The massive Páirc Uí Chaoimh shows already demonstrated this too, but on Friday and Saturday, there were concurrent gigs in both the Marquee and Independent Park that both attracted huge crowds and a buzz to the city.
On Friday the average age at Versatile was quite low, and it was very much an end of term Junior and Leaving Cert crowd. This was one of the fastest selling Marquee shows of all time and the Dublin rappers had the crowd eating from their hands from the first moments. There was a lot of extra security and a huge Garda and ambulance presence, but thankfully there were very few problems at the show inside or outside the venue.
The authorities were similarly well prepared for the Independent Park shows and overall everything ran very well, from traffic management to security, meaning all shows were quite accessible and there was minimal disruption. Arriving for my own radio show in The Marquee on Saturday, was told to take a different route by the gardaí, and was surprised that it took me only an extra few minutes in gig and match traffic to drive from the Blackrock road all around the Marina to the main Marquee entrance.
It was further clashing with the Munster Football Final in nearby Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which complicated matters, but overall, things went as smoothly as could be expected. I can’t help but feeling an events centre on the outskirts of the city would run well, and I think the proposed venue on the docks would have been built by now. There is a new development planned for Curaheen too, but it’s an exhibition hall rather than a gig venue, but that area has also repeatedly shown itself capable of handling big events and numbers, and the Cork Summer how runs excellently there every year.
Whatever happens with the Events Centre, there can be no disputing that the appetite is there. Cork has embraced huge events such as Michael Jackson, U2 and Prince over the years, and even when it was thrown in at the deep end hosting a last gasp Féile weekend in 1995, the visitors to the city enjoyed it.
People love coming to Cork from around the country and abroad and as I’ve said here many times before, it should not be just for one weekend in October every year. The big promoters, including MCD and Aiken, have the gigs, and all we need now is a more permanent venue. It’s quite difficult trying to book acts when the window of opportunity is only one or two weeks a year, but this week had something for nearly everyone.
The Cork Midsummer Festival is also running and helps greatly to add to the artistic and cultural make-up of the city and as I left the Marquee the other evening I drove past a lively St Lukes, which had just hosted the reading from Linton Kwesi Johnson, who I interviewed here recently. Live at St Lukes is one of the venues consistently putting on great events in the last couple of years and while we have lost a couple of venues along the way, it’s good that we still have newer options too. An amazingly rich historical building like St Lukes remains a unique place to see a gig, and I also saw a cool gig by the same promoters recently in nearby Griffith College, where the Good Room hosted Valerie June.
There are a number of new musical developments happening in Cork city, but like many cities, it is becoming difficult for artists to live here. Gentrification can lead to disillusionment too, and the costs of rent and accommodation mean it is not easy here and elsewhere.
Obviously it’s not just artists struggling and we have terrible social problems that are worst than the lack of practice spaces for bands. Music and art are an essential outlet in both good and bad times for many people of all backgrounds though, so let’s hope we enjoy good progress in these realms in the next few years.