Browsing articles in "Events"
Jun 16, 2016

Joyce & Rebellion – Dublin on Bloomsday

ReadingIt was a day of threatening rain, that didn’t quite bucket down as expected. But the gloomy clouds above did nothing to dampen the city spirit below. Wandering around were all sorts of wonderful characters. Bowler hatted gents, straw boatered chaps, flapper girls, meringue hatted ladies and modern day Molly Blooms. I’ve been mingling with these types around Town all week, but today we joined in the fun!

Bloomsday Festival guide in hand, our first stop was St Andrews on Westland Row. My church. A holy place neither breath taking nor dull, but imposing if only on the inside. Most folk scurry past this impressive building every day on their journey home via Pearse Street Station. St Andrews is not an intimate church, so its size lent itself perfectly to the concert Joyce & Rebellion: A Musical Journey.

St Andrews is one of the many Dublin landmarks immortalised in Joyce’s Ulysses. The programme evoked times gone by with a beautiful mix of song, music, poetry and story. And of course history. St Andrews’ association with the 1916 Rising is celebrated by an exhibition at the church, well worth a visit. Joyce & Rebellion: A Musical Journey reminded us of the heart and courage of local men and women.

Hosted by Elizabeth Watson and Jean Monahan, the pews were filled by plenty of well dressed Joyce enthusiasts. None under 40… Opened with a reading of Thomas Moore’s The Minstrel Boy, by Carmel Heapes, then Moore again, Silent O’Moyle, read by Connie Murray, both accompanied by Carole O’Connor at the ivories. Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile was performed by Greenore Community Choir.

JoyceIt really took me back to a time (the 1980s!) with my Granny and Grandad O’Shea. Being in their tiny kitchen singing old songs. The fire blazing, the wireless humming in the background. A big pot of stew brewing on the stove. Tea for the adults, lemonade for us. Grandad with the toasting fork (hot buttered toast…) in one hand and a billowing Woodbine in the other. Granny standing, stirring, chatting.

Down by the Glenside sung by Jean Monahan, followed by George Smith and Simon Heapes’ performance of The Rising of the Moon and The Wearing of the Green. Catherine Byrne read W.B. Yeats September 1913. More memories! School, this time. Too young we were to appreciate anything at all… Of course I remember these poetic rhymes, learned by heart, but how they really speak to me now.

Simon Heapes took to the stage (or altar) once again with Love’s Old Sweet Song. We helped him, nowhere near his tenor, but enjoying it all the same. He was joined by George Smith, belting out A Nation Once Again, with all of us on hand once again. Catherine Byrne brought us more Yeats with The Song of Wandering Aengus. Historical tales of our 1916 heroes knitted together the songs and prose.

George Smith sang Grace, Carmel Heapes read Pearse’s The Mother and Connie Moore sang The Last Rose of Summer. It truly was an escape from the commercial, digital world we live in today. In fact, my iPhone had run out of juice, I didn’t even have to worry about capturing shots. Just being free of technological distraction for a few hours… It’s so relaxing! How art did thrive before Twitter tyranny.

AltarTo My Daughter Betty by Thomas Kettle was told heartfelt by Carmel Heapes, Oft in the Stilly Night performed by Simon Heapes. The final curtain at St Andrews; all three, Simon Heapes, George Smith and Connie Murray with Carole O’Connor on piano, as throughout, in a roof-raising rendition of The Holy City. We were invited up to encore, us fellow Joyceans, and linked arms with Love’s Old Sweet Song.

The concert was free. It was absolutely excellent. Thanks to the St. Andrews Church Choir and St. Andrews Church Heritage Working Group. And, of course, the hugely talented performers. Nobody my age really goes inside a church these days, unless for a wedding, christening, communion or funeral. Not a regular Mass goer, I pop in for solace from the city. And music. And exhibitions. And fun!

Back out into the light of day, dark as it was, we sailed past Kennedy’s, spying the Bloomsday brethren within. We popped in last time, for a wicked performance by the bold Rose Lawless, doing Molly Bloom to only the flawed perfection she can. This time we were in want of tea, not ale, (’twas only midday!) so we tucked ourselves in at cosy café Tri Via, on Lincoln’s Place. A great people watching spot.

Indeed, as we put away delicious homemade muffins, brownies and croissants, did we see a certain Senator, dressed to the nines cane and all, approach Sweny’s next door. David Norris is a familiar face to all Bloomsday patrons and a huge supporter of the Irish arts. Cameras clicked as he swept in and out of another fabled Ullyses stop. Sweny’s Pharmacy is now an olde worlde bookshop and Joyce museum.

Tri ViaIn we went, events sure to unfold. There was a stall outside doing lemonade and madeleines and plenty of vintage fillies and gents milling about. And the scent of lemon soap filled the air. But an impromptu reading from the Dubliners meant we were in luck with perfect timing. A Scottish man, whose name I do not know, gave a swaggering version of a chapter’s events. It was really very, very cool.

A bar of brown paper wrapped lemon soap in the bag we made our way up into Temple Bar, my neighbourhood. This culture vulture lark is hard work, so we broke off to the Porterhouse for a bit of footie action. England v Wales. It’s a top spot for pub grub. We polished off Scampi, Piri Piri Chicken Sandwich and Mixed Veggies all with lovely fluffy chips and a pint each. Oyster Stout for me. Very nice!

Meeting House Square was next on the agenda, for Bloomsday Readings with Keelin Shanley. The journalist and broadcaster was joined by various Irish actors, writers and musicians for another gratis gig. I’ve been known to listen from my bedroom, which looks onto Meeting House Square, in the past. I can catch bands at the Olympia from here too! The square was filled with Joyceans, old and young.

Roisin Ingle, of the Irish Times, was on the stage as we approached. There were hearty performances from Colm O’Gorman, Domini Kemp and, you guessed it, Senator David Norris. We segwayed into the National Photographic Archive to mix up our rebels with our rascals once again. The exhibition, Rising, is free entry (can you see a theme here?) and documents the events in and around the day.

Davy ByrnesBlack and white images of the destruction done to Dublin, the bravery of young Irish men and the effect on the everyday lives of locals are just fascinating. It’s hard to believe it was only 100 years ago… A walking tour of the exhibition is available, but we were happy to take it all in ourselves. I’ll be back with Himself, who’s a big history buff. And we do live next door! Mama and Papa certainly enjoyed it, too.

We were done by now. Off they went, Mother and Father, to Grafton Street, and up to Davy Byrne’s for one last nod to James Joyce. Bloomday is fast becoming one of the city’s most celebrated events, with Bloomsday Festival running events throughout the week. It’s great craic and I always find Townie friends out and about. Next year, Madre and me have promised to dress up! Or don a hat at least…

www.bloomsdayfestival.ie

May 22, 2016

Fab Food Trails – Dublin Coffee Experience

IMG_0334Disclaimer: I’m a tea drinker. A nice cup of Barry’s & I’m good to go! So it was straight from the frying pan into the fire when I signed up for Fab Food Trails’ brand new Coffee Trail. What was I thinking? Well, that Dublin now has a vibrant coffee scene, new cafes are popping up all over the shop & that Irish people have finally grown up & become serious coffee drinkers. And I want me a slice of that pie!

IMG_0251So what’s all the fuss about? What exactly is this “good coffee” that’s taking over our Old Town? Fab Food Trails, Dublin’s foremost food tasting experience, have done all the hard work, so all I have to do is turn up & find out. We were met by our guide, Aoife McElwain, coffee enthusiast & head honcho at forkful.tv, on the famous steps of Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. Bright, but not yet bushy-tailed…

IMG_0362First stop was Brother Sister, just inside the secret entrance to Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. This little coffee booth has been doing a sterling trade since opening last year. Toure Kizza & his sister Yvonne know their beans. We kick-started with a shot of Mojo (Artisan Coffee Roasters) Palestina. Hand-roasted Colombian beans with a chocolate, liquorice, red berries vibe. But, what would I know?

IMG_0260Enter Aoife, stage left, to pick up where Toure left off. Our guide gently steered us into the Pepper Pot Café, as we sipped away, taking in a history of the Georgian Townhouse as we went. The lovely folks at the Pepper Pot, who recently won Best Café in Dublin at the Irish Restaurant Awards, served up freshly baked mini-scones. With raspberry jam & cream. Ambassador… A real Friday morning treat!

IMG_0259Meanwhile, Aoife explained the ins & outs of a thriving Dublin coffee scene. It all kicked off, not that long ago, with Ariosa Coffee Roasting Co, one of Ireland’s first small batch speciality coffee roasteries & Karl Purdy at Coffeeangel, who started out in his coffee cart on Howth Pier. Since then we’ve had 3fe, Roasted Brown, Vice and a whole host of Dublin coffee specialists, roasters & taste-makers.

IMG_0295Basically we’ve come a long way from Nescafe. Or Starbucks… Aoife tells us how the World Barista Championship, being held in Dublin this year, has made an honest career of coffee-making. It’s the new cocktail shaking! Skerries man Stephen Morrissey, who started out in Bewley’s, is the current world champion, and cites quality Irish milk and water as being central to our ability to make top notch coffee.

IMG_0263The concept of coffee as a nerdy hobby, much like the craft beer scene, came about, says Aoife, after the recent Recession. Folk simply want more bang for their buck. Hence the impressive crop of cafes, coffee shops and delis popping up around Town in the last five years. A soggy hang sandwich just won’t do. Same with coffee. It’s a lifestyle thing. Something that the urban young Irish are truly embracing.

IMG_0274And none more so than Kaph, on Drury Street. Surely, Dublin’s hippest coffee spot. In we go, to be greeted by self-proclaimed Trendy Fecker, Steve. It’s all plaid shirts, bushy beards, beanies & NHS specs in here. Steve, as well as being a fine barista, is actually a very funny lad to boot. He keeps us entertained while serving a totes delish Noisette. A creamy Espresso with hot milk expertly swirled in.

IMG_0277Steve gives us a detailed break-down of all the different coffee beans available around the world. It really is fascinating. Who’da thunk it? My last foray into proper coffee (I’m not including the occasional milky latte) was in Jamaica, where I sampled Blue Mountain coffee, one of the most expensive in the world. Yes, it was quite tasty! Well, anyway, Steve brought us from Arabica to Robusta & back again.

IMG_0266For those coffee anoraks reading, Kaph’s own choice of bean changes on a regular basis. They like to keep it fresh & get whatever’s best in season. With coffee supplied by 3fe & Has Bean, it’s gonna be good! Not to mention milk specially sourced from a dairy in Carlow. No wonder there’s always queue outside the door… Aoife manages to get us out after a nice sit down & through Georges Street Arcade.

IMG_0289The Good Food Store on South Great Georges Street was next up. Love this place! The food, the vibe, the staff. It’s all good. It was time for more bites, both sweet & savoury, in order to soak up the coffee. The GFS sausage roll. Not something that would normally pass my lips, being somewhat of a flexitarian (I know, I know) who leans 95% veggie. But I’m willing to break the rules for this bad boy. Hot & flaky!

IMG_0322Time for more coffee… Roasted Brown, on Curved Street, in Temple Bar. Just around the corner from my gaff & one of my regular writing haunts. It’s big, airy & perfect for avoiding domestic distractions (cleaning the house), when deadlines loom. Ferg Brown is the man from Japan here. A legend on the Dublin coffee scene, Ferg’s journey to Roasted Brown brought him from Oz to New Zealand to London.

IMG_0327Having perfected his barista skills at the Happy Pear, in his hometown Greystones, ran his coffee cart around Ireland’s summer festivals & completed a coffee roasting course in London, it was a phone call from 3fe’s Colin Harmon that resulted in today’s Roasted Brown empire. Ferg now roasts his own beans in Delgany & has just opened Laine My Love, on Talbot Street, a cheeky little sister to Roasted Brown.

IMG_0324It becomes clear that fellas like Ferg Brown & Colin Harmon (whose name popped up more than once throughout the walk) are responsible for the deadly coffee we now have in Dublin. Roasted Brown served us a trio of single origin Kenyan done three ways. Yikes! Ferg recommends that we spray the coffee around our mouths (ooh er, missus…). There’s Espresso, with milk & filtered. All totally different.

IMG_0337By this stage we’re all a bit jittery, to say the least. So, Aoife brings us across the Millennium Bridge for a little jaunt. The in-between walking bits of the trail are a great way to get to know my fellow coffee buddies. Aoife points out a few of Dublin’s many quirks as we make our way Northside. As a native, Fab Food Trails opened me up to local things old & new, but for visitors it’s a rather cool intro to Dublin.

IMG_0364We finally wound up in the pub. But not as you know it! Wigwam (formerly Twisted Pepper) on Middle Abbey Street doubles up as the very slick Vice Coffee Co by day. I’m already high on caffeine, so perching on a tall stool at the bar is no sweat. I love the mood of this place. Dark & interesting. And the idea of midday coffee cocktails was calling my name out loudly! Iced Irish coffee with a twist. Yes Sir!

IMG_0352Vice’s barista extraordinaire, Tom Stafford, is on hand to tell us the final chapter in Dublin’s coffee story. With Vice lined up to host an after-party for the World Barista Championship, Tom & the team have been experimenting with a series of different coffee cocktails. We were willing guinea pigs! Featuring a portfolio of coffee from 3fe, Roasted Brown, Square Mile and more, Vice can work magic in a cup.

IMG_0370Tom shakes up a gorgeous blend of coffee, ice, Teeling & Kilbeggan whiskies. And tips it all into a Champagne saucer, topped with froth & finished with coffee beans. So simple. So scrumptious! Tom even whipped up an alcohol-free Cascara cocktail for Aoife, who was in need of serious refreshment. Thankfully, she could finally retire from talking while Tom filled us in on the upcoming coffee event.

IMG_0377According to Tom, there’ll be over 10,000 people in Dublin for the World Barista Championship (22 to 25 June), with many fringe events taking place across the city. Including the AeroPress Championship at Vice / Wigwam. Tom reckons that all the big coffee stars will be in Town. He then pulled out a box of Dublin Doughnut Company treats, a sweet surprise to end our morning. Fluffy clouds of sugary dough.

IMG_0373My legs were like jelly by the time I got home, a hop, skip & a jump away. And I was on air (what caffeine crash?) after so many lush coffees. All lovingly made, with the best ingredients. These coffee guys are a credit to the Dublin foodie scene. Thanks to Fab Food Trails I’ve had a proper intro to the black stuff. Now I know what everyone’s so excited about. Especially our super-talented baristas!

www.fabfoodtrails.ie

Apr 6, 2014

Rat Neck – Chainsaw Punk!

Rat Neck. Who the hell are they? A post-Punk apocalypse some might say. Four blokes in a Dublin band, others would venture. All I do know is that they’re fast & furious. Rat Neck formed in 2010 & have been steadily taking over the world since their first release on Breaking Tunes “In The Way”. Youtube their rather strange videos, featuring cartoon crazies Barry & Tommo, sketched by drummer Ollie.

So, back to the music. I caught them recently at a private gig, to launch their EP, at The Natural Cut on Wicklow Street. Fuck-off loud guitars, free whiskey & a nice little crowd. What’s not to love? Rat Neck’s set was tight. I saw them again, a couple of weeks later at Fibber Magees. Yup, that old rock spot that I haven’t been in since the Millennium. Ah, the days… And they royally rocked that joint too.

Rat Neck channel a chainsaw energy that just forces you to head bang. Rude not to with my hair. Lead singer Vinny leads the way with his oily undercut swinging to the speeding rhythm of his guitar. Flanked by ice cool bassist Pa & old skool rock guitarist Peter, he lets loose in not quite a Henry Rollins way, but close. Filthy language, of course! Rat Neck’s sound is heavy but the songs are well catchy.

The motley crew at Fibbers tapped a toe, or stomped a bovver boot, to “S.O.M.C” & “No Way Back”. My fave tune “Rohypnol” went down a storm. Rat Neck are a great live band. While making big waves online, I won’t be surprised to see them popping up at venues all over Dublin this summer. If you like Killing Joke, Black Flag or Faith No More, you’ll dig these guys. Old skool noise & then some more.

ratneck.bandcamp.com / www.ratneck.com / www.fibbermagees.ie

Mar 21, 2014

Silk Road Exhibition – Centre For Creative Practices

When some friends asked me to join them for an exhibition launch on Wednesday night I found my knackered self, clutching a cuppa, buried in the sofa. A quick text revealed the destination to be the Centre For Creative Practices, a close neighbour of ILS HQ. I know town’s on my doorstep, but I was glad to be staying local. The short stroll woke me up! And the CFCP is always a joy to visit.

Upon arrival, the place, a rather cool cellar-like Georgian basement on Pembroke St, was already fairly lively. I located a glass of red & found my friend by the canapes. Exotic pastry envelopes with strawberry, creme fraiche & pistachio. Munch! The Silk Road Exhibition, a showcase of photography & artwork, is running as part of the Silk Road Film Festival. A celebration of Silk Road voyages.

The exhibition is designed to introduce Asian & Middle Eastern art, culture & imagery & brings to life many of the countries along the legendary Silk Road route. Indeed, the crowd at CFCP was a melting pot of cultures & an indication of Dublin’s changing ethnic flavour. Photography includes several Irish artists, who have travelled the Middle East, with rich images of life steeped in Silk Road history.

Paintings feature works by artists from Iran, Yemen & Ireland. I particularly liked pieces by Michelle Boyle, Maliheh Zafarnezhad & Farnoosh Rahimi. The exhibition is a sea of colour & texture, allowing the observer to immerse in Silk Road culture. The gallery was officially opened by well-known actress Aisling O’Sullivan & there was a good talk by photographer & exhibition curator Fares Fares.

The Centre For Creative Practices is running the show until next Thursday & is screening a film (Ningen, Japenese) on Saturday afternoon at 5 pm, as part of the Silk Road Film Festival. I got chatting to Iranian film director, Mahmoud Kalari, a charismatic man who’s groundbreaking work is highly influential in Middle Eastern cinema. He told me his next project is a one continuous shot film. How cool.

Kalari is hosting a Cinematography Masterclass at The Screen cinema on Townsend Street from midday on Saturday, featuring break-downs of his Academy Award winning films. The Silk Road Film Festival runs until March 25th, with events including – Bahar Cultural Event, The Adventures of Mirzabalad & Dragonfly’s Pond. No better way to herald Persian New Year Nowruz, Festival of Spring.

Silk Road Exhibition – until Thursday 27th. Free entry. Curated by Fares Fares & Nasrin Saadat.

Centre For Creative Practices, 15 Pembroke Street Lower, Dublin 2 / www.cfcp.ie / www.silkroadfilmfestival.com

Feb 13, 2014

Costumes Parisiens – Chester Beatty Library

It was my birthday on Tuesday, so I went up town looking for some action. Well, I went to the Chester Beatty Library, actually. There was a bit of excitement though, with the snow storm & all. It felt so romantic to be swept up in a mid-February blizzard. I ran through the grounds of Dublin Castle, finally finding refuge in the Silk Road Cafe. Wet coat off, tea & fresh orange cake on. This place was made for comfort…

Costumes Parisiens is showing at the Chester Beatty since October & it was finally my chance to have a goo. The exhibition features the unique illustrations of Journal des Dames et des Modes (1912-1914). One hundred years after it’s publication, these fashion plates give us a taste for the elegant styles of du jour. It was Beatty’s glamorous wife, Edith, who encouraged him to acquire the magazine.

The fine sketches depict a whimsical side of style, which is really what fashion is all about. A rich & exotic opulence, characterised by Orientalism, Neo-Classical French & Art Nouveau design with rich fabrics & bold patterns. Costumes Parisiens serves as a record of the growth of haute couture & the revolutionary path to modern women’s apparel. It celebrates luxury & craftsmanship in fashion.

Gowns, dresses, hats & handbags – the French woman at the turn of the century was a leading arbiter of style. These original prints from George Barbier, Leon Bakst & Bernard Boutet de Monvel capture ladies of the Belle Epoque era at leisure & play. Vivid colours & intricate detail relay the womanly art of dressing. Although the menswear is equally beguiling, it’s the feminine look that truly inspires.

I particularly enjoyed the display of real handmade clothing. So beautiful, these gowns held such allure in their fabric, draping & embellishment. It makes me rue the day Penneys was invented. Imagine Madame wearing leggings? Me neither… Costumes Parisiens is a must-see for those who appreciate a stylish aesthetic or those who simply enjoy beautiful graphics. Showing until March 30th 2014.

Costumes Parisiens, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle, Dublin2 / www.silkroadcafe.ie

Feb 11, 2014

Evita – Powerful Romance

It was off to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, a hop, skip & a jump from ILS HQ, last night for Evita. Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s all-singing, all-dancing tale of Argentina’s legendary “spirit of the nation”, Eva Peron. First stop for us, me & Dad, was Herbstreet on Hanover Quay. Where else? Always a full house during sell out shows, we enjoyed a warm welcome & a bustling atmosphere. The perfect place for pre-theatre chow.

The menu at Herbstreet changes with the seasons, but one thing that remains the same is their scrummy sweet potato wedges. Big chunks of foodie love served with chipotle & lemon feta dips. So we shared those, alongside baked Cooleeney with sourdough bread & quinoa salad for me & a special of grilled halloumi with fruity cous cous & apricot chutney for Dad. All totes delish, needless to say!

Dessert followed at the Upper Circle bar, where we paired our drinkies with a box of Cocoa Atelier chocolates. Ambassador… Well, it is my birthday! The view of Grand Canal Docks from here, is one of the best features of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. A magical slice of modern Dublin. Yes, Sir. We soon took our seats, for the performance. The Gods. I must say, I do like watching from the Upper Circle.

Is it wrong to fancy Marti Pellow? Starring as narrator Che (channelling Che Guevara, but not quite him), Pellow looks swashbuckling swarthy in his combats and bovver boots. Of course, I remember him from his Wet Wet Wet days, when as a ten year old I was a little bit in love with him. Pellow is now an accomplished Wet End player, as well as a successful solo artist. And still quite handsome too…

A deep throat opener from Che, brings us to Evita’s state funeral where her passing is mourned by the nation. Then we go back in time to 1940s Argentina, where small town girl Eva Peron lets her larger than life personality do the talking, or singing in this case. In search of the big time, she persuades tango singer Agustin Magaldi to take her to Buenos Aires. Eva is ready for her first bite of the Big Apple.

With bright lights in her eyes Eva climbs the society ladder, forging a career as an actress & model. Following a devastating earthquake, Eva meets Juan Peron at a charity ball. Together they rise to power, during a time of political turmoil, to become President & First Lady of Argentina. Under Peron’s wing, Evita transcends her humble beginnings to national sweetheart. Theirs is a tale of enduring love.

Evita sweeps us up in a heady cocktail of romance & power as Eva, played superbly by Madelena Alberto, & Juan Peron, played by stage veteran Mark Heenehan, fuse together to make an unforgettable alliance. From the start of their affair, “I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You” to the height of their reign, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” the stage is a hotbed of emotion. Pure Rice & Lloyd Webber magic.

Alberto’s mighty voice takes us through the highs & lows of Evita’s political opus & into the bosom of her marriage. The love between her & Peron is reflected onto the raging streets of Argentina. This production highlights Evita’s magnificent wealth against a backdrop of Argentina’s desperate “shirtless”, represented by Che throughout. Her heart must outshine her diamonds, as far as they are concerned.

A captivating “High Flying Adored” between Eva & Che, leads us into her infamous Rainbow Tour of Europe. Evita puts on the performance of her life, while at the same time fighting a losing battle with her failing health. She rallies behind Peron, but he must watch his beloved burgeon in spirit & wither in strength. She clings to him, all she has left. “You Must Love Me” brought a tear to my eye.

Evita really captures the heat of Buenos Aires at the time, with the Perons cast against a lively ensemble of good time girls, military men & ordinary folk. I enjoyed the costumes in particular, from flirty tea dresses to dapper uniform, they conveyed times past when both men & women held their own brands of allure. Evita’s glamour to Peron’s steady presence. A winning combo in any day & age.

The final scenes see out the tragedy of Evita’s untimely death with Peron pledging “She Is A Diamond” to her & “Eva’s Final Broadcast” as her heart wrenching last stand. We’re back in black for her funeral, Che to the fore once again lamenting her death with all of Argentina. Evita is an icon for women & Madelena Alberto’s invigorating turn is a triumph of passion & self realisation. A spectacular show!

Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Dublin 2 / www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie / Herbstreet, Hanover Quay, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2 /www.herbstreet.ie

Nov 14, 2013

O’Briens Wine Fair – Grape Expectations!

Me and Dad met on Saturday morning, outside BT as usual, all excited about O’Briens Wine Fair. Dad’s fave bottle shop were hosting a series of tasting sessions at the Round Room in the Mansion House. Don’t mind if we do! First up was some carb loading at M&S Rooftop Restaurant, to line our stomachs before the main event. We’ve long been fans of this place. M&S food already cooked for you. What’s not to love?

We went for the Dine Menu, 14.50 euro for two courses and a glass of vino. Well we had to start somewhere… I had a creamy Camembert tart with rocket, asparagus and onion marmalade, while Dad tucked into seafood pie with a golden breadcrumb topping. Both were absolutely top drawer. We followed with Eton Mess for me and chocolate tart for him. The best thing about the Rooftop Restaurant is that we were done and dusted in an hour. Satisfied customers!

Off we trotted to the Mansion House. The Round Room was kitted out with 45 different wine merchants from around the globe. We were handed a glass each, on arrival, and set free into a Willy Wonka world of wine. The tables were arranged in order of country of origin, with each producer offering their glug, San Pellegrino and Carr’s Table Water biscuits. Ambassador… The idea was to take a sip and move on.

We started with Norton Argentina, from – you guessed it – Argentina. 2010 Syrah Reserva for me. Next up was Bethany, from Australia, where I sampled their Old Quarry Tawny Port. A taste of Christmas. Vina Chocolan, from Chile, was an early favourite with their 2011 Syrah Reserva and 2011 Malbec Gran Reserva both tickling my tastebuds. We milled about the room, rather than from table to table.

I got talking to one or two wine buffs, chaps who were only too delighted to shoot the boozy breeze. I know nothing about wine, just that I like it. Dad bumped into an old pal who tipped us off to a couple of numbers. According to these sources, O’Briens Wine Fair was one of the better events they’d been to. Good to know! Certainly in terms of variety and ease we were impressed. And enjoying it very much…

In fact so much that I tried four wines from Spain’s Coca i Fito. 2009 Sao Abrivat, 2010 Jaspi Negra, 2009 Coca i Fito and 2008 Planets de Prior Pons. Modern and delicious, these bottles were beautifully packaged too. My must-have white was New Zealand’s Man O’War 2011 Valhalla Chardonnay. It’ll be on our table on Christmas Day. Domaine Duffour, from France, was a single 2012 Gascogne. Yummy!

And so to Champagne, darlings. Beaumont Des Crayeres Grande Reserve fizzed on my lips, decadent and sharp. Nothing like the real thing! Except maybe a really good Prosecco. Rizzardi Prosecco Spumante was the party tipple of choice for Mother’s recent birthday bash. I recommended it to a bride-to-be who was totting up a list of prospective toasts for her wedding. Seems everyone was having fun!

Two hours in, slightly tipsy but well diluted with water and crackers we had made our picks. Dad was a happy camper as many wines were discounted and there was a bonus 20% back on his loyalty card for every six bottles bought on the day. Deal-tastic. The final cut included the Sao Abrivat, Delheim Chenin Blanc, Chocolan Malbec and Privada Blend. It was soon high time for some well earned Americanos.

www.obrienswine.ie

Nov 5, 2013

Lumiere – Sweet Sound of Home

Sunday evening is the new Saturday night! Well, for me and the Bloke anyway. All I had to do was turn up and be fed. Himself had cooked up a Mexican bonanza of Quorn chilli, refried beans, rice and tacos. Bung on guacamole, cheese, jalapenos, Greek yogurt (great alternative to sour cream), salsa and salad and you’ve got a belly full of yum. Dessert was Lumiere at the Workmans Club. And how sweet it was.

Lumiere are Pauline Scanlon and Eilish Kennedy, two trad singers from Dingle, Co. Kerry. Together, their voices form a beautiful union, earthy and ethereal at the same time. What I love about the Workmans Club, is that it’s the perfect venue for plain good entertainment. A stage, some higgledy piggledy chairs and a few simple lights. They have mirror balls on the ceiling, but Lumiere need no fuss.

We missed The Damien O’Kane Trio, due to our pie eating contest, but there would be more from them later. Pauline and Eilish shared the stage with musician Gerry O’Beirne on the acoustic. I hadn’t seen Lumiere live before, and I must admit I was instantly uplifted by their singing. The whole room was captivated. There’s something about the Gaeilge that, as an Irish person, touches your very soul.

Pauline and Eilish, like two strings on the same instrument gave a rousing rendition of “Oro se de Bheatha Abhaile”. And what haunting ballads from their new album “My Dearest Dear”. Joking and quipping all the while, Lumiere connected with their audience on many levels. It was like we were all down in the snug of a wee pub in Dingle. Such fun! Gerry O’Beirne, a pure character himself, sang too.

If every gig Lumiere do is like this, then I can see why they are so loved. “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” was another stunning number (Sinead O’Connor sings on the album) and “Samhradh” was a fave of mine. The girls were joined on stage by The Dermot O’Kane Trio. A jangle of guitars and a ukelele were married with their twin voices, with plenty of banter in between. A real down home vibe.

Chatting to Pauline and Eilish afterwards, they told me next stop was Kerry. That night. Touring the country is hard work, but the glamour is in their exquisite sound. Pauline added that the joy is in seeing the audience reaction. Lumiere are looking forward to a happy Christmas with their upcoming US tour. Me and the Bloke then hit the Garage Bar for a spot of moonstomping. Variety is the spice of life!

www.lumieremusic.net / The Workmans Club, 10 Wellington Quay, Dublin 2

Oct 17, 2013

Very Extremely Memphis – Rock’n’Roll Roots

Having another of our Sunday-like Mondays, me and the Bloke rocked along to the Grand Social that night for Very Extremely Memphis. Free gig, we parked ourselves upstairs in the Loft and ordered a pair of Guinness. The set up was a Q&A with film director Paul Duane and MC Pat McCabe about Duane’s latest release, Very Extremely Dangerous. A documentary on the life of the mad, bad Jerry McGill.

Opening tomorrow at the IFI, Duane’s film charts McGill’s musical beginnings in 1960s Memphis, through his odyssey of crime and jail to his present day ex-con lifestyle. No less wild than his younger days, he brings Duane on the road to recording a follow up to his 1959 single, Lovestruck. Off the rails, McGill isn’t a regular dude. Gruesome too, it deals with his terminal cancer. McGill passed away since.

It’s clear that music and it’s history are Duane’s passion. He spoke animatedly through a number of clips from hazy Memphis days. Really cool, rare stuff. Pure rock’n’roll. Alex Chilton and Jim Dickinson were two memorable features, anti-establishment figures with real rebel blood in their veins. It really gave Himself a thrill. A little slice of New Orleans in Dublin! Duane and McCabe were equally enthralled.

Time for a bit of music. First up were The Problem Blob (ex-Female Hercules), with singer and guitarist Conzo giving it socks. I loved the punky ‘tude of these guys. Using their instruments as weapons of intent. The Slick Hicks were a different kettle of fish. A polished rockabilly outfit, these cats sailed through a blinding set. We shuffled happily to the double bass rhythm. Then home to bed. Rock’n’roll.

Very Extremely Dangerous – Irish Film Institute, 6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin / www.ifi.ie

Oct 16, 2013

The Threepenny Opera – Jazz Hands!

So it was that I met a friend at the theatre on Saturday afternoon. Matinees are such a pleasant way to while away the weekend. I’d had a busy morning, whisking Dad and the Bruv around town in search of a birthday present for Mother. I know, I’m a saint. We ducked in and out all over the Creative Quarter (South William Street & Co), Powerscourt Townhouse and eventually up to Wexford Street. Phew!

We struck gold, or should I say an opal and silver ring, at Djinn Jewellery. Gorgeous contemporary pieces. Designer and maker Simon Phelan advised us with his expert knowledge on gems and wrapped the dainty ring in a cool wooden box. Job done. Back down town and into the belly of Temple Bar, it was Mexico To Rome with the lads for a lunch deal. Burrito and chips with a bottle of Peroni for a tenner. Can’t go wrong!

Off they went, for more shopping (crafty pints), and I made the final stretch up to Parnell Square to The Gate Theatre. A small but smart space, The Gate features a low, open stage. You can catch all of the action, no matter where you’re sitting. Me and my mate were here for The Threepenny Opera, by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. It’s the high octane story of lusty criminal Mac The Knife.

The production opened in style with the Street Singer (David Shannon), a sort of musical narrator, belting out signature tune ” Mac The Knife”. A tale of petty crime, street urchins, silly girls and crooked police, The Threepenny Opera unfolds first in the back street shop of Mr. Peachum (Mark O’Regan) and his formidable wife (Jackie Marks). This pair and their charge, the hapless beggar Filch (Laurence Kinlan) set the tone.

The Threepenny Opera is bawdy, in your face and actually does jazz hands. Brilliant. This version is directed by Wayne Jordan, with musical direction by Cathal Synnott. The cast, both young and vintage, are fresh and full of energy and there is some great voices in the mix. Set in Victorian London, though there’s Dublin accents at The Gate, Brecht and Weill offered a socialist critique of a capitalist world.

And so we are introduced to a cast of scoundrels, drop outs and hopeless romantics. Main protagonist Macheath (David Ganly) is a charming thief who steals the heart of not so innocent Polly Peachum (Charlotte McCurry). Their marriage causes ructions and we are treated to much hilarious to-ing and fro-ing, with Mac dodging the cops and Polly answering to her parents. His cronies add to the mirth.

We learn that Mac has friends in places high and low. His friendship with Tiger Brown (Stephen Brennan), Chief of Police, has kept him out of trouble. But he can’t resist Low-Dive Jenny (Hilda Fay) and her ladies of the night. Mac will never go straight and when Polly discovers a love rival in his other “wife” Lucy Brown (Ruth McGill), all hell breaks loose. The tussle for Mac’s affections land him in jail.

Ganly gives a big and bold performance as the incarcerated Mac The Knife, but it’s his women who steal the show. A scene with McCurry and McGill is great fun with the two gangster’s molls finally bonding over their plight. Hilda Fay shines as the tart with a heart, looking steely and sad all in one go. Mac is to be hanged. Alas, a comical reversal means that Mac is freed and a musical romp ensues.

I suppose the message is, life ain’t all that bad. We’re all in it together. That’s Mac The Knife, Tiger Brown and the Peachums. The beggars and the whores remain in the gutter. The Threepenny Opera, almost a hundred years old, is relevant in any society. The good and the bad triumph over the ordinary, as ever. This production at The Gate is action packed from beginning to end, a feel good take for sure.

The Gate Theatre, Cavendish Row, Parnell Square, Dublin 1 / www.gatetheatre.ie

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