In 2013 Arlo Guthrie played at the Hawkswell Theatre in Sligo, Ireland. I'm a big fan of him and his dad. I'd never seen him in concert, and thought any excuse to go to Ireland is a good excuse, so as I live in France it would save me a trip to America.
So off I went.
While waiting for the concert to begin the woman next to me started chatting, then another woman turned and joined us. Michelle was a friend of Arlo's.
Enchanted by this I asked if they were going to a pub after the show. She said, "Shoot the Crows". Thinking I'd gotten the brush off and it had been a long day, I headed back to my hotel, as everyone else I'd spoken with had a 45 minute drive ahead of them. I was sad to not have gone to a pub, but glad I'd gotten myself to the concert. It was so worth it.
The next day I asked around about pubs in Sligo where trad (traditional) music was played. Someone named a pub just around the corner. I missed the name, but later I was driving through town and there in front of me was the sign - Shoot the Crows. It was a pub! After nearly crashing the car, I laughed it off and went inside. The place was heaving - crowded, loud and with great craic. The music was magical - some kind of gypsy jazz? A stool was empty so I asked the guy sitting next to it if it was free. He said to "work away". I didn't know what that meant, but I sat down anyway.
A post of Dervish - my favorite Irish trad band, was on the wall, so I took a couple pictures of it. The guy sitting next to me introduced himself - Shane. He asked if I liked Dervish. I waxed lyrical - been listening to them for 20 years I said. Shane said, "Well, you'll want to say hello to Brian then. He plays the Mandola." I looked at Brian, looked at the poster, back to Brian and we both just laughed. This was too much fun.
The band playing was the NoCrows. They started at Shoot the Crows a few years ago. They play gypsy-jazz-trad with Russian and Spanish influences as three band members are from Russia, Switzerland, and Mallorca.
As the pub was closing and we were getting ready to go I said to Shane that someone should make a documentary film about music in Ireland. He agreed, but said that it should be just about Sligo, as in this town alone there are well over 500 great musicians.
That night I couldn't sleep. I knew I had to do this project.
I stayed for a few days in Sligo, and was swept away by the density of virtuosity in this small friendly town. It never ceases to entertain and inspire. There is a tight community of musicians who support each other by doing random drop in guest performances on a given night. In spite of John the Map's obsession with maintaining "what's on"website for music in Sligo, mostly unannounced, the spontaneity is hard to beat.
I'm a music addict. I lived in LA and travelled a lot. No where, not even in the largest cities in the world can you find this rich of a musical mosaic where you can simply walk from pub to pub with no entrance fee, and have this variety of great entertainment, plus wonderfully funny people to chat with.
~ Lauren Hakulinen, Director/Producer/Writer