John fisher was one of the original dublin punks. He dusted off some memories for us and has some stall tales from the Dandelion Market.
In the summer of 1976, myself and a friend Eoin O’Shea went to The Reading Festival and The Rolling Stones in Knebworth. Coming home via London, we caught the early days of the Punk explosion. We came back to Dublin with our rucksacks full and set up a stall in the Dandelion Market selling badges, T-Shirts and posters. Up until then, the market had been a bit of a hippy haven – full of cheesecloth shirts, incense and Grandad shirts. So our stall, Sticky Fingers, was a bit out on a limb.
We decided that we needed more Punks, Mods and Rockers coming in so we decided to start running gigs, using the one vacant area in the market – an enclosed dark, dank shed that housed the power supply for the whole market. We cleaned it out, white-washed the walls and set-up a small stage built of leftover beer crates, breezeblocks and a few sheets of chipboard that we bought. The venue was now ready – now we just needed some bands.
The Noise Boys were the first band to take to that rather shaky stage in April 1979 – I don’t remember why exactly – maybe it was through my friendship with Tim McStay (Keyboards). I do remember the next band better – Ferdia McAnna and Dave Sweeney both worked for us selling badges at the stall and had decided to set up a band – Rocky DeValera & The Gravediggers. They played the next Saturday and from then on, we were rocking.
That Sunday, two guys approached me and introduced themselves as Larry and Dave from a band called U2. I had heard about them and knew that they were already a ‘real’ (i.e. gigging) band. They wanted to see the venue and asked if they could play there. We had already booked bands for the following weekend, so I told them that they could play the week after. The legendary gigs were about to begin…. For the record, U2 played in the Dandelion Market a total of eight times.
But I was also excited about the likes of The Blades, The New Versions, The Threat, Berlin and The Atrix, all of whom I knew well. There were many memorable gigs there – for me the best of which were The Outcasts which often ended with bass player Getti leaving a pool of blood on the stage from attacking his instrument with such venom.
Over the coming weeks, the gigs went from strength to strength. We had a unique rule – we changed a flat entrance fee of 50p and the bands got all the takings – we only took a pound or two if we needed to buy new chipboard for the stage or a few light bulbs. The only other condition was that the bands who played had to come in early in order to re-build the stage, which was inevitably smashed up by the local kids during the week when the market reverted to being a sprawling car park.
The capacity of the venue was, I reckon, about 300 – 330 at a squeeze. Typically, we probably averaged about 100 – 150. The biggest crowd was for U2′s gigs just before they left for London for their first time and for their first homecoming gig. The place was heaving then and certainly wouldn’t have been approved of by today’s standards.
What made the Dandelion Market gigs unique was that, as there was no bar in the venue, under-18s could get in. And as that was our core audience, it suited us as much as it did them. The gigs were certainly a coming of age for us – and more importantly, for the country as a whole. That might sound a bit dramatic but it was an era that marked a big step in the way of Ireland becoming a more open, modern and youth-orientated country. The Dandelion Market gigs can be seen as a symbol of the move towards a secular, confident and outward-looking country that Ireland was becoming.
For the full list of bands that played the Dando from April 1979 – March 1980, check out http://johnfisher.ie/Dandelion_Market.html