Barfly: the Cobblestone in Dublin’s Smithfield

It’s hard to imagine the art of Irish song under any kind of threat after a session at this pub

There are sandwiches piled high under clingfilm, tea and coffee on tap and standing room only at the monthly singing session in the Cobblestone in Smithfield.

The old-style club night that drew me in is called The Night Before Larry Got Stretched and alongside the grey-haired sean-nós performers are dozens of twenty-somethings hipsters of every shade and hue. There’s no shuffling to a microphone here – people write their name down on a sheet of paper and, when called, simply sing from their seat.

The first voice, a 25-year-old Dubliner, fills the room with deep, booming folk, causing ripples of excitement. He’s followed by voices so varied and smooth it’s hard to imagine the art of Irish song under any kind of threat. Pints are poured, singing battles are fought and won and the silence of the audience reigns supreme. There can be few places in the world where unaccompanied singing holds such a pride of place.

Step through the swing doors into the main bar and another session is in full swing. Seven nights a week, twice on Sundays, you’ll find a trad session under way in the corner seat. Excited tourists thread themselves through crowds of locals, all straining for a sight of musicians.

The noise rises to a crescendo now: a talking, laughing, heaving bar full of life. This is an old Dublin pub in the most real sense. It has held on proudly to the yellow tinge of cigarettes that once soaked its walls. Modernity is another place and you’re welcome to it.

The Night Before Larry Got Stretched is held the first Sunday of the month at 9pm. See www.facebook.com/thenightbeforelarrygotstretched for more

Published by Gary Quinn

Writer on the Sea Road

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