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a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Dublin, Ireland
By Meg Fox

Ireland's capital, Dublin, is a town steeped in musical and literary history. You need only throw a stone to hit the source of a great song, poem or novel and Ireland, at large, seems to be a place where everyone has a story to tell, a song to sing and a relative's band to turn you on to. That saturation of talent has led to a decentralisation of venues in the capital. Where once, the Rock Garden and Whelan's were the only places to see guys with guitars playing original tunes, a burgeoning music scene (albeit still a rather fractured one) with bands to burn (including some seriously original ones) has led to countless new music venues in which one can find the best of local, nationally famous & internationally touring bands all strutting their stuff.


Clubs


Club Fear

Transformer, Downstairs in The Oak pub, Dame Street, Dublin 2. Saturdays - 00.00-02.30.
The indie locals favourite spot on a Saturday night where the Club Fear DJs play hip-hop, alternative and indie hits from midnight until 2.30am. Usually a couple of good drink promos on too. If packed, as it regularly is, it makes for a steamy night of indie dancing, with people spilling out onto Crane Lane to cool down and chat each other up too.

Skinny Wolves
Every third Saturday at The Workmans
Promising "art rocking music to dance to" and "cold dark sounds from the underground", Skinny Wolves love Crystal Stilts, John Maus, Ariel Pink, Modular, and the like. (IW)
(www.skinnywolves.com)


Venues

 

Olympia
72 Dame Street Dublin 2, Ireland 01 679 3323
While sometimes hosting panto and third rate theatre, the Olympia's strength is it's 'mid-size' ability to house bands on their way up, down or back. Noel Gallagher chose to kick off his solo world tour here, the Pixies played two shows here on their reunion tour and REM famously rehearsed a new world tour set here for a week before taking it to enormodones around the world. Its ability to surprise with events like that justifies its place on any indie travel guide
(www.olympia.ie)

Vicar Street
58 Thomas Street Dublin 2, Ireland 01 4545533
The Olympia's cooler and posher counterpart, Vicar Street is the regular home of major artists passing through Ireland's capital as well as the number one choice for stand up comedians. Adorned with lyrics from the U2 song "Wake Up Dead Man" and sporting a huge teddy bear in its lobby bar, it is definitely a venue worth spending that extra few quid on if the gig in question is right for you. Like the Olympia, local bands regularly open for the like of Fleet Foxes, Daniel Johnston and Morrissey who have all played here.
(www.vicarstreet.com)

The Workmans
10 Wellington Quay Dublin 2
Dublin's newest music venue, rising from the ashes of an old all male workman's club, as the name suggests, The Workmans as locals call it is one of the best places to see Ireland's best bands launching albums or headlining Dublin on national tours. Going for an east Berlin feel, the bar's stripped to the bare essentials and the venue itself is like a huge P.E. hall. It boasts a large heated smoking area upstairs, and the post gig club nights (from 11 on Fridays and Saturdays) are at the time of writing still free in. Seek out nights when local heroes Trevor Dietz or Crackity Jones are on the decks for the biggest indie and alt rock classics, britpop, protopunk and motown.
(www.theworkmansclub.com)

The Academy
41 Middle Abbey St Dublin 2
A little off the beaten path, across the Liffey, The Academy is broken into the main venue Academy on the ground floor and the smaller Academy 2 in the basement. Possibly a contender for second best live sound in Dublin (after Vicar Steeet), The Academy plays host to some great live events, usually leaning towards the hip-hop, pop and dance end of the spectrum. It turns into quite a mainstream club after hours with UK club night Propaganda spilling through its doors.
(www.theacademydublin.com)

The Grand Social
35 Lower Liffey Street Dublin 1
Formerly a Russian themed bar called Pravda, The Grand Social is a hot-spot on the local indie scene and has seen a boost in its popularity since it reinvented itself in 2010. The brand new music venue upstairs was decked out to resemble a festival marquee and has a heated smoking area at the back. Possibly their best regular event at the moment is Saucy Sundays, running all Sun afternoon with chilled out acoustic acts playing to soothe your hangover. Check out their site for other gig listings too.
(www.thegrandsocial.ie)

Whelan's
Wexford Street Dublin 2
Whelan's is possibly Dublin's most popular venue for intimate gigs. Local bands can be caught playing here most weekends and the atmosphere is always good fun. Door charges usually aren't too pricey and there’s a nice smoking area upstairs, which is always packed at the weekends. Check listings online before you head there:
(www.whelanslive.com)

Crawdaddy/Tripod
Old Harcourt Station Dublin 2
Crawdaddy is a small but award winning live music venue, built inside an old railroad station. In keeping with the musical taste of its bigger brother/next door neighbour Tripod, Crawdaddy's live events and club nights tend to focus more on the electro pop side of things. It is best known for its two club nights (C.U.N.T. and Banquet) these days, which draw a young, arty crowd.
(www.crawdaddy.ie)

The Mezz
Eustace Street,
Dublin 2
Sitting right in the centre of Temple Bar, opposite the uber cool Irish Film Institute, The Mezz was sporting a shabbily chic look way before it was trendy. Most nights have bands playing covers of classic rock stuff which can be just the ticket depending on your politics, taste (and level of inebriation!). Their Wed night reggae wig out (which has been running for more than ten years and is always packed with damp, dancing students of all nationalities) is one of the best nights in Dublin.


Bars


The Globe
11 South Great Georges Street Dublin 2
In a great location at the centre of what is fast becoming Dublin's cultural quarter (and directly across the street from Dublin's most famous gay bar The George), The Globe is a great place to start an evening with a few drinks in a chilled out but always buzzy atmosphere.
(www.globe.ie)

Secret Bar
3 Fade Street Dublin 2
Also referred to as "the no name bar" (due it's lack of a sign), this little gem is hard to find but worth seeking out. It boasts cosy couches, games behind the bar, a large covered and heated beer garden and a great atmosphere, always. It is situated above Hogan’s bar on Georges Street (just look for the snail hanging over the doorway next to L’Guilleton restaurant). Great for a night out with a large group, if you can manage to nab the big couch or for a quiet afternoon chat with a friend. It is attached to the very trendy Kelly’s boutique hotel, so if you’re not up to the walk home you can stay the night! (www.kellysdublin.com)

Bernard Shaw
33 S Richmond St Dublin 2
The hippies' choice! A great spot for reggae lovers with a pool table and a bus parked out back for smokers to hang out in, it's like an East German hostel that's been airlifted and plonked in the middle of Dublin. Local artwork and graffiti cover the walls and the pitchers of beer are among the cheapest you'll find in Dublin.
(www.bodytonicmusic.com/thebernardshaw)

Thomas House
86 Thomas St Dublin 8
One of our favourite bars in Dublin, this dingy little punk hotspot is situated on Thomas Street, adjacent to the Guinness factory gates (the smell of hops is delicious!). Friendly staff and super cheap pitchers of pretty much whatever you want! Head here for a grungey, mad night out if you love punk, ska and hardcore.
(www.facebook.com/pages/The-Thomas-House)


Record Shops


Tower
6-8 Wicklow Street Dublin 2
Dublin's branch of the well known international chain store is worth a mention for its best of Irish music section and its substantial garage rack which generally holds releases from Little Stevie's Garage (also known as Syl in The Sopranos).

Freebird
George's Street Arcade, Dublin 2
Nestled between second hand clothes shops and Simon's Place cafe, Freebird is possibly the best place for vinyl in Dublin. A good place to duck out of the rain and brush shoulders with the chilled out side of indie Dublin. Worth a Sunday afternoon browse if nothing else. Spindizzy and Trout Records are also in the same arcade.
(www.georgesstreetarcade.ie)

The R.A.G.E. – Record, Art and Game Emporium
16b Fade St. Dublin 2
In what used to be independent record shop Road Records on Dublin’s Fade Street, a new record store has opened, and it has a small section devoted to retro games too. Across the road from the Secret Bar (see above), RAGE is definitely worth a look if you love your antique games, vinyl and independent music in equal measure.


Local Bands

 


The Minutes

"The greatest rock n' roll band in Dublin" - Art Rocker
(www.theminutesmusic.com)

Ham Sandwich
"One of Ireland’s most popular and imaginative bands".
(www.hamsandwichmusic.com)

Reader's Wives
"Like a loved up Joe Strummer fronting the Smiths" - Daily Mirror
(www.readerswives.bandcamp.com)

Riptide Movement
(www.theriptidemovement.com)

Abedesi Shank
(www.adebisishank.com)


Miscellaneous


IFI
6 Eustace Street Temple Bar Dublin 2.
The Irish Film Institute is situated in Temple Bar. It is the best cinema in Dublin to find the latest art house movies and even some old classics too, depending on when you visit! The screening rooms are small but cosy and comfortable. It has its own café serving food and great coffee, as well as its own DVD/book shop stocking a wide range of hard-to-come-by films, biographies and educational books on filmmaking and cinematography too.
(www.ifi.ie)

Om Diva
27 Drury Street Dublin 2
One for the indie ladies, Om Diva is possibly the nicest and most affordable place to browse for vintage and second hand clothes and accessories in Dublin. Between the super trendy South William St. and Georges Street Arcade, you shouldn't miss its quirky bright pink shop front filled with 50s and 60s style dresses, shoes and other great finds!
(www.facebook.com/OmDivaBoutique)

Jo' Burger
137 Lower Rathmines Road Rathmines Co. Dublin
While a little out of the centre of town, Jo Burger is Dublin's best "no frills feed" in fun, endearing surroundings. Their menus are made from old children's books and the decor follows suit with walls covered in graffiti and often a DJ spinning tunes close to the kitchen. Though the hipster surroundings are enticing, Jo Burger remains a locals' favourite as their food is simply delicious! Organic sodas and massive burgers with every combination of flavours you could imagine. Their bench seats tend to get packed in the early evening at the weekends so if you fancy a burger before heading out, make sure you're there early or ready to queue as many do.
(www.joburger.ie)

Additional review by Ian Watson

Main Dublin photo © Sarah Burgess

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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