melodies and serendipity

Music is a form of magic. It unites strangers. It can stir up your soul. It is the ultimate story teller. It matches your emotions and can make your mood swing from one end of the spectrum to the other. It is a universal language. It is powerful.

Dublin has a wonderful music scene. No matter what days you have available to go out, you’ll never have to worry about catching some live music because guaranteed there will be multiple places with live music to choose from every night of the week. You have the option of concerts, smaller gigs with new and upcoming bands, traditional Irish music and dance, or talented cover artists at local pubs.

Since I’ve been here I have experienced all of those options. I had a great time clapping along to some traditional Irish tunes at the Old Storehouse in Temple Bar, I sang along to some of my favourite songs being covered by an amazing vocalist/guitarist at Trinity Bar on Dame Street, I danced with a former of Lord of the Dance performer to some Irish jigs at The Mercantile, I experienced Bon Iver’s show in all of its glory at the O2, and I saw Matt Corby in an intimate, casual setting at Whelans Live. All of the shows ranged in price from free to 40 euros, and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them.

Taken from Bon Iver’s Twitter account, caption “Thanks Dublin, emotional.”

I experienced a phenomenal week music wise, seeing two of my favourite artists within a few days. I had the privilege of seeing Bon Iver twice this year, and I got the best of both worlds because I saw them in an outdoor venue in Burnaby on a beautiful clear summer evening and then again in Dublin in an indoor auditorium. They opened with the first track of their album, “Perth,” and then went in order of their album for the first few songs. They sounded incredible and I swear I could feel their music in every part of my being. The best thing about the indoor venue was that I got to experience the magic the set crew put into the performance. The lights accompanied the music, emphasizing moments and aiding in creating the appropriate atmosphere. It was their last show of the tour so it was very emotional for them, which translated into their flawless performance. They did a double encore because they “weren’t ready to stop playing music” and then lined up at the end to take a bow in front of a standing ovation. It was also announced that at this time there are no plans for Bon Iver to make more music together. One can only hope they’ll make another album.

I can’t help but wonder how it feels to have your music, a product that you have dreamed up and pieced together, affect people by the hundreds, thousands, millions. So many people have an emotional tie to their music and that must be a surreal feeling. Whether a song evokes happiness, anger, or nostalgia, I think it’s all positive and cathartic.

Matt Corby, several feet away from me. Halleluiah!

Two nights later, Matt Corby, one of my favourite Australian artists, was playing at Whelans Live (I highly recommend buying his EP “Into The Flame” on iTunes. You can thank me for the recommendation later). I discovered he was playing in Dublin about two and a half weeks prior, but it was already sold out. I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I didn’t try to see Matt Corby when he was playing at my local bar, so I was absolutely determined to get into that show. I scoured Gumtree, eBay, and Facebook ads in hopes of finding a ticket. Nothing. I posted an ad on Gumtree saying I’d pay over face value for a ticket. Again, nothing (well that’s a lie. I did get one guy emailing me two hours before the show asking if I wanted I ticket. I responded twice, with great enthusiasm, and then eventually he wrote back saying he gave his ticket to his friend — for free. Awesome.) And then, Whelans posted at the last minute on Facebook that an extra 15 tickets were being sold. Here was my big chance! I got butterflies in my stomach from nervous anticipation, grabbed my phone, and got some guy named Richie on the line. Richie told me there was one ticket left, and a wave of excitement and relief washed over me. Then, the line went dead. I ran out of credit and had to call O2 to top it up which took about five minutes, and then when I called back the last ticket was gone. I was devastated.

My determination didn’t allow me to lose hope, though. I went to Whelans several nights before the show and asked everyone I talked to for advice on how to get in. Whelans is a big venue, with three different areas set up for gigs. The most common advice was to just show up early, grab a drink in the main bar, and hope you can either buy a ticket off of someone or be let in at the last minute. So, after Richie let me down, I quickly got ready, hit up the ATM, and booted it over to Whelans.

ser·en·dip·i·ty/ˌserənˈdipitē/

Noun:

The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”.

There was already a queue outside, and definitely no chance of buying a ticket off of anyone. I felt discouraged, but figured I might as well stick around until the doors opened and the crowd dispersed so I could try and convince the door staff to sell me a ticket. After all, we’re talking about Matt Corby here.

Earlier that day I had been thinking about how I should talk to strangers more. Yes, I’m aware of stranger danger, but I’m talking about seizing opportunities to meet people. So, when I saw a girl journaling while drinking a glass of wine at Whelans at a table with an extra seat, I got over social boundaries and any fear of looking like a weirdo and asked her if I could sit with her. It was by far the best decision I had made all week. We ended up getting along really well and bonding over our love of music. She had been at Bon Iver’s show as well (and MET them afterwards!) and it was one of those times where we kept finding things in common with each other. Her friends joined us a little bit later and they all had tickets to the show and managed to get me in. It took a combination of sass and stealth, but ultimately the key was the serendipitous meeting of new friends.

New friends and post-gig hangs at Whelans

Everything happens for a reason. If I had gotten a ticket to Matt Corby earlier, I wouldn’t have met the amazing group of people I spent the evening with. My new friend, Laura, said that earlier that day she had actually been asking how people meet outside of work and school. The answer is to get over any fear of “bothering” people or looking strange and simply say hello and test the waters to see if there’s common ground. Ask if the seat is taken. What do you have to lose?

If I had gotten a ticket earlier, I wouldn’t have met my new friends. If I hadn’t met my new friends, I wouldn’t have gotten into the gig. Serendipity.

Matt Corby’s gig was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. His ridiculous vocals tore me to pieces. In a good way.

Music. It’s a wonderful thing, and I’m so grateful that Dublin is a hotspot for it.

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Dublin, Ireland: First Impressions

I have been in Ireland for one week and I still often think, “…I’m really in Ireland.”

Birds eye view

It was a beautiful sunny day when I arrived, and the view from the plane was incredible. As I was looking out the window at the acres upon acres of green hills I truly felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

After I got settled into the hostel (more on the hostel later), I headed out for a walk with a couple of German girls and an American girl who is studying in Italy. None of us had been to Dublin before so we grabbed a map, threw on our scarves, and prepared to get lost together. I’ve been told that Irish people are very friendly and helpful, but I also thought that being in a large bustling city people would be, well, city people. In Toronto, people generally have a “don’t talk to me” demeanor about them and I figured it would be similar here. I was wrong. We had only been walking for about five minutes when we pulled out a map at a major intersection to figure out where we were and where we should go. After just a moment of studying the map a man approached us and asked “What are you after?” I responded with something about how we were just wandering around, “Yes but what are you after?” he persisted. He then proceeded to point out all of the major Dublin landmarks that we could see from where we were standing, gave us tips on the area, places to eat, and a short history lesson. Irish people love to help, and they love to talk.

Dublin is a small big city. It has a big city feel to it and has lots to offer, but everything in the city center is within walking distance. One strange thing is that the streets are not clearly labelled, and even when you ask for directions people will normally refer to a main street as a starting point and then use landmarks as turning points. Signs are on buildings rather than above sets of lights or on a stand on the corner.

That night we wandered into a traditional Irish pub, sat in a cute little corner, and had delicious Guinness Irish stew. There are pubs EVERYWHERE. There are over 1,000 pubs in Dublin city. 1,000! That is a lot of beer.

Here are some of the most memorable moments from the first couple of days:

My first Guinness
Guinness on tap here is really creamy and smooth, and I enjoy it much more than Guinness back home. Most pubs I’ve been to have several stouts just for Guinness.

Walking Tour
The hostel I stayed at offers a free walking tour every day. I participated on the first full day that I was here and it was a great introduction to the city. We visited Dublin Castle, Trinity College, Christchurch cathedral, and more landmarks. The tour guide was a young Irish aspiring actress and was incredibly entertaining as she told us about some of Ireland’s extensive history.

Penney’s
Penney’s is this incredible store that has affordable clothes, shoes, accessories, home ware, and more. Incredibly dangerous. Every time I’ve asked anyone where to get something, they always say Penney’s. One girl had heard “Penney’s” so often in response to a compliment she’d give someone she actually thought that it was their way of saying “thanks”. It wasn’t until her friend complimented her haircut once and she said “oh penney’s” that she discovered it wasn’t a synonym for thank you.

Bus issues…
I decided to venture out to Roly’s Bistro to say hello to the couple I met in Vernon and to hand in my CV. All I had to do was catch a bus from the city centre and get off about 10 minutes later. Easy right? Well I never got there. First of all, the bus I was waiting for never arrived, and the other bus I could take was 25 minutes late. I asked the bus driver when I boarded if he could tell me when we were at my stop, and he informed me that the route was different today so I’d have to get off somewhere else and walk. I figured I was getting to know the city anyways and I wasn’t on a schedule, so I said that was fine. The driver ended up being very aggressive, slamming on the breaks, accelerating quickly, and honking persistently. At one point the bus stopped so suddenly that the elderly woman by me fell right into me., and we heard a crunching sound outside. A car door had opened and the bus driver ran into it and took the door right off. I took that as my queue to get off the bus and dropped my CV off at the Hard Rock Cafe instead. And that is my first impression of Dublin transit.

Buskers
There are people playing music all over Temple Bar, but my favourite busker was right by my hostel. Every time I walked by him I felt like I was finally in a musical. His music was the perfect soundtrack to my life.

Pub crawl
The hostel also offers a pub crawl for 7 euros. We went to five different bars, and even though it was a Monday night every place was packed. I LOVE live Irish music! We went to Whelans which is known for being the pub where Gerard Butler sings Galway Girl to Hilary Swank in P.S. I love you. My favourite stop was the Old Storehouse in Temple Bar. There were two men playing some Irish tunes and I could not stop smiling. There was one song in particular that they had the crowd clap along to several parts. I of course love audience participation so I got right into it. At one point they weren’t singing but they were playing the part of the song where we were supposed to clap, and I got a little shout out because my obnoxiously loud clap was the only one that happened. I may not play any instruments, but I take clapping very seriously.

Traveling is so interesting because of how quickly travelers connect with each other. I went on the pub crawl with the same girls I had been hanging out with at the hostel and even though we’d only known each other for a few days everyone felt a sense of loyalty to one another. We more or less stuck together as a group and took care of one another, so even though I came to Dublin alone I was definitely safe and never lonely.

Stay tuned for a follow up post on how to settle into Dublin in less than one week. Cheers!