State finds itself in the wedged – think a can of sardines, in a vice, at the bottom of the ocean – but infectiously merry confines of Bruxelles off Grafton Street. Pints of the peaty black stuff are meandering their way into our hands and gradually making the usually on-the-ball State feel all fluffy and warm. And who’d begrudge us? The cynics have thankfully stayed in, unwilling to, as they say, be involved in a worldwide marketing ploy by a certain multi-national alcohol conglomerate to celebrate the ubiquitous -workman’s friend’. As far as State is concerned, our friends at St. James’ Gate have done a huge service to this country, raising our standing internationally and bringing significant revenues to these shores for a long time. They’ve also organised a shit-hot music extravaganza across our fair capital tonight.
It is around the time of scoop #3 that Maria Doyle Kennedy slinks on stage and gets the party started, albeit in a slightly subdued manner. This suits State entirely well as it’s going to be a long night, one that will involve the prolonged exchange of facts and figures about said -pint of plain’ with the in-house Diageo rep, as well as a careful negotiation en route to bog through the 200 shoulder-to-shoulder ticket holders of varying stature and sobriety.
-I was raised here and I may die here tonight’ crows Jerry Fish, and by this stage, State can sympathise. Bodies are clambering atop one another and in and out of open windows, such is the air of decadent celebration Fish oozes. Many are unprepared to let State through for a look. Thankfully, we can make out the Mudbug Club and Mr. Fish over the crowd, and by the end of his half-hour set, a proper collective thirst has the barmen in a tizzy.
The fetching essence of Dublin that is Imelda May is tonight’s not-so-secret headliner, but State has been seduced by a murmur of something taking place up in Whelans later on. Thus, we are forced to fly from the throbbing mayhem of Bruxelles and our beloved Liberties belle for an appointment with one David Gray at a lock-in at the Wexford Street institution. State queues and queues, overhearing updates from punters about other appearances across town, before clambering into the venue past some fed-up looking doormen. Everyone and nobody is here, a select cross section of ticket holders, Leinster rugby stars, local and not so local music heroes and PR heads.
But by song two, David Gray’s head is a-wobble and everyone is partying like it’s 1998. -This is Whelans, this is where it all started’, chirps this most surprisingly chirpy of troubadours. He’s having as much of a hoot as we all are, cackling loudly at nutted revellers and exuding the air of a host-with-the-most at a housewarming. Gray’s appeal, especially on this island, is something State has not considered for a while, but one does simply forget how replete tunes like -Sail Away’ and the masterful -This Year’s Love’ are. I would be lying if I said he had the full and undivided attention of the entire audience, but there were always going to be artistic drawbacks of entertaining a small swimming pool’s worth of consumed Guinness. He’s not the only one to face such a task across town tonight but you can’t deny that David Gray does it with class.