Filmmaker Elise Salomon Discovers Gritty Rockers’ Bar in City Centre pub that’s all heart and authentic soul.
An LA-based independent filmmaker, my current feature had me traveling in Europe recently for three weeks filming our final leg in Ireland. Los Wild Ones is a feature documentary on Wild Records, a record label comprised of young Hispanic musicians who play 1950’s Rock ‘n’ Roll. The Ireland angle? The owner and manager of Wild Records, Reb Kennedy, aka Mr. Wild Records, is a “good Dub” (Dubliner) and an Irishman through and through.
Going to Ireland was a highlight of the project for me. We had a day of filming scheduled in Dublin’s City Centre and an impromptu arrangement for Reb to guest DJ at his friend’s pub on Thomas Street. This provided the perfect excuse to make the pub our base camp for the day so we could film Reb giving us a tour, spinning at the pub, and wrap filming that night. I’ve had worse assignments.
That’s how I came upon The Thomas House.
I met co-owners Kevin O’Kelly Jr. and Gareth Cummins, two young music promoters with no background running a bar. The site has hosted a pub since 1710 but The Thomas House Pub itself was founded in the mid 1990’s and became one of Dublin’s most popular bars in the City Centre. Unfortunately, success didn’t’ agree with the space and after years of slowly declining into a tourist trap (the bar literally had a theme of bras hanging from the ceiling), it eventually closed its doors in 2010. That’s when Kev and Gar stepped in, scraping enough money together to take over the lease, driven by a simple but powerful ambition: create a bar where they could drink with their friends.
They made only moderate changes to the physical space (the bras hanging from the ceiling had to go) but initiated a big switch in the ethos and mission of the pub. Believing that a loyal, local clientele wanted a comfortable, friendly place to grab a pint, they focused on reviving the pub’s reputation. They reopened the doors in July, 2011 and haven’t looked back since. Thomas House is getting ready to celebrate its two-year anniversary under Kevin and Gareth’s ownership and now proudly wear the mantle of Dublin’s finest dive bar.
Their rough-around-the-edges bar staff — who happen to be Kev and Gar’s closest friends — make the pub what it is, as do their hardcore, loyal regulars. They are real people and the pub is their heart and soul. The staff dance to the records spinning, laugh while they pull pints, tease each other constantly and bring as much atmosphere to the pub as do the tattooed regulars. There is a genuine ethos and belief system behind it that matters very much to Kevin and Gareth and it’s equally as important to their regulars. It can be likened to the community found in the punk scene in the late 70’s early 80’s in New York City at CBGB’s.
Now local critics are taking notice and sites like PUBLIN are writing about The Thomas House on a regular basis, featuring articles about the pub and highlighting their events. It’s also quickly becoming a highly sought-after venue for special events such as hosting the official Dublin launch of the ROLLING STONES 50 book. And in April of 2012, Kev and Gar were crowned Kings of the first-ever Sailor Jerry ‘Roll with the Punches’ cocktail competition.
A handful of bars have recently caught wind of what The Thomas House is doing and there are rumors that bars are going to try to replicate what The Thomas House has in the way of cheap pints, a good jukebox and live gig calendar and “vibe”. Good luck to them because there is no way to duplicate or replicate this. Thomas House is special because of WHO works there. It’s the people that make the place.
They also host numerous live shows and events including game nights; Top Trumps and Quiz Night are their most popular. Adults playing games for worthless prizes and attempting to answer questions after countless pints inspires a level of hilarity that is indescribable – the kind of laughter that leaves you feeling like you’ve run a 10K. While I was there, I witnessed a long and challenging conversation between a man with a fabulous Mohawk and one of the regulars, an astrophysicist. I listened to a man named Dr. Bob Bastardson, PhD (who is not any kind of doctor in any way, shape or form) argue why there is no such thing as “110%”. I saw a man named Toner drink Guinness out of condom. I tasted TK Lemonade – Ireland’s answer to “Kook Aid”. It was all something of legend. That’s when I knew I had to speak with Kevin and Gareth about working with them on something creative. I had to film this.
I consider myself lucky to have happened upon this unique pub and I look forward to seeing the staff and regulars, who will immediately “take the piss” out of me. That’s how I know they love me. It’s also how I know that I have a very special property on my hands and I can’t wait to get back into production with these misfits. I’m counting the days until my return this month. Sadly though, I will be traveling at the very end of March and will not make it to Dublin in time for St. Patrick’s Day. But for those of you getting ready to celebrate the good saint’s holiday later this week (or for those of you who are lucky enough to be in Dublin), here’s how Thomas House prepares for the holiday:
“Legend has it that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Much like the saint himself, Thomas House aims to drive out the snakes of mediocrity in the Irish pub scene. One by one we will smite the tourist trap paddy whackery of St. Patrick’s day here in Dublin. Last year, everyone woke up the next day with no recollection of what had just happened. We had to resort to CCTV footage to piece together the events of the past 24 hours. This year we will do it all again, but with helmets on. Within two hours of stepping off a plane in Dublin, any self-respecting tourist will want to vomit with the sheer barrage of fake Irishness. We are the antidote, the snake charmers. Thomas House will never give in to the norm. We will celebrate Saint Paddy (who was actually English) in our own way: By not allowing admittance to anyone wearing fake beards or green pope hats. We will play punk, ska, rockabilly and indie all day and night and avoid cliche traditional Irish jigs and reels because this is Thomas House.”
Los Wild Ones was one of eight films selected to premiere in the Documentary Competition at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival. The South by Southwest Festival is known for the music festival and interactive festival, as well. The events take place March 8 – March 16 in Austin, Texas. The film had its World Premiere on March 11, 2013.
LA-based independent filmmaker Elise Soloman’s credits include Producer, Paper Heart starring Michael Cera, Charlyne Yi and Jake M. Johnson and Co-Producer of Smashed starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul.
All images: Shay Murphy