Past the blue façade and through the doors, out of the cold and into the warmth, there are patterned windows with a stained glass border in the foyer of Conor O’Neill’s traditional Irish pub. Through another set of heavy doors there’s a room filled with tall, dark wooden chairs and tables on top of a dark wooden floor. On the far side of this area is a bright green archway with nostalgic yellow signs across the top. Through the archway there is an expanse of red walls covered with faces and cartoons. More nostalgic signs scatter the scenery.
With Sunday nights starting around 8 p.m., Conor O’Neill’s is filled with the sound of Irish music and the smell of fish and chips and whiskey. It would be wrong to call these people a band. They are members of an Irish session, a special kind of jam session containing a strong element of Irish tradition. In essence, it’s a group of folks who are familiar with Irish tunes and enjoy playing music. The musicians don’t even really look like a band; they sit around a table in the middle of the pub, tall glasses of dark stout beer with thick foamy heads littering their tabletop.
On a typical night, participants show up with heavy coats on their backs and cases in the shape of violins in their hands. They unpack their gear and join right in without as much as a “Hello.” Those who want to play just starting playing spontaneously with whoever is able and willing. Facing each other, not a crowd, the clan plays music for the sake of music, and certainly not for any kind of recognition. The bar on the other side of the room seems bare. The audience is captivated by what’s transpiring around the table.
It’s traditional Irish music with syncopated melodies in major keys. The sounds conjure up images of people locking arms and dancing in circles. More people show up with instruments and the circle around the table begins to grow. Seats started to run out and people begin to stand.
The clan was spreading their province throughout the back of pub. Flutes sang delicate melodies while an entire section of violins played with vigor and grace. As their numbers grow, so does their confidence and the music becomes louder and more complex.
Truthful sounds of traditional improvised tunes give them something that a cover band will never be able to achieve. The crowd at this pub must not know how to dance, because the music is begging for it. Its energy fills the room so thick it can almost be touched.
Some of the crowd comes specifically for the music.
“I have been a regular because of this music here,” said Attila Elteto, a 29-year-old who recently received a Ph.D. from CU. Swirling the whiskey in his glass and laughing, Elteto added, “It is traditional live music and the drink section’s great.”
Others just come to drink.
“I don’t really listen to the music,” said Brian Gill, a 22-year-old sophomore film studies major.
Gill seemed to prefer Conor O’Neill’s for the beer it serves.
“The best three beers in the world Guinness, Boddingtons and Murphy’s,” Gill said. Gill said all three are served at Conor O’Neill’s.
It is a relaxed, yet high energy, atmosphere. With food, beer and music, there is something for everybody. T.J. Reagan, a 23-year-old friend of Gill’s, said he likes all of it.
“The music food and beverages combine to make a tasty treat,” Reagan said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Seth Gitner at Seth.firstname.lastname@example.org.