Maybe for you, yesterday was just March 17. Or perhaps you knew it was St. Patrick’s Day, but only in the sense that you vaguely realized you should wear an article of green clothing to work so people wouldn’t ask you why you didn’t. Or, maybe you plunged wholeheartedly into the celebration of the Emerald Isle, not caring that it was a Monday, leaving work early to head for an Irish bar.
And then there are those of us who entertain the crowds. I’m a member of a Celtic band, and for us St. Patrick’s is The Day of the year — the day we both love and hate. If every day was like it, I could make a living as a musician; but I’d wind up deaf, and also I see enough drunk and silly people on that single day to last me the rest of the year, thanks.
My band played Friday night, Saturday night, and twice yesterday (three times, if you count the school performance in the morning — but that was fun, rather than punishing like the bars). I left home yesterday at 10:15 a.m. and got home at 10:30 p.m.; I was making music for 7 of those hours. The following, in no order except that in which they enter my head, are some thoughts from my third year playing for St. Patrick’s Day.
For owners of Irish bars, St. Pat’s is like the day after Thanksgiving for retailers: the day the crowds descend and the money pours in. This year, because the day itself was a Monday, all the bars held two St. Pat’s parties: one on Saturday, and one yesterday. This made up for the fact that the crowds last night were somewhat less than they are when St. Pat’s is on a weekend. I hope their tipped workers did well and that they gave all their other employees bonuses to make up for the mayhem.
Last night I would have given a lot to have a camera phone.
Drunk people will try to help a waiter carrying a large tray of food by grabbing hold of the tray’s edges to keep them level. This, of course, serves to throw off the waiter’s careful balancing act, and may have the exact opposite effect of what’s intended. To avoid major accidents, each time food went out from the kitchen at Molly Malone’s, at least two and often three people went along to serve as a phalanx around the person carrying the tray. In this way, large quantities of food were safely shepherded through tightly packed crowds.
Very wide men with Drew Carey haircuts and glasses are not attractive when wearing large foam shamrocks on their heads.
One young man had made himself a clever outfit by buying several hundred shamrock stickers and sticking them all over his khaki slacks.
When a bar has a rock band out back in a tent and a Celtic band inside, both amped to maximum levels, and the space between the two is open, and hundreds of people are talking, singing, and shouting, the result is VERY LOUD. My ears are still ringing.
Despite the wall of sound, and our ability to hear the rock band clearly whenever we weren’t playing, a 60-something woman who’d had her share of beer insisted repeatedly that we should play “Danny Boy.” Now, I happen to like “Danny Boy”; it’s a singer’s song, and I sing it well, and under the right conditions a couple of weeks ago I got a standing ovation from a restaurant full of people. But a deafeningly loud bar is not the atmosphere in which I want to perform it; it’s a slow, moving song with a big finish, and I want the audience to be actively listening. So, we kept putting her off, and she was getting obnoxious. Finally we said that if the rock band took a break, we’d do it. She brightened up and said that she’d go tell them to stop playing; and off she went. Problem solved. 🙂
At O’Sheas, we unexpectedly ended up playing outside in a tent. It was cold. And although Louisville has a smoking ban that applies to indoor spaces, people could smoke in the tent. The smoke then drifted upward, arriving at our level on the stage. I haven’t had to be in smoky conditions for a long while, thanks to the ban, and this situation reminded me exactly how marvelous the smoking ban is. When I came home I had to take a shower to get rid of the smell before I could go to bed.
Text messages are a Wonderful Thing. I was able to keep my family informed all evening about where I was and how things were going. Being connected to the sanity of my regular life made the insanity all around me much more bearable.
Bartenders under these conditions are heroes.
A woman arrived at O’Sheas wearing — like many other patrons — a tall, green foam hat, rather like the Cat in the Hat would wear. She found a table with her friends, took off the hat, and extracted a large ziplock bag filled with little plastic cups containing jello shots. She and 3 or 4 other people proceeded to lick, suck, and drink their way through the entire bag; when nothing was left but some liquid jello in the bottom of the bag, a guy used a straw to get every bit.
When people are drunk, they all think they’re more attractive than they are. And they see other people as being more attractive, too. People of all attractiveness levels will grab beautiful people whom they normally wouldn’t dream of approaching and swing them into a wild dance in front of the stage, and the beautiful people will happily dance along. Dumpy, balding men will gyrate their hips and sing lustily, beckoning confidently to all females who pass by. Swaying women in badly conceived green outfits, holding their cups of green beer over their heads, will form conga lines and wrap themselves around men of all shapes and sizes.
My favorite t-shirts: “Fuck me, I’m Irish!” and “I’m magically delicious!”
I don’t drink. I don’t like the taste, I take a medication that alcohol wouldn’t mix well with, and, most important, the couple of times in college when I managed to get a little drunk I hated the way it felt: I was not fully in control of what my brain was doing. I can’t imagine purposely wanting to feel out of control of your mind and your body. Standing on a stage and performing for hundreds of people who came to that place to get very deliberately drunk is thus a supremely surreal experience: I want to ask them, why in the world are you doing this? Why do you want to feel and behave this way? What’s up with your life that you get a blast of enjoyment from altering your consciousness and behaving stupidly (and, often, dangerously)?
Far too many young women have with Paris Hilton blonde hair, ironed straight, and sizable chunks of dark roots. Ick.
A guy was carrying around a big box of Lucky Charms cereal and pouring out handfuls for people. Which they were eating. In between swigs of green beer.
Green beer on tap: $4.00. Bud Light in a shrink-wrapped green bottle: $4.50. Irish Car Bomb (half a pint of Guinness Stout and a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream: drop the Bailey’s in the Guinness and drink as fast as you can): $7.00. So incredibly much money, spent by so incredibly many people, for such an incredibly pointless purpose. They are, however, helping pay for my Spring Break trip with my family, so I guess I shouldn’t question their motives. 🙂
Apparently quite a few women have taken step-dancing lessons at some point, at least judging from the fairly impressive impromptu demonstrations given in front of the stage. The most unexpected, timid-looking female will suddenly leap into action, jumping and kicking and energizing all around her into a whirl of motion.
Other women were already having to be supported by friends at 7:00 p.m. in order to stay on both feet, leading me to wonder what condition they’d be in by the time they went home.
And who drove all these people at whatever hour they finally left? If they drove themselves, that’s really scary.
I’ll bet a sizable chunk of the American workforce woke up green around the gills and called in sick today with Post St. Paddy’s Syndrome.