One of the perks of living in Dingle is that people come to you. You head out for a quick pint one nondescript evening and end up hanging into the wee hours with Nigel Kennedy and Donovan (Nigel happily and obligingly playing the violin on request; Donovan sulking). You sell your house to some guy who turns out to be the drummer for Snow Patrol. You eye up Paddy Casey over an extended evening in Benner's bar and wonder why he's so damned sad. You hear that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are up at McCarthy's and it seems entirely plausible.
There is no aspect of celebrity in these interactions, no autograph seeking, no photos, no preening. Everyone's just hanging out.
For years, the Other Voices concerts in St. James' Church have been one of the best events for this dynamic. In the darkest days of the peninsular winter Dingle suddenly fills with musicians here to play one stunning little gig in the tiny old church on Main Street, filmed for television. In between gigs there's free mingling and impromptu sessions in the town's many bars and pubs. All very low key.
It used to be easy to get tickets. Sometime in November I'd get an email with the potential lineup, and would be directed to a makeshift website where I could buy tickets. Or, often, you could just turn up, especially for the lesser known groups or singers. You might be terminally bored. You might get an undiscovered gem. You get to see yourself and your friends on television later, when RTE broadcasts the series.
Those were the days. About two or three years ago, Other Voices became An Event. Dublin discovered it. Uh-oh. Naively, I thought this wouldn't matter. I live here. I should have the inside track. Getting tickets will be a snap. And so this year I tried.
First, I checked the official RTE website, which had nothing but ads for last year's television program. I could find no reference to this year's gigs anywhere on the web. I put out a call on Facebook. Confusion ensued. People usually at the center of the Dingle arts world traded rumors. Was it on or off? Too expensive? Funding pulled? Finally my enterprising and Internet savvy neighbor found a press release on the Hot Press website saying it was on, with tickets available online November 23rd (I don't know how he did it because I've never been able to get back to that page). No hint of the actual website where one could purchase these tickets, but I had ten days to find that out.
Next, my alert neighbor discovered that a limited number of tickets would be on sale at the church itself, to locals who made it into Dingle on Saturday morning, November 21st. That's more like it. Local privilege. As it should be. I duly drove to Dingle in a gale to find an encouragingly short line of the Dingle arterati at the doors of St. James' Church. Five people before me, the tickets sold out. Damn. I did get two valuable pieces of information however: the name of the website where the tickets would be sold on Monday morning, and the fact that Snow Patrol would be playing on Friday.
Back home, I checked the website to make sure it existed. It did. And there were the dates, individually listed, Not on Sale at This Time. But it said the concerts were taking place Saturday through Wednesday. The Snow Patrol tip was useless. A false plant, I wondered? Has it come to that? Are we being deliberately put off the trail while tickets are surreptitiously shuffled to the Dublin music business elite? Is this paranoia a sign that the false trail is working or that thirty days of November gales are getting to me?
Monday morning my phone alarm went off and I was prepared. I'd have that website cranked up and ready to go. I'd use my fabulous Internet skills to snag tickets for as many nights as I could. I turned on the computer and opened up my browser. It wouldn't connect. I tried my email. No. My ever steady Internet connection, always on, wireless throughout the house, was off. Stunned, I could think of nothing for a few minutes but reload, reload, reload. Then I thought of friends.
One minute to 9:00 a.m., I sent desperate texts to three friends with broadband connections who I thought might be up and semi-active. At that moment it hit me. I am a total amateur. I should have had a nationwide friend network in place, everyone at their computers at 9:00 a.m. on November 23rd, trying for tickets. What had I been thinking to try this alone? One friend made it to her computer by 9:05. She could not get through to the website. By 9:20 I knew it was all over.
A call to Kerry Broadband, my ISP, revealed they had shut down service that morning because of a lightning strike. A lightning strike. Come on. Who or what does not want me to get tickets to Other Voices this year? And why? Is something terrible going to happen there? Should I warn the others?
I'm not quite done, though the odds are long. A well-connected friend has a promise from one of the tech guys to let her know on Saturday if there is any possibility of tickets. I am not revealing either name. And I'm already working on next year's strategy. But right now, I'm not hearing voices.