Our second night in Dublin, the last leg of our eight day country-wide tour, Sean, Erin, Chris and I ventured into Temple Bar. This hotspot section of the city is known for its ancient pubs, eclectic street performers and odd shops. After dark and too much drink, it can get little wild if not a little dangerous. It isn’t uncommon to have extra Garda (Irish police) patrolling on the weekends. On this particular Friday night, pubs were over-flowing with Irish and German soccer fans either celebrating or drowning their sorrows. Germany had annihilated Ireland, 6 to 1 at the World Cup Qualifier Match that day in the city.
After dinner we ventured to the very popular The Temple Bar Pub http://www.thetemplebarpub.com/ in hopes to hear some real Irish music. We stood shoulder to shoulder as a trio, who although Irish, were doing a few too many American covers.
Sean, blessed with the gift of gab (even before kissing the Blarney stone), struck up a conversation with an interesting 20s-something man sitting on a stool nearby. He wore faded jeans, a pin-striped button down dress shirt and wire-framed eye glasses. A pony-tail of thin, brown dreadlocks hung half way down his back. I remember Erin and Chris commenting that he could be some kind of hybrid Rastafarian information technologist.
He asked Sean if he could please keep an eye on his woolen sweater as he went to the bar or toilet. I urged Sean to take the seat and situated myself between his legs as we hoped to finally hear some rockin’ Irish. When the band started playing Sweet Caroline by New York’s own Neil Diamond, I decided to wade through the crowd to find the ladies’ room. Bumping and mushing into perfect strangers as I tried to find the loo just wasn’t as exhilarating as it was in my early twenties.
In the meantime, the guy, Louie, came back invited us to come to a nearby smaller pub where his band The Blaggards http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bWCLe0NcRM would be playing traditional Irish music.
A little later, we found our way to The Stag’s Tail, a cellar-pub in the The Stag’s Head, http://www.louisfitzgerald.com/stagshead. The Stag’s Tail has a rather non-descript entrance in a darkened alley. Feeling adventurous, we headed down the stairway to a dimly lit room about the size of a city bus. The Blaggards were just setting up when Louie noticed us and greeted us warmly. We sat at a corner at a table on the perimeter of the room, against a wall.
As the traditional music played—old tunes, pipes, bodhran, and strings—we enjoyed the authentic music and special treatment. Louie shouted out to us over his mic, dedicating tunes to “The Connecticut People.” During one song, he pulled Erin out on the “dance floor”— a tiny space in front of the musicians– and swung her around. Erin rose to the occasion and not only kept up with him, but she reached into her hair and pulled out her own two-year-old dreadlock she kept tucked into her curls as if to show Louie that she, too, was a kindred spirit!
As the night wore on, the little pub protruded with revelers. A group of tanked-up German guys gathered in the middle of what had been the “dance floor.” The air was hot and thick. One of the musicians made a comment of how the Irish soccer team was beaten by the Germans but the ones to be angry at were, as is custom, the English.
Suddenly, two young men with their arms locked around each other’s necks came rushing right at Sean. Our table tipped and and in a flash Sean—neck brace, mending shoulder and all— was up on his feet! Like Popeye, he shoved those two idiots right in their chests and they sailed across the room into the browling gaggle.
“What the F…!” he shouted.
My lioness came out and I jumped up on the bench and threw my arm in front of Sean as though I could really hold him back if he was going to get into the fray. “Hey! Cut the shit!” I screamed at the rolling mass. Fortunately, sensible Irish and German boys quickly pulled the few guilty hot heads out of the way and defused the fight.
There was a mass exodus to the stairs. Like a mother hen, I rounded my brood and said, “Let’s get out of here!”
Outside, members of the band stood round us and apologized. They were truly stunned. We reasoned it was because of the soccer match and that it obviously wasn’t their fault.
The four of us walked down the street to collect ourselves. We stopped at a place that sold slices of pizza of all things, and had a slice as we relived the event. “Dad can still kick ass!” Chris exclaimed.
Erin had wanted to go back and give Louie her email address (an equivalent of a phone number). I sighed at first, but we were full of of bravado, pizza, and a bit of Guinness. We marched back to The Stag’s Tail. The band was milling around outside and the drummer (bodhran player) came right up to Sean and clapped him on the shoulder (luckily it was his good one!). He was sitting closest to us in the pub and was especially impressed how Sean had tossed the drunken lads across the room. Louie said we were legends!
To show we were good sports, and because much of the soccer madness had subsided, we did go back to The Stag’s Tail the next evening and enjoyed an uninterrupted night of traditional Irish songs and a bit of conversation with our Blaggard buds. By the way, this group may be playing in an Irish pub in NYC this St. Patrick’s Day. Want to go as part of their fan club?