Thursday, July 26, 2007

Driving Me Crazy

The plane touches down at Shannon airport, and Dave turns to ask me, “Isn’t it strange? Four years ago we learned a few Irish songs. Now we’re sitting on the ground in Ireland.”

When you go to a new place you want to see what’s different. Instead, you notice what’s the same. Like Subway sandwich shops. And Coca-cola signs. And, of course, McDonalds. When you’re driving down the road you could be in a smaller, greener version of Wisconsin, except for one thing: you’re driving down the WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD AND GIANT TOUR BUSES ARE TRYING TO KILL YOU AAIIEEEE.

I don’t care what they say. It’s the wrong side. Just because they build cars with the steering wheel on the other side doesn’t make it right.

Soon we arrive in Galway, on the western side of the country. We will be attending the Galway Arts Festival, looking for traditional music. We waste no time, heading off to a concert event at a pub on the other side of town. The media people have set it all up so we can get in, although not with actual tickets. “Don't worry," they tell us. "Tell them Tracey talked to Gugai, and he said to ask for Simon.” Right, we think, like that's going to work. When we arrive, the line is out the door and into the street, but apparently Simon got a message from Gugai, it works, and we're in.

There is a traditional music group playing in the Pub - slash - theater. (They call it “trad,” but to us that sounds like a kind of pizza.) There is an accordion, a fiddle, and a piano, but the crowd goes wild like they were seeing the Stones live at Altamont. The Trad group has managed to fill the place for a lunchtime concert, and these people clearly love their jigs and reels, whooping and shouting at the end of every tune.

At one point I notice everyone in the place is tapping their feet. I can feel it through the floorboards. I’m sure if any of the songs had words they would be singing along, except it would make it hard to sip their pints of Guinness.

And these aren’t grandparents, either. The band is in their twenties, and the crowd isn’t much older. They love their trad music like they love their U2 and Corrs.

At one point they bring up a guy from the crowd, who starts tap dancing on the stage. He does a great job, and he doesn’t even seem worried that he got fired from his job to come dance at a pub during the day.

The concert is terrific, and of course, being in a pub means we have pints in the afternoon, followed by pints at lunch. Then in the evening we head out to a four hundred year-old pub, The King's Head, founded in 1624, to try some of those pints we’ve heard so much about.

See? I'm already learning something about Irish music. It can make it hard to type.

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