Wine Soak No. 17: Foaming on the Beer Stool

Our wine correspondent found himself at the Stags Head at Foaming at the Mouth: an evening of Visual Art spoken word performances. How exactly he ended up there is a total mystery even to himself and may actually have been the result of a covert spy ring that has been operating in Dublin since the days of the Northern Peace Process.

I had just popped into town for a quick summer evening scoop with an old friend who was about to depart on some extensive international travels. He had beaten me to the hostelry of choice and when I arrived I found him sitting in the corner of the Stags Head drinking a pint of O’Hara’s Pale Ale. Described by the Carlow brewing company as: “Zesty and refreshingly bitter, the finish is long. With a copper tone body topped with a lightly carbonated head, the dry hopping brings an intense aroma and lasting array of fruit and floral notes.” With a write up like that it’s obvious that the Craft Beer business is certainly learning something from the wine business. Beer with floral notes! I don’t think so. Feeling properly offended by the aspirational beer text we got down to a conversation about our impending future activities.

The particular acquaintance with whom I was quaffing the tasty IPA was about to go to Norway to install a show followed by a hop to Sweden and then an eight month residency in a studio complex in Paris. Fine for some I was thinking to myself. In a glib and throw away comment I made a reference to him as a man of international intrigue…a spy! Suddenly he grabbed poor Ligvine roughly by the collar of the coat and pulling me closer so that his whisper could be heard above the din of the noisy bar, he revealed something that astonished this lowly wine correspondent. In a low intense voice almost imperceptible he told me to be quiet and not to use words like spy too loudly. He instructed me to look around the bar at the crowd. It was the first time I noticed that there was a very large amount of art world personalities all lined up along the bar, all furtively peering over each other’s shoulders to see who else from the usual coterie of dedicated followers of the visual arts might be lurking in the drinking den that evening.

He proceeded to inform me that there was an ulterior motive for meeting me in the Stags on this particular evening. There was an event on downstairs in the basement bar that he had to attend to meet with a contact and I was his cover. Then the dreaded words came from his mouth he wanted me to attend: “A visual arts spoken word event.” Immediately I tried to loosen his hold on my coat and writhe free. I knew I had to put as much distance as I could between myself and such a dreaded event. It was a complete panic situation, I nearly even spilled my pint I was in such a state. But unfortunately this artist’s hands from years of toil in the studio and covert night operations in the hills of Afghanistan had developed into fleshy vice grips and I couldn’t get loose. He frog marched me down the stairs to the dank basement bar full of the stench of toilet bleach. Strangely the crowd rather than running in the opposite direction as fast as they could were piling into the basement room with gusto and excitement. Before I knew where I was I was seated at the bar hemmed in on all sides with my poor knee caps pressed tightly against the wooden panels of the bar. The only redeeming moment in this dreadful turn of events was the realisation that I was sitting right in front of the O’Hara’s beer tap.

The last time I had been in a situation like this was when I had been dabbling in the music business promoting a country blues band back in the early noughties and two of the members who were American students doing Peace studies in trinity revealed that they had been former Navy Seals and were infiltrating the Irish music scene to get a feel for the more revolutionary republicans there in. They used to hang around mother red caps with bodhrans and drive the trad musicians to distraction with their terrible battering of the stretched animal hide. It in some way explained how every time I met them they had a new girlfriend from a different country. There was even a Russian girl that spoke seven languages! I always had a sneaking suspicion that Dublin was the Casablanca of Europe and now I know it is.

So I found myself yet again in the clutches of intrigue and covert operations this time in the visual arts. I had another pint of beer plopped beside me which I drank rather quickly to settle my nerves and suddenly disaster struck! After a few deafening howls from the PA system the first performer began and dear reader you’ll understand my plight when I tell you what happened next, something that left me foaming on the beer stool. THE BAR CLOSED! It remained closed for the duration of the performances….a whole two hours!!!

The first one up was Sam Keogh who was re-enacting his drunken vomiting performances and I could understand where he was coming from I was feeling a bit queasy at that point myself. Bit strangely I found myself tittering and eventually I was laughing out loud at exceptional performances of weird and quirky tales of twins that speak in unison performed by Niamh Moriarty and Ruth Clinton, A very poetic man climbing a mountain that left not only the performer Blaine O’Donnell but also the audience out of breath. Suzanne Walsh led us through a dream like narrative and Teresa Gillespie left us with the disembodied voices of call and response that felt like a very dystopian moment straight out of Beckett. Lily Cahill collaborated with a virtual Rob Murphy telling a tale of emo angst and dead livestock.

When the interval came I thought I’d get my chance to escape but the crowd was tightly packed. The spy left me momentarily to go to the jacks and I thought I might get my chance to flee but a very pretty blond artist who has momentarily retired from art making to work in a big data company, yes you’ve guessed it, the other spy who was presented to me as a martial arts expert and kick boxer was very convincing in getting me to stay where I was. After the interval McCabe and the Doctor, Doctor Francis Halsall that is, admirably support by Hugh McCabe on keyboard, delivered a terrifying spoken recital of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing that was channelling a cross between a virile Marlon Brando and a serial Killer….”the Horror, the Horror.” The night was finished off by Vaari Claffey with an intense and very humorous deconstruction of romantic film scenes interspersed by quite dry text read in such a way that they spun into a highly suggestive sexual climax. All in all it was pretty good and the only terrible fact of the evening was that I was totally sober at the end of it all. Luckily I was swept up by the exiting crowd bar stool and all until I found myself quite suddenly in the bar on the ground floor sitting amongst a wonderful group of ladies with whom I proceeded to pursue my normal habit of alcohol fuelled inebriation. Spending the rest of the evening talking to a primary school teacher was a welcome relief from the terror of the covert spy ring that was using me to infiltrate the visual art scene. However, I don’t think the neo liberal consumer capitalists have anything to worry about, there wasn’t a social revolutionary political item on the agenda among the performing artists….strange when you consider that the contemporary world seems to be falling apart at the seams around us. Perhaps by proxy we are all in the coalition of the willing. What’s that you say? Yes thanks, I’ll have another Pale Ale, cheers!

Foaming at the Mouth is a series of Visual Art Spoken Word Performances Curated by Tracy Hanna and Emer Lynch that take place in the Stags Head. The third set of performances featured: Ruth Clinton and Niamh Moriarty, Rob Murphy and Lily Cahill, The Doctor and McCabe, Blaine O’Donnell, Teresa Gillespie, Suzanne Walsh, Kevin Kirwan, Michelle Hall, Vaari Claffey and Sam Keogh.