a helping of free culture to draw a crowd and Dublin's Culture Night was no exception, this year's festivities saw thousands take to the city in a frenzy reminiscent of a game of Screwball Scramble. The capital was divided in to six areas of exploration: Heuston/ Museum Quarter, Historic Quarter, Temple Bar & North of the Liffey, North Georgian Quarter, Trinity College/ Docklands and finally, the South Georgian Quarter. All of these areas were absolutely brimming with attractions and entertainment for all ages and with only six or so hours to take in all the cultural goodness, it was quite the task to schedule, never mind prioritize.

With a chisler temporarily in my custody, a kid-friendly excursion was in order, so a hop and a skip over to the National Wax Museum saw us join the extensive queue of everyone else with the same wattage of our light bulb moment. Now this, one could be forgiven for thinking, was the new revamped, 21st century Wax Museum - and it is, just with what could be taken for the previous century's waxworks. And as for the children's 'Enchanted World'? A badly lit, ill-constructed tunnel does not a kids' area make...

*Note: this attraction was not from the 'Enchanted World' but would've added something amusing to it at least*

But rather than feeling shortchanged by the odd facial expressions and misplaced wigs, the free entry (and only that) made the bizarre exhibits curiously entertaining, although one Spanish tourist did admit - "Ok, this is too Irish for me" on encountering the 1798 Rebellion exhibit and Wolfe Tone's nose. It can safely be said that many of Ireland's finest weren't looking their best that evening.

Temple Bar was a-buzz with old style variety acts, performers and buskers, making it a feast of sight and sound to venture through. Turning a corner to find a jubilant couple of hundred people singing 'Walking On Sunshine' with two buoyant and surprised buskers was a treat, as well as the electric-trad band who garnered an instant and impressed audience further on up the alley. Up at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, a jazz/ funk outfit were tented outside on the grounds, and as the evening grew more autumnal they provided a lively atmosphere whether visitors stopped to listen, took shelter at the make-shift bar or walked through the artists' workshops that were open for viewings.


The evening's vast array of activities meant, by way of a back handed insult considering that the organization and diversity on offer cannot be faulted, that relatively little was actually seen, with all the queuing and indecision in my case anyway. But maybe there were better equipped culture vultures out there than yours truly. Having missed 2008's first Culture Night, and last year's outing, I was delighted to be immersed in the hubbub of the city that evening, and although we can and should go make these excursions in the other eleven months available, there's something to be said for Dublin's vibe on that evening when all involved are trying to beat the clock. Here's hoping for a Culture Weekend next year.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Electric dreams...and picnics

Long after the last sodden drops have been wrung from the ineffective raincoats...the memory lingers on.   And a good one at that.

Considering I only caught the last third of the weekend, as unexpected tickets were belatedly bestowed, I am now enamoured with the first weekend of September. From the fairy lit forest trail to follow at the entrance, to the feast of entertainment that awaits you on the other side of the security folk; carousels, giant tulips, disco balls and tribal flags, the effort that goes in to this knees-up is not to be snuffed at.

Hot Chip on Saturday night drew a great crowd and palpable anticipation, flooring the audience with hits from the off. Not ones to reside motionless behind their instruments, the ferocity of their performance was as much of a joy to watch (if you're vertically gifted) as it was to listen to (vertically challenged). The Frames celebrated their 20th anniversary on the main stage with a feeling of mutual delight from both band and audience. That, combined with Damien Dempsey's surprise appearance for 'The Auld Triangle' led to many suffering vocal chords come Sunday morning.

Pantibar's ThisIsPopBaby stage saw some psychedelic cailini in full Irish dancing dress, wrap a willing crowd around their collective fingers, with everything from Lady Gaga to doo-wop Underworld covers, with wild fiddles to boot.

Those of you who forayed in to the forest after dark, while dodging others foraying to the jacks - au naturel, were rewarded with the bountiful treasure that was the Salty Dog Saloon. A pirate's boat-cum-stage with a beach shack bar complete with barrels and tables,that felt like a secret shindig that everybody was in on. Aboard the boat the tightest funk band ever, with a dirty brass section, kept revelers (kids included) doing the jungle boogie until 5am on Sunday morning.

Regardless of all the high jinx at the festival-goer's disposal, the picnic still has it's naysayers. Even I must admit some of the clueless stewards encountered and the poor lighting to aid the navigation of campsites and car parks did detract somewhat when all you want to know is where a stage, a toilet or your car is...

But claims that it's try-hard or tragically hip overlooks how the little details like coloured fish hanging from trees, white flags billowing with people's personal wishes attached or even ostrich burgers, make a difference. People don't want to feel that they've bought in to some templated festival product, but rather that someone has tailored the little discoveries to be made across the site, to add to their experience.

It doesn't come across as gimmicky or painfully quirky, just a break from the usual festival machine, and who doesn't want a final fling before Summer's end? 
If it's not your cup of jasmine infused green tea, you know what you can do.