Cork Jazz Festival – 2012

Cork is surprisingly quiet on this last day of the festival. The streets are strewn with relics from the night before. A few people stagger around, some still chanting, others purposely walking towards home trying to escape dreadful hangovers.

In front of An Brog pub a van unloads its content, enthusiastic musicians in blue suits relentlessly carry their instruments inside, while tired sound technicians are setting up the stage. The night will start early in the Brog, the pub will open its doors to the sound of the six piece Jump, Jive & Swing band, the Swinging Blue Cats.

This year the festival welcomed over a thousand musicians who performed during three days throughout the city. Bands from over twenty different countries travelled for the event. One of the main headlines this weekend was New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band. Pat who studies Humanitarian Rights Law in NUIG “was crawling, literally itching to see them”.

In the entrance of the Metropole, at least three dozen baby buggies are parked on the left, “Is this the Baby Jazz Orchestra?” asked Fergal. Along the corridors kids are running, zigzagging between legs, let loose by their parents. At 3.30pm, upstairs, the Rhythm Room is packed; the muggy air is almost unbearable, clothes sticking to the dancers’ bodies, sweat pearling on their skin. The music vibrates through the crowd, from the floor to their legs, it booms in their chest and bounces off the walls. The room is covered by a red carpet on the floor; massive old chandeliers are hanging from the ceiling and heavy curtains drape the windows on each side. In the baroque-like room anachronisms mix together, people in suits are sitting on the floor talking; some in jeans are subtly swaying to the deep voice of the female singer, women towers from the height of their heels, tightly wrapped in smart black dresses, red on their lips. The band playing is called Earthship, a man with long straight hair and a goatee stands in the crowd, he sells CDs of the band for five euros.

In the second room upstairs the air is fresher, a voice like Ella Fitzgerald’s rises through the chatter of people. Pa Ba Di Da Du Daaaa, Tu Du Du Du Da Da. In the far back of the room, on the stage, a young Brazilian woman scat sings. Around her, the pianist, drummer and double bass player guide her voice with a fast-paced, frenzied piece. People start moving with the music. Kids run to the front of the stage, a young girl takes the hand of the boy next to her and the two start a wild dance. Suddenly, the music slows and softens to almost a whisper, the lights dim to near darkness, and only red tinted lamps stay on. A few surprised shouts, a laughter, and the singer’s languorous voice starts. Couples, young and old, group of friends, parents and child slowly swing left to right, dancing hands in hands or hands on hips. It’s the Metropole’s Red Hot Jazz.

Downstairs is yet another world, the bar is crowded with people, beyond them comes the music from another jazz band, a cover band this time. A small stall at the entrance announces “CD sales – we can post worldwide, just ask”, further in a woman dressed in a suit and vest is drawing the portrait of a teenage girl, the two of them awkwardly trying to stand up in the crowd.
Outside, the biting cold worms itself through heavy jackets and light dresses regardless. Nobody lingers around long and people quickly make their way to the next venue. It’s almost closing time for the free jazz at the Metropole, they will re-open their doors an hour later for ticket-holders.
The food capital of Ireland would not be itself without a street-long line of food stalls: waffles and candy for the sweet tooth, casseroles stands and signature sausage rolls from O’Flynn Gourmet sausages for the meat lovers.

There is something romantic about the city after the rain, walking down the streets in the night, lights reflecting itself on the pavement.

A long moan makes the city’s blood run cold as a stream of people covered in rags and fake dried blood slowly walk by. Halloween will be here in a few days. A creeping man from the Zombie parade stands on the other side of the street, he opens his arms to a couple rushing by “come pretty boy, come to me”. The night is just starting.


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