WHETHER you raise a glass tomorrow to Arthur, to Martha or to marketing, Arthur’s Day is as much a celebration of music as it is of Guinness. Big names will play in Ireland this week, in intimate venues: Mika, Mumford & Sons, Tinie Tempah, Primal Scream and Ellie Goulding. Fifty free music events will pay homage to Arthur Guinness. The one-off to celebrate Guinness’s 250th anniversary in 2009 has become the annual Arthur’s Day. Who can forget when David Gray surprised revellers in Dublin’s Whelan’s venue in 2009, or Paolo Nutini rocked up the Savoy in Cork in 2010? It’s not just on Arthur’s Day that rock ’n’ roll and the humble Irish pub clash gloriously. So we decided to list our favourite pubs, and their place in music history.
The Lobby, Union Quay, Cork: Closed since 2005, the Lobby was a hugely important bar for the city’s folk scene and beyond. It has since been immortalised in a song by John Spillane, and a recent book by Monica McNamara.
Sir Henry’s, South Main Street, Cork This much-loved bar opened in 1978 and closed in 2003. Ostensibly a rock bar, Sir Henry’s evolved into a dance/trance-heavy venue. Still, its most notable show was in the former vein: on Aug 20, 1991, Sonic Youth played, supported by the then-unknown Nirvana.
Top Hat, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin This bar may have been way out in the suburbs, but in the ’80s and ’90s the Top Hat was a huge favourite with hard rock and heavy metal fans. On Oct 3, 1988, Metallica made the first of numerous visits to Dublin at this suburban, rock-heavy bar. The Clash also made their first headline appearance there, on Oct 12, 1978 … supported by Berlin.
Roisin Dubh, Dominick Street, Galway A jewel in the City of the Tribes’s live music scene, the Roisin Dubh was established in the ’80s, but underwent a dramatic revamp in 2004. Ray Manzarek, John Paul Jones and Steve Earle have all played there, as have Christy Moore, the Frames and local lads, The Saw Doctors.
Delorentos’ Niall Conlon has spoken of how the Roisin Dubh welcomed the band when no other venue would.
Whelan’s, Wexford Street, Dublin Formerly the Wexford Inn, Whelan’s is synonymous with Ireland’s DIY and singer-songwriter scenes. Though the venue has played host to myriad musicians, one night stands out.
In August 2003, Pixies frontman Frank Black made a covert, after-hours trip to the venue, where he sang into the small hours with Glen Hansard and Mundy.
Dolans, Rock Road, Limerick In December, 1994, Mick Dolan moved into the Mill Tavern and transformed it into the epicentre of the Limerick music scene.
Highpoints down the years have included gigs by Bell X1 (2003), The Coronas (2010), Mumford & Sons (2011) and The Thrills (2003).
Cyprus Ave, Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork Cork-based music fans often wax happy about this perennially popular pub venue. The list of acts that has passed through their doors reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the home-grown and international scenes: Adrian Crowley, The Blizzards, Declan O’Rourke, David Kitt, Jape and Gemma Hayes have all turned in stellar performances.
Rock Garden, Temple Bar, Dublin With a twin venue in London’s Covent Garden, the Rock Garden was the grungy backdrop to Dublin’s vibrant indie, grunge and alternative scenes in the mid-90s.
On May 14, 1993, a relatively new band from Oxford, called Radiohead, made their Irish debut there. Alas, Rock Garden’s star dimmed in the mid-90s, making way for the recently closed rock haunt, Eamonn Doran’s.
O’Donoghue’s, Merrion Row, Dublin The traditional Irish music venue, O’Donoghue’s, became an unlikely hip-hop epicentre on Nov 25, 2011, when R&B superstar Rihanna hired out the pub so that she could have Thanksgiving dinner with her crew, while in Dublin on tour.
Moran’s Hotel, Talbot Street, Dublin Moran’s is the backdrop to plenty of Irish rock lore moments. Thin Lizzy and the Boomtown Rats did a (largely impromptu) warm-up gig in 1977 there, ahead of their open-air gig at Dalymount Park that week.
A year later, the now-defunct venue had an even more memorable weekend, with Stiff Little Fingers making their Dublin debut on Friday, Aug 25, and U2 appearing a day later, on Saturday, Aug 26.
Foxy John’s, Main Street Dingle, Co. Kerry Standing opposite St James’s Church, where the Other Voices RTÉ series is filmed every December, Foxy John’s has enjoyed more than its fair share of well-known clientele.
Singer Richard Hawley was especially taken with the bar in 2011, saying in The Guardian: “I couldn’t believe Foxy John’s when I first saw it. I was so grateful that there was, finally, somewhere that I could buy light bulbs, rat poison and Guinness.”
De Barras Folk Club, Pearse Street, Clonakilty, Co. Cork Mixing intimacy with spirited fun, De Barra’s is said to have one of Ireland’s best snugs. Little wonder that Sharon Shannon, Mundy, Aslan, Frances Black, Noel Redding and Christy Moore play there regularly.
Says Moore: “There’s Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert, Sydney Opera House and then there’s De Barra’s.”
Baggot Inn, Baggott Street, Dublin It may be a swank watering hole these days, but in its heyday, the Baggott Inn — part owned by Jack Charlton — was a more ramshackle affair, famous for hosting gigs by locals like Something Happens and The 4 Of Us, and international stars like Tracy Chapman and Mick Jagger. A young Bono was once refused entry, until he told them he was playing that night.
David Bowie famously played the venue’s last gig, on Aug 19 1995, with his band Tin Machine.