On a Halloween night in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland, I sat in The Roadside Tavern waiting for Yngve & the Innocent to play. I’d say at least 70% of the people present were German tourists. The other 30% were locals who had attended a costume party the night before and just wanted a hair or two of the dog and a quiet night at their local. Most of the crowd—Irish and German alike—were annoyed at the band being there and shuffled off to the back rooms so they could chat amongst themselves—separate back rooms: one for the locals, one for the tourists. From where I sat, by the old piano in front of the band, I could see everyone.
Probably right after the first hint of Ned Cartwright’s rag-time-meets-tent-revival piano plunking, heads turned and eyes brightened. After a few songs, more and people began sliding back into the main room. Soon after, they began to dance. They danced and they clapped and they yelled for more in English and in German. The band ran with the energy and played until they just flat-out couldn’t.
Afterward, Damian (the earnest young drummer and Yngve’s brother) assured me with an engaging, hard-cider-slippery smile, that this kind of response was the highest praise they can receive. This, he said, is the reason they play. I wanted to tell him, this is why I listen.
In a way far more tangible and life-affirming than the yearly Uni-Vision competition could possibly ever achieve, separate (and slightly grumpy) cultures were brought together by four young men in a tiny bar on a Halloween night in West Ireland. Because when the music is really good, no one can stay seated. And when we’re all dancing? Well, to quote a famous Irishman—how can we know the dancer from the dance?