Your alt St Patrick’s Day guide: from great gigs to street eats and handcrafted cocktails
Music lies at the heart of Irish culture – from foot-stomping, traditional folk songs, right up to the current crop of contemporary Irish artists, from the euphoric, defiant indie rock of Pillow Queens to the catchy pop of Local Boy and the mesmerising melodies of Niall McNamee. So, what better way to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint this year than with a serve of live music alongside your whiskey and Irish eats? Over the St Patrick’s Day weekend, music venues are booking in top acts from Ireland and the UK, ready to rock the celebrations in style. Here’s our guide to the best gigs being held across the 17th and 18th March, as well as local must-dos from bars and eateries to galleries and record shops.
As the capital of Ireland, Dublin is a veritable hub for St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Don’t miss Irish all-female indie band, Pillow Queens who will be playing to their home crowd at the Collins Barracks as part of the St Patrick’s Festival. Meander through the street food stalls that line its fringes, where local delicacies include fresh mussels and Irish beef pies. Wander along the river to The Temple Bar pub, where they serve a top whiskey sour. Beyond the traditional revelry in the centre, you can explore some of Dublin’s ultra cool locales. Venture north to Phibsborough, a student-friendly neighbourhood where hipster coffee houses and indie bookshops abound. Dubstep artist Plastician will be ramping up the bass at The Racket Space, a music venue-cum-recording studio, from 11pm.
Ready to party? Belfast is hosting DJ Joel Corry this St Patrick’s Day in the revamped Telegraph Building. Once home to the Belfast Telegraph’s printing press, it now attracts international bands, as well as homegrown talents like Two Door Cinema Club. Before the night kicks off, head to Coppi for Italian-style tapas – think hummus-topped pizzettas and duck ravioli fritters, washed down with local Belfast lager. If you haven’t partied too hard, take in some Northern Irish culture at the Naughton Gallery inside Queen’s University. This hidden gem boasts works from local contemporary artists, plus it’s just around the corner from Maggie Mays, which dishes up arguably the best Ulster Fry in town. Top it off with a quick pit stop at The Duke of York pub; their adjoining shop is practically a mini museum of Irish whiskeys.
London is awash with live music venues for every taste, so it’s easy to find the perfect alternative St Patrick’s Day gig. Over in East London, soulful singer-songwriter Niall McNamee will be serenading the crowd with his Irish melodies in the basement of Colours Hoxton. Get started at The Sun Tavern in Bethnal Green, home to the largest collection of Irish whiskeys in the capital. For dinner, book a table at Daffodil Mulligan for subtly Irish fare in Shoreditch. Alternatively, legendary DJ Fatboy Slim will be turning up the tempo at O2 Brixton Academy on 17 and 18 March. Swing by Brixton Village earlier in the evening for a tipple or two at Irish cocktail bar, The Whiskey Tumbler.
Nineties rock fans will get their fix in Newcastle this St Patrick’s Day. Head over to the O2 City Hall, one of the Toon’s oldest music venues, where Suede will have you belting out ‘Beautiful Ones’. Just across town, the Levellers will be kicking up the tempo at the Tyne Theatre, an intimate spot in Grainger Town. But, before a night of revelry, fuel up at Butakun. This hip Japanese restaurant serves up steaming bowls of ramen, alongside wasabi-spiked platters of sashimi. Nearby, The Points, a New York-style Irish bar with a crackling fire, serves Guinness and whiskey aperitifs. Alternatively, head to Horticulture, a plant-packed cafe/bar for their renowned, sustainable cocktails.
Three-quarters of Liverpool’s population have Irish heritage; it’s easy to see why the northwesterly hub is nicknamed the second capital of Ireland. On top of this, it boasts an eclectic musical past, and a thriving live scene, perfect for a gig-based night out. Striking pop act Christine and the Queens (now named Redcar) will be lighting up the stage at Liverpool Olympia on the 17th. Start your night in the Cairns Brewery, where you can dip your toe in the Paddy celebrations at Punch Tarmeys pub. Then grab a bite at the Baltic Market, an indoor street food market, dishing up everything from wood-fired pizzas to bubble waffles. Or, head north to Jimmy’s – last year, they served a signature St Patrick’s Day cocktail, featuring Irish whiskey, Kahlua, caramel and orange bitters.
To celebrate Ireland’s patron saint, Manchester hosts one of the country’s largest St Patrick’s parades. A week-long celebration takes over the city, packed with folk music, traditional dancing and Guinness drinking, before culminating in the emerald parade itself. On Saturday 18, duck into the Castle Hotel to catch Local Boy, a Dublin-based musician with a distinctive pop sound. Beforehand, grab a drink at The Whiskey Jar just around the corner. Alternatively, shake it up at YES where punk trio Grandmas House will be mesmerising the crowd with their guitar solos. Arrive early for sunset beers on the roof terrace, before tucking into a juicy vegan kebab. If you have time, poke inside the Craft and Design Centre the next day; it’s a treasure trove of work from local ceramicists, metalworkers and jewellery makers.
From independent coffee shops to quirky boutiques, there’s a lot to love about Leeds. Spend St Patrick’s Day seeking out the best live music in the city. Head to The Keys Club, where everyone from The 1975 to Young Guns have played in recent years. Irish post-grunge band Kerbdog will be churning out rabble rousing tunes on Saturday 18. Meanwhile, a few doors down, up-and-coming DJ HAAi will be pummelling out a techno and ‘90s rave-inspired set at the Belgrave Music Hall. Housed inside an old 1930s school, expect three floors of artisan food stalls, art installations and bars on the outskirts of the city centre. Alternatively, drop by Lazy Lounge for a pre-gig tipple; it boasts an astronomically large whiskey menu.
Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Duran Duran all hailed from the streets of Birmingham. Its musical legacy can still be seen in its top live music venues – from the legendary Sunflower Lounge to Northern Soul club The Night Owl. This St Patrick’s Day, catch the Pixies playing at the Forum. Alternatively, venture into Digbeth where indie band The Lathums are hitting up the O2 Institute. This arty neighbourhood is centred around the Custard Factory, a creative mish-mash of vintage boutiques, coffee shops and bars. Stop by Nortons, the most understated Irish bar, for the best pint of Guinness in town, before grabbing a monster burger from Original Patty Men. Whiskey fans, however, should venture up to the Jewellery Quarter where Grain & Glass boast a library of over 300 whiskies; try one of their carefully-curated flights.
Heads will be bopping to the catchy guitar riffs of Wille and the Bandits, an eclectic British blues-rock band, on 17 March. Catch them at Clwb Ifor Bach, a legendary underground venue with a reputation for supporting fledgling artists. Wander over to The Dead Canary afterwards for expertly-crafted cocktails. Don’t be put off by the unmarked door; ring the bell and you’ll be led down to the secluded speakeasy bar below. While in town, visit G39, the largest artist-run gallery in Wales. Admire their latest exhibition before heading to Lab 22 to sample incredible whiskey cocktails such as the intriguingly-named Critical Mass: Black Holes.
Few places in Scotland have greater links to Ireland than Glasgow, with their football club Celtic originally founded to improve the lives of Irish families living in the East End. Usher in St Patrick’s Day weekend with pre-drinks at Heraghty’s Bar, before venturing across to the renowned Barrowland Ballroom where Northern Irish punk rock band Stiff Little Fingers will be raising the roof on 17 and 18 March. Nurse your hangover with a slap-up brunch at Scran the next day; their poached eggs on sourdough with black pudding and bacon crumb is a winner. And make sure you pop into nearby Mostly Vinyl Micky, arguably the best record store in the city.
Gilla Band frontman Dara Kiely is a force to be reckoned with. Leading their riotous sound, described as “futurist dancefloor nihilism”, he can be found barking and howling a surrealist, stream-of-consciousness-style narrative. Their third album, Most Normal, charted in the Top 40 in Ireland upon its release last year.
Slane Irish Whiskey: For the perfect St Patrick’s Day celebration
Forged within the idyllic Boyne Valley, Slane Distillery is built on the grounds of the legendary Slane Castle, an ancient estate where they make extraordinary whiskey and throw legendary gigs. Since the first incredible concert in 1981, Slane Castle has hosted some of the most iconic acts in music history. This year sees the return of the Slane Castle concerts for the first time since 2019.
Slane Irish Whiskey is a blend of malt and grain whiskeys which are matured using a signature triple-casked process that builds a complex and full-flavoured taste profile. Each cask is matured separately and then they are masterfully blended together.
Blending, like music, is about achieving the right balance between these different notes and with these three casks there are plenty of flavours to play with. From the virgin oak cask, there is vanilla and toasted oak, from the seasoned cask, brown sugar and ripe banana, while the oloroso sherry cask delivers dried fruits and spice. All of this comes together in the blend to create a rich, bold Irish whiskey that stands out, even when mixed into a classic cocktail or favourite mixer.
Click here to find out more about Slane whiskey, or order online.
Please drink responsibly.