Throughout the week, World Cafe travels to Dublin, Ireland — the first stop in a quarterly series called Sense of Place. We hope to give you an idea of the past and present of the city's local music scene and provide tips from musicians and music lovers for those hoping to visit this culturally rich town.
Acting as tour guide is Glen Hansard, the Academy Award-winning songwriter and singer for both The Frames and The Swell Season. Hot Press editor Niall Stokes, who helms the Irish equivalent of Rolling Stone, and musician Conor O'Brien of the band Villagers also provide local insight.
If you're a musician traveling to Dublin, there's one thing you can't avoid talking about. No, it's not music. It's beer: Guinness, to be exact.
"If we had royalty in Ireland ... it would be the Guinnesses," Glen Hansard says. "They're like the new high kings of our land."
He's not exaggerating. When the Guinness family opened its Dublin brewery in 1759, the factory employed thousands of Irish workers, gave them medical benefits, built them flats and started running soup kitchens for the homeless. A constant reminder of this still hangs in the air: "The smell of Dublin is the thick smell of burnt hops," Hansard says.
So maybe musicians visit the town for the beer, but they stay for the music. Josh Ritter toured with The Frames for a year, and was enticed by the city's enthusiasm for good music. Guitar duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela took it a step further and relocated to the city from Mexico. Because Dublin is so small and friendly, it's easy to meet musicians, even your idols — Hansard tells of meeting Bob Dylan on the street, and of making such an impression that Hansard was invited to open for the legend the following night in London.
"We're a communicative nation," Hansard says. "So come and talk to someone. We're very open."