Live Review – Trad Session at The Hut, Dublin


After a long day at work staring out the window, sending emails to feel productive, and seeing how many cups of black coffee you can drink before you explode, there is nothing better than heading off to a pub and having a session to take the edge off. 

Traditional Irish folk music – or ‘trad’ music sessions have been part of Irish culture since long before Queen Mebh was chasing cattle or Patrick was banishing snakes. Oftentimes these meetings are informal, a pub may have an unofficial meetup once or twice a week and anyone can turn up and join in. 

Instruments used can include the flute, the fiddle, tin whistle, the uilleann pipes (similar to a bagpipe), the harp (the national symbol of Ireland), the accordion, and the bodhrán (drum). Enter a famine, international travel and mass migration to America, and some new instruments were discovered: the session’s were accompanied by the banjo. Somewhere after the 1920s the guitar made its way into the many pubs of Ireland and joined the locals at the bar. 

Singing is encouraged, by the band or by anyone who fancies a go. It is not uncommon, especially in the countryside, for an old man in the back to stand up and belt out a Luke Kelly classic before turning back to his pint. Yelping, shouting, stomping of the feet in time with the bodhrán – all good. 

The Hut 

I was invited to a session in The Hut in Phibsoboro, a lovely quiet pub in North Dublin. Although a small pub it had ample room for a little intimate session. Unfortunately we were ushered away from this cosy atmosphere, upstairs to the function room. The Hut is famous for its eclectic gigs as the room is free to book, so everything from death metal to miscellaneous noise gigs take place there. Tonight it was trad. 

A sign by the stairs warned us the gig was going to set us back a tenner each, which is pretty unusual for a pub trad night unless your name is Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin. I resisted the urge to pull the press pass card, on the basis that it’s good to support local musicians. 

It was a late start, not getting going until 9 or so, which was over an hour after the set time. I was doing my best to stay off the drink and wild nights – the remnants of my new year, new me mindset still clinging on with stubborn pride, so I found this a little tiresome. Generally a late start is no bad thing really, people can relax, get a few Guinness down them and settle into an evening of music and chats. 

The group was more tourists/awkward first daters than I expected, and the function room was relatively characterless. The bar was closed so to get a drink people had to skulk downstairs to the fun bar and then return upstairs with their drinks. 

The presenter was American – and I won’t say that annoyed me because I am not a racist and New Sounds does not advocate prejudice of any kind. However, I was expecting a local trad session at a local pub, not a pay-in concert organised by an American. It’s just a different mood. 

He gave a long introduction explaining he had a card machine for those who had not brought cash with them. I regretted not pulling out the press pass. 

It was a far cry from a night in one of the great trad pubs: McNeill’s on Capel St, the Cobblestone, Hugh’s when it was still open. The atmosphere was little to none. Quiet, polite, and awkward. 

The first of three groups began to play. 

Séamus and Paahto 

Séamus Hyland and Paahto Cummings sat in front of us with a fiddle and accordion and were fantastic. They were great musicians, dancing in and out of old classics (Some Say the Devil is Dead) to songs they’d written themselves, keeping the audience entertained in between songs with anecdotes or little stories or history lessons on the music. 

They took their influence in part from Tom Doherty, the Galway accordion player, and Bobby Gardner. They were good craic, and clearly very talented musicians. The Dublin/Waterford pair had great chemistry on stage, which is a vital but underrated skill for a musician. I could have listened to them until the cows came home. Unfortunately, I live in Dublin and there weren’t any cows, but I did have to run to get the last bus home. 

As such I could not tell you the ups and downs of the rest of the night – although when I left the American was sitting down with his very Instagrammable-friendly fiddle for what looked to be a long evening.

I left having enjoyed the night overall. A few hours in the pub with a couple of friends and a bit of music is no bad way to spend an evening. I liked Séamus and Paahto. I just regretted the setting they had been put in. Waiting an hour and a bit in a silent function room and then feeling too awkward to talk while the music was playing was detrimental to their set, and I would have preferred if we had all been downstairs in a more relaxed atmosphere. 

Although, I am sure if I hadn’t been stressed about the bus, I hadn’t been tired from all my pretending to be productive, if I’d been able to go down and have a Guinness or six, relax and settle into the night, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more. 

Séamus and Paahto don’t have a name as a group and are currently unsigned. Whether they are happy with their informal pub nights or instead wish to pursue a more professional career in music is yet to be seen. For now, if you find yourself in Dublin, you could do worse than The Hut, and you could certainly do worse than an evening complimented by the dulcet tones of Séamus and Pato.