Tag Archives: Dublin

Review: Opening Night of Glitterball – Dublin

11 May

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By Rhea H. Boyden

I walk down Dublin’s South Anne Street frequently but I had not noticed the beautiful blue door at Number 22 until I found myself standing in front of it last Saturday night wearing a sparkly blue dress that was just about the same shade of blue as the door. I was excited to see what lay behind this portal and so I entered and walked downstairs into the stunning new club named simply after its address: ‘Number Twenty-Two’ which opened last November. The event I was there to attend on Saturday was the opening night of DJ/Producer Dean Sherry‘s  glamorous new event: Glitterball – Saturday Nite Phever. The opening night was spectacular and most certainly did not disappoint. Dean opened his set at the stroke of midnight with the fantastic Nile Rogers/Bernard Edwards Remix of ‘Lost in Music’ by Sister Sledge which really was the perfect track to commence a new Saturday night residency that he will hold weekly in this beautiful and stylishly refurbished building. ‘Glitterball’s focus will be on promoting Irish musical talent with small group rotations and occasional international guest DJs,’ he told me.

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DJ/Producer Dean Sherry 

The ‘Number Twenty-Two’ venue is decorated with well-restored antiques, plush curtains, stained glass and large gold -framed mirrors. It hosts dinner shows in a 1920’s New York theme, as well as traditional music, folk gigs and jazz with Sherry’s weekly Glitterball event adding classic house, soul, funk and New York disco to the repertoire. I really did feel like I was in a New York club as I sat in the large leather booths on the balcony overlooking the dancefloor, stage and dining tables below.

When Dean Sherry finished playing ‘Lost in Music’ he launched straight into ‘Benediction’ by Hot Natured – a song I love. I sang along to the line: ‘I feel like my love has found a home,’ and as I did I was also struck with the thought that sexy, civilised and quality late-night clubbing has also found a new home in Dublin and this is something to get very excited about. The music was accompanied by top-class visuals and graphics provided by Brian Byrne and Christian Boshell.

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Niall Redmond 

Dean was joined on opening night by the hugely talented DJs Jay Carpenter aka Muska who opened with the track ‘Club Soda’ by Thomas Bangalter and Niall Redmond who played ‘Clouds’ by Chaka Chan which went down a storm. As I observed Niall in action it occured to me that Djing really is a physical activity. I could see the passion and music flowing through this extremely talented man and it is quite remarkable to observe. But then Dean Sherry himself is a huge talent who surrounds himself with a pool of talented DJs. He is an award-winning DJ and owner of PHEVER:TV-Radio which he set up in 2014. He has held residencies in almost every leading dance club in Ireland over the past 2 decades as well as touring extensively and internationally with his successful PHUNK’DUP Soundsystem. He also held a residency in the late 90’s in a hugely popular underground club called The System which was in the same location as the freshly refurbished club on South Anne Street. Dean is now returning to the same spot to DJ nearly 20 years later with his new sparkly and sexy Glitterball club night.

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Jay Carpenter aka Muska

I have learned a lot more about the history of the location in the past week, and 22 South Anne Street, being in the heart of Dublin city centre, has a colourful musical history. In the 1950’s it was home to The Crystal Ballroom which was where many young people went dancing to jazz/swing orchestra bands. This week I was introduced to Dublin songwriter/musician Andy Jack who told me a little more about his personal family connection to The Crystal Ballroom. ‘My uncle Henry Jack who is now 82 years old was resident crooner there in the 1950s and would sing only the most lavish of songs with the in- house jazz/swing orchestra. He had a voice that could sing classically as well as big swing-jazz numbers of the time. He was often compared to the Hollywood legendary singer Mario Lanza and he would perform songs by the likes of Dean Martin and Elvis Presley as well as many of his own songs, ‘ he told me. Henry Jack went on to have a very successful singing career in New York.

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Henry Jack – Resident Crooner at The Crystal Ballroom in the 1950s

The Crystal Ballroom has also been immortalised in a U2 song of the same name. Bono’s parents used to go dancing there in the 1950’s too. And on the same location as the Crystal Ballroom another club sprang up in the 70’s, – the iconic McGonagle’s which featured a mix of indie bands, acid house and pop dance. U2 played there and many Irish bands made their debut there in the late 1970’s and throughout the 80’s. I spoke with DJ Aoife Nic Canna and her close friend Ailbhe Ni Mhaoilearca who both told me that they have fond memories of seeing New Model Army in McGonagle’s in 1988 when they were young teenagers. ‘The gigs on Saturday afternoons were free which made it all the more appealing when we teens had very little money,’ Ailbhe told me. The venue hosted such bands as Thin Lizzy and The Virgin Prunes.

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It has been fascinating and intriguing for me to talk to so many different people this week about the history of this location that I knew absolutely nothing about before. I have lived in Dublin for a little under 3 years and there is still so much musical history for me to uncover. I very much look forward to attending more of Dean Sherry’s Glitterball club nights in the near future especially now that I learn that this is the fourth music club to be located on this very spot since the 1950’s. Dean has a lot of exciting plans for his Glitterball residency. He told me Niall Redmond will be spinning on stage with him frequently and that they both have a special guest lined up who they will soon reveal. I can’t wait for the second night of Glitterball this Saturday May 13th when Dean will invite DJ’s Speedi D (Purty Loft) and Frankie Moorhouse to join him in working their musical magic on the decks.

Glitterball Dublin is delivered in association with PHEVER.ie featuring exclusive resident DJ Dean Sherry plus weekly guests. For VIP guestlist applications please PM to Glitterball Facebook page and leave name and email address. The club also offers supper club deals from earlier in the evening. Glitterball kicks off at midnight. Doors: 11pm. No. 22 South Anne Street (off Grafton Street) Dress to impress. The event is strictly over 25s.

Photo of Henry Jack courtesy of Andy Jack.

Silver Glitterball image from Wikimedia Commons

Review: Hugo McCann’s ‘Best Sets’ on PHEVER:TV-Radio

21 Jan

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by Rhea H. Boyden

In the past few months I have been tuning in to Dublin DJ Hugo McCann’s ‘Best Sets’ show on PHEVER:TV-Radio which airs Saturdays from 6-8pm. His altogether excellent two hour mixes take you on a musical journey through the genres of progressive techno, deep house and tech house. On December 3rd I was tuned in when the following vocals really caught my attention: ‘I want to take this time to do a shout out to all the nations of the universe, to all the leaders of every land. This is the time for everyone to unite and stop this hate against each other.’ I was curious about this track and so I asked Hugo about it. ‘Yes, it is Luna City Express – Motherland,’ he told me. ‘I am glad you spotted it, as I consciously added that vocal especially in light of the current protests in Standing Rock.’ The powerful vocal continues: ‘Take the time, search your heart, show more love. Teach the children what their motherlands are all about. Stop the hate, love is the answer, education is the key.’

In the past few weeks, I have got to know Hugo a little better and he has told me more about the philosophy, literature and music that has inspired his DJing career that has now spanned more than two decades. ‘I try to impart the wisdom of Alan Watts where and when I can, especially by adding clips and quotes to my mixes,’ he said. Alan Watts (1915-1973) was a British writer, philosopher and speaker who was best known for popularising Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. He wrote and spoke at length, especially on the topics of overcoming fear and really learning to experience the present moment. Hugo certainly has some great stories about how he has applied Watts’ Zen teachings to the trials and tribulations of everyday life. ‘I was recently at the dentist and had a terrible toothache and I was miserable and thought, this is it, I am going to lose this tooth,’ he told me. ‘And then I just gave up and let the experience be what it was. I let go of the fear. Suddenly things worked out for me. While other dentists had told me they could not save my tooth, this dentist turned around and said he could! And not only that, as I got chatting to him, he revealed that he was a pilot and he needed someone to choreograph the music to accompany his flight routine so we struck a deal; he would save my tooth and I would provide him his music in exchange.’ Most impressive. Hugo has inspired me to read more Alan Watts in the past weeks and I think the Watts’ quote that best describes the above scenario is this: ‘When you realise that you live in, that indeed you ARE this moment and no other, that apart from this there is no past and no future you must relax and taste life to the full, whether it be pleasure or pain.’

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Hugo is also a big fan of science fiction, fantasy and the Tao of Pooh which was what he read before he moved onto Watts’ philosophy. He has been collecting records and djing since the 90’s and he told me a bit about the exciting hunts he has been on over the years to find the best records and the tastiest tunes and also the dedication that has really gone into honing his DJing skills. He has held residencies at The Temple of Sound, Ormond Multimedia and The Kitchen nightclub (owned and operated in the 90’s by U2) among others, as well as DJing all over Ireland, the UK and also attracting promoters from places such as Thailand and Las Vegas. He set up his You Tube channel ‘Best Sets on the Net’ four and a half years ago and it has been hugely successful. He now has 56 thousand subscribers and averages about 100 thousand views a week and has had almost 19 million hits to date. It features world class DJ mixes from across the planet covering Chicago House to minimal techno and just about everything in between.

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Hugo McCann at PHEVER:TV-Radio Studios

In recent years Hugo withdrew from the DJing limelight to focus on his family and other commitments until he was introduced to DJ/Producer and PHEVER boss Dean Sherry  in the summer of 2014. Dean had just set up PHEVER:TV-Radio and offered Hugo a weekly residency. This has become his ‘Best Sets’ show that airs every Saturday from 6-8pm. ‘Radio has given me a platform to start playing and accessing music that never makes it to vinyl and this has been an interesting adventure for me. I rarely play out in clubs anymore, but when I do it is all vinyl. My radio show and You Tube channel have been my focus of late.’ Not only is ‘Best Sets’ gaining in popularity, but PHEVER:TV-Radio is growing fast too. I spoke to Dean who said: ‘There is so much fantastic new music coming into the inbox that I hardly have a chance to listen to it all!’ This is indeed very exciting. Dean Sherry has big plans for PHEVER for 2017 and it will be interesting to watch how both Hugo’s show and PHEVER as a whole develop over the next while. And while it is fun to get nostalgic and listen to the music of our youth it is also great to focus on what is happening right NOW (in the spirit of Alan Watts) and listen to hot new releases. ‘So what are some of your favourite new releases?’ I asked Hugo. ‘I would say my current faves are Taras Van De Voorde and Virgil Delion – December, Umek – Incinerator and Sergio Fernandez – Unforgettable Summer.’ I also asked him who he thought would be big in 2017 and who we can expect him to play on his show. ‘The big artists for me for 2017 are definitely CJ Jeff, Latmun and Ali Ajami if I had to just name a few off the top of my head.’ Excellent. I will certainly be tuning in to ‘Best Sets’ to hear more of the melodic and deep musical adventures that Hugo so brilliantly takes his listeners on every weekend.

PHEVER’s mission: To develop and educate new artistic talent and establish a standard of excellence that is recognised globally through its broadcast, media, publishing and performances.

phever.ie – TV-Radio global 24/7 91.6FM – The Sound of the Irish Underground SMS/Viber/WhatsApp/Mobile: +353 (0) 85 7833 733 TV/Radio/Events/Academy/Label

‘Best Sets’ logo graphic courtesy of Hugo McCann

Review: Rich Lane at Ukiyo

13 Nov

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by Rhea H. Boyden

Last weekend Dublin music promoter Julie-Ann Smith hosted music maker and record-label owner Rich Lane from Stoke-on-Trent for a gig at Ukiyo. In the weeks leading up to the gig, the anticipation and excitement among my circle of friends and acquaintances was very apparent and so I felt it was an event that should not be missed.

Ukiyo, which opened in 2004, is a lovely Japanese restaurant in Dublin city centre run by Duncan Maguire. In addition to offering a varying Bento box and excellent sushi, they serve delicacies such as slow-roasted pork served with scented squash and the most delicious pan-fried hake and prawn gyoza served with a mouth-watering garlic and chilli dip. The restaurant has huge plate-glass windows allowing for perfect people-watching as you feast on the food or sip their cocktails that are expertly mixed by the friendliest of bar staff. As well as providing Karaoke booths downstairs, once the tables are cleared upstairs, a host of DJs hit the decks to provide further entertainment several evenings a week.

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Rich Lane 

One thing that especially excited me about attending Rich Lane’s gig at Ukiyo was that a lot of the people I have collaborated with or been introduced to in the world of Dublin dance music over the past year were also planning to be there. Ukiyo has become, and will likely remain, my local haunt because it certainly is a joy to have a place to go where I can meet my peers: others in their late 30’s and early 40’s and the bar was packed for Rich Lane’s set. Before playing Ukiyo last week, Rich was also a guest at PHEVER:TV-Radio on Hugo Mc Cann’s ‘Best Sets’ show. I spoke with Hugo and also with DJ/Producer and PHEVER boss Dean Sherry about their impression of Rich’s music: ‘Rich takes techno and house and slows it down and makes it more interesting,’ Hugo said. ‘Yes, and I really think he makes the transitions between the beats more interesting,’ Dean added.

Rich told me he really had a great night and was very pleased with the warm welcome he got in Dublin. He was Julie-Ann Smith’s guest last year for a gig at Pacino’s in Dublin and was delighted to return. He has been producing music for over a quarter of a century and has had a hand in producing hundreds of tracks. He is the owner of the record label Cotton Bud and also has a sideline in mastering. He does mastering for Sub:Sonic records, an Irish record label specialising in releasing a wide range of electronic music. The lovely guys from Sub:Sonic were at the gig too and Rich also played a few tracks released by them.

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On the night, Rich played many of his own tracks released by him on his label, as well as his lovingly recrafted and re-edited version of Sinead O’ Connor’s hit ‘Jackie’ from her 1987 album ‘The Lion and the Cobra’  which he made especially for the Ukiyo gig. ‘I love the relentless, driving tone of this track,’ he told me. ‘Its beautifully tragic, spooky and evocative lyrics and her uniquely passioned performance have always been spine-tingling.’ Rich also does the mastering for Logical Records from Spain who Julie-Ann Smith also hosted at Ukiyo back in September and he played a few tracks released by them too. It was at that gig that I first met Julie-Ann who has hosted various DJs including Craig Bratley, Duncan Gray, Chris Massey, Los Bikini and Javier Busto (of Logical Records). She told me she is really passionate about the music that Rich and all these guys make. ‘I love slow techno and chug’, she said. ‘A lot of it has a nod to acid house and I also love these dirty slow beats.’

I have been listening to Rich’s dirty slow beats whilst chatting to him and it has been a complete joy for me to get to know him better and also to discover that we have collaborated with some of the same people. He has enlightened me some more too on the process of mastering dance music. We also spoke of the the creative process in writing music lyrics and writing in general and the beauty of returning to unfinished work after it has been left alone for awhile. ‘My last track ‘Wolf in Shell Toes’ was on the shelf for about 8 years,’ he told me. ‘It was just sitting there waiting for me to add some lyrics to and then suddenly one day I was sitting in the pub with my kids with a notebook in hand and they came!’ he said. I love this too when suddenly you are filled with the creative energy to complete a project to satisfaction. You never know when it is going to happen, just as you never know who you are going to be collaborating with or who you will meet next. It certainly is an exciting journey. I will surely be keeping a close eye on Rich Lane’s work in the future, and of course, the work of the host of other amazing DJs whose work he does the mastering for.

Ukiyo Bar, Restaurant and Karaoke is at 9, Exchequer Street in Dublin city centre

Cotton Bud Logo courtesy of Rich Lane

Salon Series at The Liquor Rooms-Dublin

23 Oct

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by Rhea H. Boyden

Since June of this year The Liquor Rooms on Wellington Quay has been hosting a monthly Salon Series presented by their arts and culture manager Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan. It has featured panel discusssions, live performances and demonstrations highlighting the work of The Liquor Rooms’ altogether excellent creative community. The topics that have featured so far in this series have ranged from burlesque to coding to comic illustration and publishing.

Two weeks ago I attended the Salon Series’ fascinating and inspiring publishing event. Moderated by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan, the panel discussion included Irish editors and publishers Susan Tomaselli of Gorse, Marc O’ Connell of The Penny Dreadful, Eimear Ryan of Banshee and Declan Meade of The Stinging Fly. Set in the intimate and inviting vintage lounge of The Liquor Rooms, the talk centred around the challenges and successes they have each experienced with their journals to date. They publish short stories, personal essays and poetry predominantly, and were in agreement regarding their passion for print over online media. They also discussed their own histories and the leap they took from being writers to publishers and editors.

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Salon Series Publishing event at The Liquor Rooms

The Liquor Rooms, which recently celebrated its third birthday, describes itself as a ‘subterranean den of delight.’ And this it truly is. I have spent nights there scrutinising their unusual artwork and unique decor which includes an intriquing wall of old fireplaces. As its name would suggest, they also serve excellent cocktails and are multiple award winners at the Irish Craft Cocktail Awards. These can be enjoyed with a variety of gourmet delicacies which are also available.

The final Salon Series event of this year will be held on Wednesday, November 2nd at 7pm and will be a talk on and performance with vinyl, as well as the history of the Liquor Rooms. The panel will include resident DJ Aoife Nic Canna who has been Djing there since shortly after they opened, and also the hosts of the ‘Vinyl and Wine’ series Mark Whelan and Anthony Kelly. ‘Vinyl and Wine’ which is also hosted by The Liquor Rooms, is an intimate album listening party and discussion, encouraging people to really be present with music and share their experience of it with others. They recently featured an evening listening to and discussing David Bowie’s lesser known album ‘The Gouster.’

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 Aoife Nic Canna – Photo by Cris Llarena

Aoife Nic Canna, for her part, will be discussing her own history and experience of Djing in the Liquor Rooms and also the history of the building itself. She also held a residency at The Kitchen nightclub which opened in 1994 on the same premises and was owned by Bono and The Edge. Aoife has held multiple residencies at many clubs around Dublin for more than two decades, is an archivist at Near FM Radio, and is the producer of the fascinating six part documentary on Irish Club history ‘Folklore From The Dancefloor’ which aired on Near FM and community radio around Ireland in 2012.

Admission to the event is free and will include a tasting of special Liquor Rooms cocktails. Their beautiful website states that they ‘proudly serve liquors to make your tastebuds sing made by a creative team of cocktail craftsmen.’ Enticing indeed.

The Liquors Rooms is at 5 Wellington Quay in Dublin city centre and is open daily from 5pm til late.

Graphics and Photos courtesy of The Liquor Rooms and Aoife Nic Canna.  

Preview: RHYTHMBOX at Front Door-Dame Street

27 Jul

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by Rhea H. Boyden

With the August Bank Holiday weekend fast approaching I thought I would have a look around for something new and fun to do. Saturday happens also to be my birthday so I don’t intend to spend it being lazy and going to bed early with a book. I would rather hit the streets of Dublin to celebrate even though 41 is a rather unspectacular age and last year was in fact, my big birthday celebration. But I am a Leo after all, and Leos do not generally let their birthdays slip by unnoticed.

Yesterday I was introduced to Dublin DJ and producer Eric Whelan who celebrated and hosted his own birthday last April in a Dublin venue I had not heard of until I spoke to him; the lovely and lush Front Door Bistro and music venue on Dame Street in Dublin city centre where he and his friends are hosting an event this Saturday night. Eric Whelan, whose artist’s name is Steady State, told me he started collecting vinyl in 1994 and has been an enthusiast ever since. I was curious to hear more about the upcoming event. And although I do not own a single record of my own, I am certainly passionate about and love electronic and underground music. What better way to celebrate than to check out a new venue and meet more of the talented DJs and producers who create, collect and collaborate in the world of electronic music.

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Scoundrels Sound System

Eric told me that Rhythmbox is the promotional outfit that comprises him and his good friend Dublin DJ and producer Alan Nolan, and that they both had so much fun DJing at Front Door for his birthday that they can’t wait for their next gig there this Saturday night. So what should we expect this Saturday? ‘We’ve put a small night together to party with Sub:Sonic Records (Rob Parkes and Phil Wade) to tip the hat to their fine contribution to the Irish electronic dance music scene,’ Eric said. ‘With two new tracks due for release with Sub:Sonic any time now under Steady State, I really felt a celebration was in order,’ he told me. Rob Parkes and Phil Wade are joined by Tomas Frawley, who are all from Limerick. Together they make up Scoundrel Sound System and Saturday’s gig will be their Dublin debut.

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  Rhythmbox – Eric Whelan and Alan Nolan

The event kicks off this Saturday, July 30th at the civilised hour of 8pm and admission is free. Eric told me that we can expect to hear a selection of slow techno, cosmic disco and chug. On rotation will be the Rhythmbox residents with visuals provided by Eric’s brother Trev Whelan (Little Wolf).’With close to one hundred years of combined musical experience this promises to be a night to remember,’ Eric said. I have a feeling this will be a birthday to remember and I am very much looking forward to the event.

Front Door is at 15 Dame Street in Dublin City Centre

Photos and Graphics courtesy of Eric Whelan and Sue Parkes.

Fast/Shape/Sound at Sweeney’s Bar-Dublin

6 Mar

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by Rhea H.Boyden

I was home from Berlin about five years ago and I went to Sweeney’s Bar on Dame Street in Dublin city centre to meet a friend of mine for a few drinks. We were chatting about life in Ireland and Berlin and I remember getting very emotional and I began to cry. The tears rolling down one cheek were tears of joy at being home and the tears rolling down the other cheek were those of sadness that I did not actually live in Ireland. This was home, but it was not home. Many an emigrant who returns home to Ireland for a holiday can relate to these mixed emotions. I knew then that it was only a matter of time before I actually moved home to Ireland, which I finally did a year and a half ago.

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Dj Flavo – Keith Farrell

I had not been back to Sweeney’s bar since that night five years ago, but last weekend I had a great reason to return. It was the first night at Sweeney’s of Dj Flavo‘s Fast/Shape/Sound event which promised to be a great night of dancing and excellent music. Dj Flavo, who is Dubliner Keith Farrell, is the resident Dj and founder of Fast/Shape/Sound and his first night djing with guest djs Dave Hales and Pete Dancer was indeed a huge success at Sweeney’s. I went with some friends of mine and we danced for hours.

This weekend I met up with Keith for a coffee at the wonderful and iconic Grogan’s pub  and he told me he was very satisfied with how the first night went and he had been getting great feedback. He is delighted that Sweeney’s have now booked him in for more nights and he is hoping it will be a monthly event. He told me he founded Fast/Shape/Sound as a concept for a club night back in 2009 when he spent 8 weeks in Buffalo, New York. The first night was hosted in Sound Lab in Buffalo and he then brought the night back to Dublin and played in The Workmans Club for about 3 years. I asked Keith about the meaning of the name of his gig and he told me the three words Fast/Shape/Sound each represent a side of the triangle, a shape whose meanings and interpretations intrigue him. Keith studied animation and illustration in Dublin and is fascinated with geometry and the particular symmetry of the number three. To him, the triangle represents focus and positive energy and his goal is to bring people together by striving constantly to play the best music from all genres. When I saw the poster for the event, that is precisely what attracted me to the night: ‘Playing musical genres across the floor: indie, soul, disco, house – plus everything in between.’

Fast shape sound poster

Keith has been djing for the past 23 years and he said as he matures he realises it is better to play good music from all genres to make for a successful night. And he surely has the experience to make this work. As we sipped our coffees he enlightened me on some of the things he has learned over more than 2 decades of playing music. ‘The first four tracks you play on a night of djing are really important for setting the vibe for the rest of the night’, he said. ‘A warm-up dj really has to be as good as the headliner for a night.’ I learned while talking to Keith that successfully playing a whole genre of music on one night really is a skill that has to be honed over many years of really learning about music and understanding what works.

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As well as djing all over Dublin, Keith has also spent some time djing in Berlin at 8MM bar, White Trash and Astro Bar, three venues I know well from my partying days in Berlin. We realised over the course of our conversation that we had some mutual friends in Berlin too. He told me he had just been djing in Berlin this past January and he returned to Dublin charged on good energy and was motivated to get Fast/Shape/Sound up and going again: this time the venue being Sweeney’s.

I was happy sitting outside Grogan’s chatting to Keith in the March sunlight. I realised with joy now that I live in Dublin there will be no need for me to cry the emigrant’s tears of homesickness the next time I return to Sweeney’s with my friends for a night of dancing to Dj Flavo’s great eclectic mix of tunes. And what better way to celebrate the start of Springtime in Dublin; Fast/Shape/Sound’s next night is planned for Saturday March 19th.

Sweeney’s Bar is at 32 Dame Street in Dublin 2

UPDATE: The next FAST/SHAPE/SOUND night is confirmed for Friday, April 15th 2016

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Images and photos courtesy of Keith Farrell

Review: ‘What We Call Love-From Surrealism to Now’ at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

20 Dec

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by Rhea H. Boyden

As I wandered into the galleries of the Irish Museum of Modern Art that contained photographs by renowned German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans I was reminded of the several times I have seen his wonderful work at various galleries and exhibits in Berlin. I can scarcely visit any gallery or museum outside of Berlin that doesn’t have some reference to Berlin, bringing up memories of my 15 years spent in that wild city. I have now been in Dublin for 15 months and, after settling into a job, I am now, finally in the past months beginning to really discover the culture and art of Dublin.

One institution that I am in love with is The Irish Museum of Modern Art. The IMMA, as it is known, is currently holding a large scale group exhibition entitled ‘What We Call Love- from Surrealism to Now’ and I have been to the fabulous exhibit twice so far. Proposed initially by Christine Macel, head curator of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the exhibit is co-curated by Macel and Rachael Thomas, senior curator and head of exhibitions at the IMMA. The exhibit contains work by a host of international artists including Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois, Damien Hirst, Rebecca Horn and many more.

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IMMA Brochure showing a photo of Karl, by Wolfgang Tillmans

On my second visit to this exhibit which has engrossed me the past few weeks, I bought the lovely exhibit guide and I read it from cover to cover. I have wanted to sit down and write a review but I have not been able to until now because well, where do you start which such a large and broad topic such as love? I find it very difficult to keep my feelings, emotions and anecdotes from my own love life out of my review. I have no choice but to bring my experience into it. I gain confidence in myself when I look again at Wolfgang Tillman’s wonderful and intimate photos of his subject, a man, Karl and I read in the brochure what is written about the photos: ‘One of the harbingers of a realistic approach to his subject is that the photos lack pretension or conceit, instead depicting moments of vulnerability, intimacy, honesty and intensity’.

Vulnerability, intimacy, honesty and intensity. I think about the weight these words hold. I felt very vulnerable as I wandered through the exhibit. I felt a whole range of emotions. My emotions as I explore the different artists’ work are most definitely intense as I relate their statements to my own love life, or current lack thereof. I am a 40 year old single and childless woman. Despite the fact that more and more people are choosing to live alone, I am someone who a certain sector of our society still eyes with a mix of sympathy and suspicion.

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‘Daphne and Apoll’-1943 by Meret Oppenheim – Photo by Claudia Benedettelli

When I mentioned to a colleague last week that I was reading a lot about the exhibit and would definitely be bringing anecdotes from my love life into my review he teased me and said ‘You will have twenty blank pages then?’ I laughed. I hope he realises that I was not in the least insulted by his joke about my current lack of love life. As a writer, twenty blank pages signifies hope and possibility. It is exciting and there are many possibilities for ideas and interpretation. I am reminded of what Alicia Knock writes in the exhibit brochure about Surrealist painter Meret Oppenheim’s painting ‘Daphne and Apoll’ (1943) which is on show: ‘Meret Oppenheim’s works escape categorical definitions in favour of open-ended readings. A man, a woman, an androgynous person or the artist herself, the viewer understands that art should be endlessly admired, interpreted and desired, just like love.’ Indeed, there is so much to write about love that the twenty pages would be quickly filled. My real challenge lies in narrowing my focus and writing an essay that readers will read to the end.

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‘The Kiss’ 1931 by Pablo Picasso – Photo by Claudia Benedettelli

Among the first works one sees upon entering the exhibit is a painting ‘The Kiss’ (1931) by Pablo Picasso and a sculpture ‘The Kiss’ (1923) by Constantin Brancusi. Picasso’s work of this time became filled with pathos as his own love life was an emotional shambles. His depiction of kisses appear painful and he describes love as ‘a nettle that we must mow down at every instant if we want to have a snooze in its shadow.’ I think about the concept of a painful kiss. If a kiss is not good, I will likely end a relationship pretty promptly. No pain, move on. It wasn’t love and there was no chemistry. In my experience it is only the memory of a good kiss that causes pain when you think about it over and over and how you can no longer have that desired kiss. The pain is in the loss and the projection of the sexual fantasy onto the person who bestowed the kiss initially. In his installation in the exhibit ‘Piece Mandala/End War’ (1966) American artist Paul Sharits explores the double meaning of projection. He projects a film of a couple making love onto a wall of the gallery. There are strobe lights and flickering images. High speed splicing of the images leaves an after image on your retina making it even harder to forget. Sharits shows us that film is a good medium to create infinite loops. The full comprehension of his work makes me both embarrassed and sad. The ‘infinite loops’ and the ‘projection’ are a metaphor for the psychological projection of sexual fantasy and obsession, I know only too well what it feels like to have the pleasurable memory of my last lover on infinite loops in my head. The act the lovers are carrying out in the film is also pretty much identical to the one of my own fantasy (a fantasy which is a real memory of a real event, but now rendered a fantasy nonetheless). Do I find any solace in this installation? A little, I guess. My obsession and suffering is pretty much universal. I am not alone in it. I still have very vivid and intense memories of my last lover who I still miss, there is no denying it and this exhibit is undoing any progress I have made in moving on.

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‘The Couple’ 2003 by Louise Bourgeois

Another artist whose work is featured is that of French-American artist Louise Bourgeois. She has several works on show all entitled ‘The Couple’ (2003). And although I am still nursing the pain of a lost love I feel empathy for Bourgeois as it seemed she suffered a whole lot more in love. She claims to have been incapable of seducing or gaining another’s affection, which is of course, a sorry state of affairs. And yet, love and obsession play a role in her work. One piece by her that particularly struck me was an embracing couple made of fabric and stainless steel underneath a glass covering. The obvious interpretation would be the idea of a couple isolating themselves from the world and finding their love to be all-fullfilling and all-consuming. I was reminded, however, of Anais Nin’s short story ‘Under a Glass Bell’ and Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel ‘The Bell Jar’. Plath’s bell jar is used to describe her isolation from enjoyment of life’s pleasures and a way of describing the incapacitating depression she suffered: ‘If Mrs Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe or a round-the-world cruise’, writes Plath, ‘It wouldn’t have made one scrap of a difference to me, because wherever I sat, on the deck of ship, or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok – I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.’ I may get a little sad with the pain of loss and have a hard time letting go, but I certainly never suffer the kind of depression and despondency that Plath describes in her story and for that I am grateful.

Anais Nin, in her story ‘Under a Glass Bell’ describes how one with an opulent lifestyle and riches in a big house can be then trapped in a marriage that is a farce with no escape. A glass bell covers the whole house: ‘Every day the silence, the peace, the softness, carved with greater delicacy the glass chandeliers, the furniture, the statuettes and laces… under the giant glass bell the colours looked inaccessible….’ This one piece by Louise Bourgeois says it all to me: how love can be isolating and depresssing and how the lure of riches can trap us into a situation we do not love.

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‘I’ll Love You Forever’ 1994 by Damien Hirst – Photo by Claudia Benedettelli

‘How the lure of riches can trap us into a situation we do not love’ is what I thought of English artist Damien Hirst’s piece for the exhibit entitled ‘I’ll Love you Forever'(1994). Hirst is one of Britain’s wealthiest and highest paid artists and ‘I’ll Love you Forever’ is a blue painted steel cage filled with medical waste containers and a gas mask. It was only the second time I went back to the museum did I notice the padlock on the cage. So, there really is no escape from this suffocating love. According to the exhibit brochure Hirst’s cage filled with explosives ‘condemns romantic passion to its inevitable implosion over time.’ This is a fine interpretation but I find the cage with golden bars to be a more suitable analogy. The cage with golden bars keeping one trapped in a relationship that grows ever more toxic. I have my own experience with this too. I was in a relationship with a wealthy man for a few years and he was happy to pay for everything which in hindsight, I realise, was his way of compensating for the lack of passion in the relationship. Fortunately the cage I found myself in did not have a padlock and I escaped from that situation. I may be a little lonely at times but at least I am free.

Or am I free? Part of what this fascinating exhibit explores is that, in fact, we are not free at all when it comes to love. We desire the freedom to love who we want and we cherish sexual freedom, but as soon as we are in love or infatuated with someone, we are anything but free. If it is a love that is unrequited it is torture. If we are still pining over a lost love we are also imprisoned. One of the most disturbing installations of the exhibit is ‘High Moon’ by German artist and film maker Rebecca Horn. It consists of two Winchester guns hanging from the ceiling and rotating both away and towards each other, two funnels filled with fake blood and a steel gutter on the floor below. On the wall there is a poem. All I can say is that the lovers who were in this scenario are finally free from all the harrowing pain that accompanies love, because they are now dead. Death is ultimately the only way to relieve ourselves of all our earthly confusion over love, as much as we like to live in denial of this and balm ourselves in fantasy. The poem by Rebecca Horn accompanying this piece reads:

High Moon

From the deepest part of the ocean

And the brightest light of the sun

Collected in a pair of identical moon funnels

The full-blown energy of two distinct creatures

Dancing about in abandon

Suddenly face to face with each other

Generating up to their maximum voltage

To meet for a second of equal eternity

Opening their pores and unleashing their bloodstreams

Accelerating each other to the point of near-bursting

Screaming like moon dogs in lost icy nights

When the arrow of Venus taps lightly the funnel

Unleashing the tandem explosion of energies

Transforming the creatures into illuminated fusion

Not missing a drop of each other’s volcanic residue

Flowingly forming a river of passion

Burrowing its way back to the limitless ocean

Bathed in the moon

(Rebecca Horn, New York, 1991)

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‘High Moon’ 1991 by Rebecca Horn – photo by Claudia Benedettelli

One especially fascinating part of the exhibit is an interview with British neurobiologist Semir Zeki about recent discoveries that have been made in the neuroscience of love. Accompanying this interview is an art installation by Berlin based Canadian artist Jeremy Shaw who has also worked with Zeki in Berlin probing the neuroscience of love. We are now beginning to understand more clearly what areas of the brain are activated and deactivated during romantic attachment and sexual arousal. Shaw’s work uses images of specific people’s brains as they experience romantic love, maternal love as well as the effect of various recreational drugs in a bid to prove that the same areas of the brain are activated in all instances. Most of us know the feeling of dopamine being pumped into our bloodstream while having good sex and Zeki’s work shows that serotonin levels in people freshly in love are at the same levels that are in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The Surrealists ‘Amour Fou’ or crazy love for which they lived in their creative lives, is now all beginning to be understood more from a neuroscientific standpoint. I personally find all of this knowledge very comforting. I like knowing the reason why I pine and obsess. It is interesting to understand it on a deeper level. In the interview Zeki says: ‘The prefrontal cortex, the parieto-temporal junction and the temporal poles constitute a network of areas invariably active with ‘mentalizing’ or ‘theory of mind’, that is the ability to determine other people’s emotions and intentions. It is also a truism to say that most people develop a preference for the kind of person they want to love, and hence a concept of their potential lover(s); their likelihood of falling in love with that kind of person is much greater.’

So when we say we have a dream partner there is a neuroscientic explanation for this. And when we fall in love and can’t stop thinking about the person and we experience feelings of well-being as well as a subsidence of fear, it is the deactivation of the amygdala that we can thank.

It is psychoanalyst Adam Phillips who sums it up most eloquently when he writes the following in his book ‘Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life’: ‘All love stories are frustration stories… To fall in love is to be reminded of a frustration you didn’t know you had (of one’s formative frustrations, and of one’s attempted self-cures for them); you wanted someone, you felt deprived of something, and then it seems to be there. And what is renewed in that experience is an intensity of frustration, and an intensity of satisfaction. It is as if, oddly, you were waiting for someone but you didn’t know who they were until they arrived. Whether or not you were aware that there was something missing in your life, you will when you meet the person you want. What psychoanalysis will add to this love story is that the person you fall in love with really is the man or woman of your dreams; that you have dreamed them up before you met them; not out of nothing- nothing comes of nothing- but out of prior experience, both real and wished for. You recognise them with such certainty, because you already, in a sense know them, and because you have quite literally been expecting them, you feel as though you have known them forever and yet at the same time, they are quite foreign to you. They are familar, foreign bodies.’

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Brain image scans by Jeremy Shaw

Therein lies the reason I pine. I experienced exactly what Phillips describes with the man I still miss and there have been times when I truly think I would have been better off never meeting him at all, rather than have him remind me of a frustration I didn’t know I had. He knows how I feel, and yet, there is little he can do to comfort me as he lives far, far away in another country. I still dream of being reunited with him someday, but I am reminded that that could end in disappointment and disenchantment too in the essay in the IMMA brochure that has intrigued me by sociologist Eva Illouz entitled ‘Against Desire’. She says that when our deepest desires are fulfilled we are then left unfillfilled and she uses a couple wonderful Greek myths to illustrate this. One myth is that of Midas and how everything he touches turns to gold, including his food and his daughter whom he tries to hug. Midas’ deepest desire quickly becomes a misery. ‘One could live in a gold palace’ writes Illouz, ‘but it is the ordinary gestures like hugging and eating that turn out to be the only ones that matter, and these ordinary gestures become unattainable precisely because they evade the logic of desire.’ The second myth is that of Tantalus who is punished for killing his son by being put in a garden near fruit and near a river with water but he can never reach either and so is tortured by the object of his desire being continually out of his reach. ‘Desire’, says Illouz, ‘is an insoluble contradiction. Unfullfilled, it makes us miserable, fulfilled it blocks access to what is essential but not determined by desire in our lives.’

I have had a hard time writing this review about love, considering the current status of my own love life which is the pathetic state of continuing to pine over a love that is lost and continuing to feed the fantasy of that lost love. But I am still full of hope that I will fall in love again at some unexpected point. I will meet another dream man, and I will celebrate the chance encounter in the same way the Surrealist artists and writers celebrated these coincidences of crazy love. And I will write more and be inspired and find a new muse. As Georges Sebbag points out in his video installation in the exhibit: ‘For the Surrealist, art, love and freedom took central stage. Ultimately, poetic expression was inconceivable for them independently of love.’ I would suppose this love has to be real or imagined, because some form of fantastical love or imagined muse has inspired me to write this essay even though I am experiencing a prolonged period of singlehood. The exhibit at the IMMA is immense and I have barely scratched the surface of this topic, but that will have to be dealt with in a second essay. Love is, after all, a vast topic with infinite interpretations and variations.

‘What We Call Love – From Surrealism to Now’ runs at the IMMA until February 7th 2016.

Feature image by Claudia Benedettelli

Review: Pacino’s at Night and The Blind Pig Cocktail Bar

25 Oct

Pacino's outside-image

by Rhea H.Boyden

Hidden inside a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’ I find the recipe for a mouth-watering cocktail. I am standing at the bar of ‘The Blind Pig’ in Pacino’s cellar venue on Suffolk street in Dublin city centre. I am speaking to the night manager, Daniel. He hands me a copy of the Bible. ‘You can find cocktail recipes in here too,’ he tells me. ‘Our drinks menu is hidden in books which is how it was done during Prohibition too. We are proud of our little Speakeasy bar down here,’ he says with a smile. I glance around me at the inviting decor: vintage style furniture in an original arched wine cellar.

This is my second time back to the lovely Pacino’s Restaurant and Bar in a week. Unlike the cocktail recipes, it is hardly in a hidden location, a minute’s walk from Trinity College, so how had I not noticed it before? I can only say that I have likely been too busy getting settled as many returning emigrants would be too, in their first year back in Ireland after many years abroad. It is only recently that the anxiety of moving home and finding a job and a place to live has subsided and I am happy and ready to really start exploring the city more. It makes me excited about discovering other gems of Dublin as I slowly begin to call this city my home.

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NSA-Steve Cass and Justin Wilson, Audio Filth-Graham Keely

And truly, Dublin is becoming my home now and in the past month or so I have finally started going out more and meeting people and having a good time. Some of my new acquaintances here invited me to Pacino’s last Saturday night to a floating event called ‘Audio Filth’ that took place in the same cellar bar. At weekends, The Blind Pig turns into a dancefloor after 11pm. Graham Keely from Dublin who is the co-founder of Dublin’s first dance music radio station PowerFM, started Audio Filth last February with his friend Hugo McCann. They invite artists over from the U.K. who are making waves in the house/acid scene. Their guests last weekend were Justin Wilson and Steve Cass who have run a club in Edinburgh for the past 20 years. They call themselves NSA– No Strings Attached- and we had a great night dancing to their eclectic mix of house, disco and as they call it ‘Chug’. I had never heard this word used in a musical context before. ‘I would call it spaced out disco.’ Steve said, describing their set. There were only about 20 of us in the intimate private party in the cellar and we had a laugh dancing to Daft Punk, DJ Koze, Beato Cozzi, Duncan Gray and more. One thing that made the night especially interesting to me is that I found myself surrounded by my peers- people in their late thirties in early forties. I even met two women my age who I had been introduced to a few weeks before at The Sugar Club. I love this about Dublin; It’s not too big and not too small. I have a feeling it will be easy enough to continue making new friends here.

Audiofilth

I was also introduced to Eoghan Farrell who has been djing on the underground scene in Dublin for the last decade and who is a resident dj at Pacino’s. He runs a bi-monthly event there called Press Play and hosts various djs. And all the while our party was running in the basement there was a dub and reggae party- ‘Rub a Dub’ with Cian Finn upstairs on the main Pacino’s floor. It was Eoghan’s friend Marcus Lester who approached the owner of Pacino’s two years ago and proposed hosting late night music events at weekends. Lester, who is the curator of Pacino’s at Night said: ‘Pacino’s is more a vibe than a venue. We aim to put on quality music nights and find the best djs and promoters.’ It certainly seems like they are having a lot of success with it. Not only do they host events both up and downstairs, but they also host lane way parties outside Pacino’s on summer nights.

Eoghan Farrell

Resident Dj at Pacino’s – Eoghan Farrell

And while the wonderful djs and promoters are responsible for quality music at Pacino’s, it is their award-winning Italian chef Luca Mazza from Tuscany who is responsible for quality food upstairs in the main restaurant (The Blind Pig has its own separate menu). Luca Mazza was hailed as the best Italian chef in Ireland in 2012. In a recent article in the Independent- The King of Italian Cuisine, Mazza says that the most important ingredient in his dishes is love. I have yet to try Mazza’s delicacies, but I have a feeling Pacino’s and The Blind Pig will be places I will be returning to often in the future.

Pacino’s is at 18 Suffolk Street in Dublin City Centre

Images courtesy of Marcus Lester, Eoghan Farrell and Graham Keely

Review: Anti-Racist Fundraiser in Aid of the Refugee Crisis at the Sugar Club- Dublin

4 Oct

Anti Racist

by Rhea H.Boyden

In the past weeks several friends of mine have posted something similar to this on Facebook: ‘I have very little tolerance for the racist remarks being made on here about the refugee crisis and I will unfriend/unfollow people posting such remarks’. I too unfriended a woman just last week who was saying awful things about the refugees. Unfriending her was a knee-jerk reaction and I don’t regret it. I don’t need those kind of hateful remarks in my newsfeed. I hardly knew her anyway. A closer look at some Instagram accounts has also revealed some fanatically narrow-minded account holders who are posting the most unsavoury photos and remarks that are both racist and sexist. Instagram would do us all a favour by removing these account holders.

It seems many people are experiencing this recently and so the wonderful Sugar Club Dublin stepped up to counter it by holding an anti-racist fundraiser in aid of the refugee crisis on September 26th. The organisers of the Sugar Club event reminded us that Ireland has never been a racist country (aside from a small minority) and of this we should be proud and celebrate. And what better way to celebrate diversity, tolerance and creativity than by bringing together some of Dublin’s finest dj’s and musicians for a night of fun and fundraising.

Jason percussion MCs

Jason Williams and MCs RV and Mango

The event was organised by Dublin dj Johnny Moy and the line up included the following artists: The Dirty Dubsters, Aoife Nic Canna, Pete Dancer, Al Keegan, Louche, David Kitt, Calvin James, Mark Kavanagh, Ger Regan, DJ Scope, Chris Holten, This Greedy Pig, TASTE dj’s and more. It was wonderful. There was only one drawback: Very few people came to the event. I spoke to some of the organisers and artists and they were disappointed that the club was practically deserted. Do people not care about such an important cause? Where was everybody on the night? This fact did not prevent those of us who were there from having a great night and making the most of it, however.

The Sugar Club

This was my first time at The Sugar Club, Dublin and I love the venue. The main floor has fabulous tiered, saloon style seating with tables affording everyone a great view of the stage. They host a whole range of cultural events including movies and Burlesque nights. On a screen above the main stage there was a stream of photos telling the story of protests past and present and one slide that caught my attention was ‘End Direct Provision’. I also spoke to a few people who were wearing ‘End DP’ badges so I had to find out for myself what this meant. According to an Irish Times article titled ‘Lives in Limbo’ there are 34 state run direct provision centres in Ireland housing a total of 4,300 asylum seekers 1,600 of whom are children. Asylum seekers spend an average of three years and eight months in these centres in conditions that are cramped, unsanitary and damaging to mental health. The adults are not allowed to work or cook meals for themselves and they suffer from depression, boredom and low self-esteem. The children have little or no access to play or recreation and while they are entitled to attend primary and secondary school they are not entitled to continue to subsidised third-level education. The system has been heavily criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups. Ireland has one of the lowest success rates in Western Europe for those seeking asylum.

Photo: Eoin Holland www.eoinholland.com

Photo: Eoin Holland http://www.eoinholland.com

The Dirty Dubsters  founders Jason Rymer and Barry O’ Brien

One of the big things that has irritated people on social media recently is people crying out that we need to ‘help our own people first’. Yes, sure, but are these people who cry this really doing anything to ‘help their own’. Do they go and volunteer at homeless shelters in Dublin? Most of the people saying this do not, I fear. I am guilty too of not doing enough. There is a homeless woman on my street and I give her apples and tangerines when I pass her. It’s not much, but it makes her smile and brightens her day. I have also been down to the Human Appeal Charity shop in Dundrum to which the proceeds of the Sugar Club night went. I spoke to Isolda Heavey who is a member of the Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity and she said that it costs 7,500 Euros to get a container of aid into Syria hence the various fundraising events. She is currently in Calais with 60 volunteers (along with some friends of mine from my hometown in West Cork who are part of the West Cork Calais Refugee Solidarity). They are working with local charities on the ground in Calais building shelters and distributing winter clothes and medical aid to the many refugees in the camp there.

Special Request

I was sitting in the tiered seats of the Sugar Club discussing the refugee crisis with a few people when the funky beats of the Dirty Dubsters pulled me onto the dancefloor. It was hearing Jason Williams on percussion that quickly got me out of my seat and, as I had not been dancing for awhile, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The Dirty Dubsters’ music spans reggae, hip hop, house, jungle, drum and bass. ‘Our music is kind of hard to pigeon hole’ Jason Rymer told me. He and Barry O’ Brien founded the Dirty Dubsters in 2009 and have collaborated with many great vocalists and musicians since then. Jason told me they were very excited about their upcoming album ‘Special Request’ which is due for release next week on October 9th.

Aoife Nic Canna

Aoife Nic Canna

The Sugar Club has a lovely intimate outdoor area and the party withdrew there when it was clear that there were not going to be enough guests to fill the main room. For the rest of the evening we danced to the beats of Al Keegan, Aoife Nic Canna, Calvin James, Pete Dancer and others.

The wonderful and talented Aoife Nic Canna (who is a good friend of mine who I met in Berlin some years ago) played us some hip hop, soul and ended her set nicely with some mid-tempo house music. Aoife is an archivist at Near FM and presents and produces their Irish Arts program. I have been listening to the wonderful track Aoife played by Angie Stone ‘I wasn’t kidding’ this morning as I sipped my coffee in preparation for writing this review. I have also been listening to the classic tracks by Donna Summer, Terence Trent D’arby and the Stone Roses as well as other indie, house and disco tracks that Dublin dj Al Keegan finished out the set with at the Sugar Club. All in all, it was the best night I have had out in Dublin since I moved back to Ireland last year. I met some great people and I look forward to more nights like this.

To donate money to help relieve the suffering of refugees please go here:

Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity BANK DETAILS ******************************************************

BRANCH: AIB, Douglas, Cork

ACCOUNT NAME: Ireland Calais Solidarity

SORT CODE: 93 43 48 ACCOUNT NUMBER: 5600 8064

BIC: AIBKIE2D IBAN IE37AIBK93434856008064 *******************************************************

GOFUNDME.COM Ireland Calais Refugee Solidarity http://www.gofundme.com/9zwfscys

Photos courtesy of Jason Rymer, Lynda Turley and Aoife Nic Canna

Dublin- First Impressions

28 Sep

liffey

by Rhea H. Boyden

Wow! It has been nearly 2 months since my last blog post which is a little scary. I hate taking a break and being away from it for so long. When I mentioned this to a friend the other day she simply said: ‘Take it easy on yourself. You have just moved countries and started a new job. A break will be good for your creativity.’ Now that I have found a day job in an office in Dublin city centre and have my first week of work successfully behind me, I finally feel at leisure to write. And where to start? There is so much to write about! I have been in Dublin for a month now and it has been an interesting month, to say the least. This city is pulsing with energy, the weather has been fantastic and every day confirms to me that my decision to move home after 20 years abroad is a good one and the timing is right too. I do not miss Berlin yet. And what about the phenomenon of ‘reverse culture shock?’ Well, I am not feeling it at all. I feel very happy to be home. I feel I belong here. The worst reverse culture shock I have experienced was in the first few days when I looked the wrong direction crossing the street and nearly got run over by a bus. But I have got used to that now too.

bookshelf

 

I love my new room, and while I have a much reduced library, I feel I have kept the books that meant the most to me and I am happy that all the others found good homes with my friends in Berlin. One book I held onto was a poetry book that is simply titled ‘Great Poems’ compiled by Kate Miles. It is illustrated and I guess is geared more towards young adults, but I find it adorable. It contains a whole section on poetry that is about food. One poem, whose author remains anonymous, is a recipe for a chowder. It starts like this:

To make a good chowder and have it quite nice

Dispense with sweet marjoram parsley and spice;

Mace, pepper and salt are now wanted alone.

To make the stew eat well and stick to the bone,

Some pork is sliced thin and put into the pot;

Some say you must turn it, some say you must not.

The poem continues to delightfully instruct you on what fish to add and to let it simmer. I remember reading it in Berlin and looking forward to coming back to Ireland and eating chowder. There is a lot of great chowder to be had in Ireland and it is one thing I really missed when away. Within a few days of being here I met a friend of mine in Sheehan’s pub in Dublin city centre and ordered a bowl of delicious chowder served with soda bread and Irish butter. After eating it I went home and fell into a deep and satisfied sleep. The fresh sea air makes me sleepy and even the seagulls with all their squawking don’t manage to keep me awake for long. The sound of seagulls makes me happy. It reminds me that I grew up near the sea and now I have returned to the sea. This is another reason I haven’t been writing: I have been tired, so I have been getting plenty of sleep. Aswell as sleep, I am getting plenty of exercise. The biggest joy is that I have only been on two buses since I got here and as I live so centrally I can walk everywhere. And this is a good thing that I will keep up, as given the whole range of delicious food on offer in this city I will need to walk a lot to burn it all off.

Chowder

After work last week, I walked across the Ha’penny Bridge which is right near my office and walked over to the Temple Bar area to explore around there. I immediately stumbled upon a pie cafe. I walked in with a big smile on my face and said with delight: ‘You have pies!’ A delightful woman behind the counter said ‘We do indeed!’ So I sat down and sampled one of the many delicious pies they have on offer at ‘The Pieman Cafe’: chili and chorizo, beef and Guinness, ham and leek, chicken and mushroom plus many more. They even had an apple caramel pie served with fresh cream. Lunch prices are great too as there is a lot of competition in the booming Dublin restaurant scene.

Pies   Pieman cafe

In my first few weeks here, I was unemployed and job searching, so naturally I was not wasting money on restaurants, but shopping at my nearest Aldi and cooking and eating at home in between sending out my CV to many companies, but now that I have a job I feel I can splurge a little and treat myself. On Friday night I met an old friend at the wonderful Cornucopia Vegetarian cafe on Wicklow street in Dublin city centre. Cornucopia, which is housed in a gorgeous old Georgian house, has been in business since 1986 and they serve a fabulous range of vegetarian and vegan foods. We ordered potato salad, hot pastry pockets, green salad, aubergine bake followed by hot fudge brownie and white chocolate and lime tart. The staff are super friendly and it really is hard to decide what to order from their mouth-watering range of foods.

Cornucopia

Dingle ice cream

Across the street from Cornucopia is Murphy’s of Dingle (Co. Kerry) Ice Cream shop. They proudly make all their ice-cream from the cream from Kerry Cows, a breed of cow that is rarer than the panda. The ice-cream flavour that has been all the rage the past few years internationally has been salted caramel which I love. Murphy’s do a Dingle sea salt ice-cream. I also tried the butterscotch. It was heaven. And again: served with a smile. There are so many new sensations, sights, smells and sounds. I will get back into cultural writing and reviews soon enough, but right now I think I need a meal, a walk, and another long nap, for I may not be suffering from reverse culture shock but it is an adjustment and a big life change. So far, my move home is working out better than I could have imagined. And the delicious food and long naps are sweetened even more by one big thing: the fact that I am surrounded by old friends and family, for that is the primary reason for moving home.