FAO all discerning music nerds, acoustic instrument enthusiasts, folkies, traditional culture buffs, or just anyone who’s sick of the forty shades of shite that come spewing in torrents out the doors of every second rate tourist-trap in Temple Bar.
1. The Cobblestone, Smithfield Square.
As obvious as it might be, this list would be a big pile of balls without mentioning it. The pub will probably be known to anyone with more than a passing interest in traditional music, but on the off-chance you’ve never ventured into the slightly tatty but charming confines of Dublin’s trad-mecca, we suggest you do so.
There’s a session every night of the week, including an American old-timey one on Saturday afternoons and a slower session on Mondays which is a much less daunting prospect for beginners. The staff are all generally very sound and the owner is like some benevolent switchboard operator, who’ll have no problem introducing you to someone if he reckons you have something in common. Nice pints too.
2. Devitts, Camden Street.
Upstairs on Friday and Saturday nights. This session has been going for years, and generally has a pretty high standard of music and songs. The staff are sometimes a little gruff but the high velocity tunes will probably make up for it. Not a bad place to start if you intend making a night of it, just be aware that the Camden Street you come in off may not be the same one you venture back out onto, as it often seems to morph into some kind of apocalyptic-orgy-war scene from Dante’s Inferno in the interim.
3. Thomas House, Thomas Street.
Host to all manner of musical curiosities, this venue seems to do things quite well, including a very decent American style old-timey session on Monday nights – probably the only place you can find such a thing aside from Saturday afternoons in the Cobblestone.
This has only been going about a year but seems to have really taken off, with a high calibre of tunes and songs from the American tradition. Nice selection of fancy and not so fancy drinks to boot.
4. The Night Before Larry Was Stretched, the Cobblestone Back Room.
Although a slightly more formal affair than your usual session, this singing session is where you need to go if you’re in any way interested in traditional song. It’s a relatively recent development but seems to be gathering steam rapidly, probably due in no small part to the fact that it is run by, and focuses on, younger singers (not at all typical in the world of traditional song). It happens the first Sunday of every month and the likes of Christy Moore and Lisa O’Neill have already reportedly dropped in to listen and give a bar.
5. We’re going to squeeze a few hidden gems into this last one.
Bowe’s on Fleet Street (the tiny pub next to Doyle’s) on a Sunday night, Hughes’ on the Luas line just behind the Four Courts most nights (Thursday with the Diamonds is highly recommended) and McNeill’s on Capel Street on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are all lovely sessions in cosy, old school pubs with decent pints. We would also like to add (before anyone has a little whinge about it) that this is by no means a definitive list, and any more suggestions are very welcome. We’ll send our trad experts down to assess if you’re talking complete bollocks or not.