The taxi driver, exhausted from hauling people from club to clubon a Saturday night, is about to call it quits. 'About 40,000 peopleare going to emerge from the clubs at the 2 a.m. closing time, but Ican't handle it,' he says. 'I'm going home.'
He's not the only one who is exhausted.
Partying in Dublin - and in many cities in Ireland, let alone thecountryside - is not for beginners. Just as Ireland's economy hasboomed in recent years, so has its after-dark scene - a mecca ofpubs, taverns, and nightclubs where the Irish, and their visitors,party as if there's no tomorrow.
The live music scene has unfortunately faded in recent years, butthe surge of dance clubs and chic lounges has given the country amodern edge rivaled only by the hedonistic spirit of many habitues.You'll still hear the retro sounds of Michael Jackson and SisterSledge in a lot of the discos, but you'll also hear the latest technofrom Europe and America, all played at volumes to shellshock you fordays.
I enjoyed a recent whirlwind week in Ireland that was bookended bystays in Dublin, but provided time to savor the night life in thecountry's second-largest city, Cork, as well as the west coast cityof Galway. I had the most fun in Galway because of its warm,uninhibited gaiety.
My after-dark romp started on a Tuesday night in Dublin, at theKitchen, a basement club owned by U2, the Irish-rock superstars whoalso own the posh Clarence Hotel above it, right beside WellingtonQuay. The Kitchen is 'a banging techno' club, according to U2guitarist the Edge, and it's obviously designed for a younger crowd.It was 'college night' when I walked in, as youthful revelersmeandered in the dark, sinuous crevices of the room, while a DJpounded out machine beats. A small place, but a buzzing crowd.
More on Dublin later, but the next day my Irish friend and I droveto Galway, where this colorful city hummed once the sun went down.Even though this was just a Wednesday, the pubs in the main center ofGalway were busy, especially the Skeff (established 1790), a two-story tavern where more than a few patrons pounded down not justGuinness, but the so-called 'speedball cocktail' of Red Bull andvodka - the consumption of which almost seems to be a national sportthese days.
As conversations became more animated, the heartier of the patronsdeclared that the next stop should be C.P.'s, otherwise known as aclub called Central Park. It didn't get hopping until the tavernsclosed at midnight - and there was a line well out the door from thenon.
C.P.'s is a huge, 1,300-capacity dance club which, in its size,uptown feel, and sophisticated sound and lighting system, resemblesBoston's Avalon club. But the atmosphere is much more primal, as fansogle and undulate around each other like Adams chasing Eves. Myfriend was kissing a woman within five minutes of meeting her - andthe place completely exploded when the high-energy 'Welcome toParadise' by Green Day was played by a DJ who wasn't afraid to rock.This may have been the wildest club I have ever seen, followed by aneven more bizarre late-night scenario, as patrons left the club atclosing time to spill over, wobbly-legged, to the nearby 'Supermacs,'a fast-food burger joint.
Waking up late the next day, my friend and I drove to Limerick, atougher, more working-class city that had a more downbeat flavor thanGalway, to say the least. We retired early and summoned our energyfor the next day's trek to Cork, where we hit town on Friday nightand proceeded to check out 10 watering holes in the most marathonouting on our trip.
Cork's festive atmosphere was like that of Galway, though wedidn't find a rival to C.P.'s. The closest competitors were HavanaBrowns and Cubins, two discos down a Lansdowne-like alley, but bothextremely mainstream and rather boring. A fight broke out in thealley as we left, with doormen pouncing on an inebriated, out-of-control male while his girlfriend shouted curses. It was time to go.
The range of options in Cork was startling - and all were withinwalking distance from the center. There were terrific pubs like theworld-famous Rosie O'Grady's (with music clips showing on videoscreens), the ultra-cool Raven (right next to the Satyananda YogaCenter), and the formidable Rearden's, a roadhouse-like singles bar. The place fairly sizzled with hormones.
We repaired to the new Pi, a high-tech-looking restaurant and bar,where a jazz band bopped through a tasty set that helped fend off thetechno overkill elsewhere. And then we were off to the Half Moon,located in the Cork Opera House. It didn't open until 11:30 and itreally tried to be a little too hip. A stuffy mix of bohemian artistsand tourists endured the loudest techno music imaginable, while inanother room an awkward male tried to sing and rap over a cannedtape. It was ear-screechingly awful.
My friend and I quickly exited and hit the recommended Savoy, abig, cavernous dance club where a film of beer on the floor made itfeel like a skating rink. It was a fun club - with some progressivereggae blended with the house music - but the level of partying wasunnerving. Time to make a late-night Burger King stop, which, likethe Supermacs in Galway, seemed out of 'Apocalypse Now.'
Chastened but unbowed, we then drove back to Dublin for a finalSaturday night. The people of Dublin are more urban, more reserved,and more like Bostonians or New Yorkers, for that matter. We didn'tencounter the primal hedonism of Cork or Galway, but that wasactually a relief by this time.
Dublin's cobblestoned Temple Bar neighborhood has clusters ofgeneric pubs, some offering karaoke. Everything was a blur, but wedid enjoy the Temple Bar Centre, a multi-purpose spot that has livemusic early in the night (with many international rock bands, thoughwe missed the AC/DC cover band playing that night), then a dance-club scene later in the evening.
We had the most fun on Duke Street (right off Grafton Street,Dublin's chief shopping area), where several lounges with outdoorpatios drew a more fashionable, adult crowd that included locals,Euros, and multi-ethnic visitors from all over. One spot, Bailey's,was particularly alluring. It had an aura of smoldering sensuality,while being friendly at the same time.
Then it was back to more noise with a trip to Rio, one of the manyclubs on Leeson Street. But we regretted it, since it was a mindlessdisco whose music and ambience belied the tuxedoed look of thedoormen.
Then came a final ride with the taxi driver who was about to callit a night. So were we. We had had a great time exploring Ireland'slate-night riches, but our bodies were in serious need of repair.