The best gigs are not always the ones you’re looking forward to the most. They’re not necessarily the ones you’ve booked months in advance, paid a fortune for, in that big hi-tech super-venue across town. No, the best gigs are always the ones that catch you unawares, when and where you least expect it. The venue might not be renowned for its acoustics, or its pedigree, but nonetheless, against the odds, it provides in spades. Forever that gig, that night, that place will hold a special place in your heart.
Doyles Pub in Dublin is across the street from my alma mater, Trinity College. Popular with the great unwashed student population, on a Friday or Saturday night the upstairs bar, with its unassuming decor of wooden floorboards and faded velvet-topped stools, becomes thronged for the indie-disco that surely defies health and safety regulations. But come to the same spot on a Tuesday for the Ruby Sessions, and that dance floor will now host a series of higgledy-piggeldy tables and chairs, in front of a faded curtain that has provided the backdrop for some truly memorable acoustic gigs. My “I-saw-them-first” moment was here in November 2008, when in front of about 40 people, I witnessed Mumford and Sons knock the socks off the gathered crowd, PA systems be damned. It’s a testament to the organisers and the gig-going faithful that there is never any need for bells and whistles up here. All you need is a common ethos: put the music first and nothing else matters.
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