A good friend once told me that the trick to living happily in a place is to always look at it through a haze of nostalgia, pretending that you’re always on the brink of leaving. Its a neat trick and it certainly makes you aware of what parts of your life you are grateful for. The benefit of it is that you can have the all the good, grateful, happy feelings without the sadness that would be associated with the nostalgia if you were actually leaving.
However, over the last week I’ve been getting the full nostalgic experience because, of course, I don’t have to pretend anymore. I am actually leaving Dublin tomorrow morning for Alaska. After two weeks in the USA, I’ll be back in Cork for two weeks and then its on to London. I know a week or two ago I was saying I was disappointed to be back in Dublin, but, well, I’m just that ridiculously fickle and irrational. So, now, I’m on a totally different emotional roller-coaster and whilst I am excited about moving to London (wheee!) I have been feeling the impending loss of Ireland. Of course, when you get into that sort of headspace, you inevitably find yourself gravitating towards rainy windows so you can stare out of them significantly, making daft comments about flowers being so much more beautiful because they don’t last and stroking your chin and murmuring wanky words like ‘transient’.
So, at the risk of sounding like a wanker, I had a beautiful transient evening last Friday night in Dublin, which seemed like a remarkably wonderful way to send off Dublin.
A little bit of background. I’ve been signed up to a group called Sofar Sounds since sometime last year. I’m not even sure how I got into it in the end, but in it I am. Sofar Sounds was set up by music lovers who were sick of going to concerts and finding that many audiences at many concerts were highly disrespectful of the bands, particularly of support acts, who mainly happened to be emerging artists. So, they decided to create pop-up events in people’s living rooms. They would be limited capacity, so only the people who really cared would be attending and the organisers would impose several rules in order to give the artists the best possible chance of performing. The rules are thus: 1) No talking or mobiles 2) If you come to the event, you stay for the whole thing, no ducking out if you decide you don’t like one artist. The people from Sofar then set about finding the best and most interesting artists they could and putting on a hugely decent (free) gig for those dedicated music lovers. Its happening all over the world, New York, London, Paris, Australia and its great music. You can find out more about the group as well as sign up for the mailing list (which is the only way to get to the gigs) here: http://www.sofarsounds.com/
I’ve been trying to go to some of the gigs in London, but either the dates didn’t work out, or I wasn’t able to get to the gig because so many people wanted to go. But, last Thursday, I was given an invitation to the first Dublin gig. They emailed an address and off I trotted to Merrion Square on Friday evening searching for a yellow door. It was a beautiful evening, balmy, not too overcast and with a soft pastel sunset growing over the horizon. I found the address fairly easily, I just followed the very attractive, impossibly trendy people who were spilling out of the living room onto the street, drinking and getting to know each other before the music started. I chatted briefly to the woman whose apartment it was and then got myself a sofa seat and waited for the music. It was slightly awkward as I didn’t know anyone and some people seemed to know each other at least a little bit. So, I nursed my cider and pretended to text, the last resort of the single, awkward person at an even where they know no-one. I’m certain everyone knew I wasn’t actually texting, but it at least meant they didn’t have me looking at them, smiling awkwardly and attempting to strike up conversation. And I got to pretend that I wasn’t in anyway awkward or lonely. Win-win, really. Status-quo maintained.
Once the music got started, I relaxed completely and felt totally blessed that I had been given the opportunity to hear all these bands. We started with the folkie, accoustic sounds of Dublin band Slow Skies. The lead singer had a gorgeous, whimsical voice that reminded me of a mix of Lisa Mitchell and the Cranberries. The music, itself, however was more ethereal than the both of them. It was absolutely beautiful and from the first notes there was a magic feeling in the air. Everyone listened so attentively and the focus on the musicians only added to the magic that was being created by the musicians themselves.
Second up was a girl who happened to be from Adelaide but who had been living in Dublin for the past 4 years. She used a loop-machine to build and create songs all on her own. She played the violin, sang and used a variety of other instruments I don’t know the name of to create really unique sounding music. Its not normally my style and I don’t have the requisite language or labels to describe it, but her performance totally blew my mind. Unfortunately she doesn’t really have anything online that you can check out, but her name is Margey Lewis and you should keep your eyes/ears peeled for her because I think she’ll be going places. In a good, musical way.
We had a late addition to the line-up with a girl who played one song. It was a very sweet song about youth and summer and nostalgia so suited my mood.
The gig finished up with The Raglans, another Dublin band who were kind of a rockier Irish Mumford and Sons (I am wary of making comparisons between new favourite bands and old favourite bands after my comment to one singer that she sounded like Joan Baez and they didn’t look too pleased. I had meant it as a compliment and I mean this comparison as a compliment as well, so I hope it would be taken as such). The energy and charisma these guys had was amazing and by the end of their fourth song, no-one was ready to go. They played us an encore, but I would have happily stayed and listened all evening. Of course, that wasn’t an opportunity, so I satisfied myself with by going up to them and gushing along with one of the other audience members. Luckily, the Raglans were very appreciative of my gushing and didn’t find it in anyway embarrassing. They even tweeted back at me when I gushed more over twitter late that evening. It was probably my most successful and satisfying musician/gushing fan interaction apart from say the weekend with the Unthanks back in January. Anyway, they are on iTunes and I, for one, will be investing in their EP, once I have gotten over the little heart attack I had over last month’s credit card bill. I suggest you do the same:
The transience of the evening came from the pop-up nature of the venue, of course, but even more so from the people I met. Now, of course, when you’re traveling, you meet people all the time who you are never going to see again. One need only look over my last two blog posts and we meet three unnamed men who I very much enjoyed talking to – the Georgian, the American kayaker and the singing Irish cab driver. But, I suppose you expect this when you are traveling. My obsession has always been living in a country and I collect ‘countries-I’ve-lived-in’ the same way other people collect stamps, or coins or, I don’t know, antique sewing machines. Living in a country for a short period gives you a false feeling of permanence and you forget that you are still ‘traveling’ and that the existence you’re creating in this new country is far more transient than one you may have lived previously (is it possible to be ‘more transient’? ‘I think you can in Europe?’)
ANYWAY, the point I’m making, or heading towards making or trying to make is that the evening turned into this beautifully strange, bizarrely intimate and yet completely momentary occurrence. Because of the slightly odd and thrilling nature of the pop-up gig, because it was held in someone’s house (that before that evening you had never met) and because there were only 20 – 25 people there, I ended up having very interesting and lovely conversations with everyone I chatted with. Of course, they were all very enthusiastic about music but they also all had very interesting lives that had led them to being in that room on that particular night at that particular time. One girl in particular happened to be gushing to the musicians around the same time as I was gushing to the musicians and we decided to form a gushing strike force, going up to everyone and telling them how wonderful they were. It then turned out that we were both walking in the same direction, so we walked together and talked together on that beautiful, balmy night. She told me about her Wwoofing experience in the French Pyrenees and I told her about my plans for London and then we bought gelato and tried out the different flavours that each of us had gotten and then after about 15 minutes of sharing stories, suddenly I was turning left and she was turning right and that was the end of the conversation and our fleeting relationship. I don’t even remember her name.
There was something about that 15 minute walk and talk through the centre of early evening Dublin, the light from the sun still hanging around the horizon and all the party people falling about themselves as they went from pub to pub that so perfectly suited my nostalgic mood, my feeling of merely floating through a fleeting world that…. made me want to write bad poetry. No! Sorry, sometimes I find it hard to be serious in these philosophical or significant posts. My style always leans towards the self-deprecating. But, the point is, there was something about my whole experience in Ireland that seemed to be summed up in that 15 minute stroll. The loveliness of it, the randomness of it, the strange, sudden intimacy, the freedom and glory of it as well as the final interrupted and unfinished nature. Perhaps that’s the best way for it to be in the end, instead of dragging on and on like a once-successful comedy sitcom, ending on a high note when all you can remember is the good times.