Shiver me timbers, I’m in a boat! And indeed, my timbers are shivering because it’s a brutally cold Friday evening and this extra large space is only gradually filling up with a baltic draft barreling in when anyone comes through the front door. With the tagline “Rock’n’Rum”, The Bowery is a massive salvage job that has transformed what used to be Toast into a new venue and ship-themed novelty bar resembling the hull of a large boat, complete with ornamental naval paraphernalia overhanging its entrance on Lower Rathmines Road.
Initial plans for the venue named after and run by the team behind the Salty Dog stage at Electric Picnic fell through, with the Captain of the Team Salty “emphatically disassociating” them from the venue “which at one point showed some promise… but it just didn’t work out” on account of, as per their Facebook post, “too much bilge water”.
Whatever bilge appeared must have been rather late in the day, because the bow of this vessel bore the name Salty Dog as late in construction as August. Regardless, the owners ploughed on ahead, renaming the bar as The Bowery, calling to mind the famous street that runs through the Lower Manhattan rather than anything particularly nautical. The music booking is run by Ray O’Donoghue of the Sea Sessions festival in Donegal, so while TXFM may have shut down, it at least appears to have transmuted into a physical format here with many of that station’s local favourites – Le Galaxie, Bitch Falcon – appearing on the bill.
On our visit The Bowery has teething problems, some of which (the cold, the lack of wifi meaning the card machine wouldn’t work) would definitely go away. Managing to split what really is a massive room into a music venue and a bar might be more problematic, as illustrated by Crow Black Chicken’s booming soundcheck over the substantial PA installed making it difficult to hear oneself even seated at the far end of the room. While there is a curtain ready to be deployed to split the room, the only toilets appear to be at the stage end of the room.
Nonetheless, another small music venue though is most welcome in the city, especially with the forthcoming closure of JJ Smyth’s. Ultimately, how their booking policy develops will be of much more interest than the provenance of their floorboards or the countless rums on offer.
196 Lower Rathmines Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6
Words: Ian Lamont