Is the Rock'n'Stroll walk through Dublin, in the footsteps of rock stars like U2, the Dubliners, Boyzone, and the Hothouse Flowers really the Irish capital's answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame? It is a decent stroll, but to be quite honest, it really is not in the same league. In fact, the whole Rock'n'Stroll experience is quite parochial and hopelessly outdated.
The self-guided tour to some of the places where Irish music history (such as it was in the more modern times) happened may not be all that interesting unless you are either of an older generation or a serious student of specifically Irish popular music theory. And whoever put the "rock" into Rock'n'Stroll had a very hazy concept of music styles.
Because many of the stars commemorated by plaques on buildings are not really "rock'n'roll" artists. Then again, the plaques themselves show where the originators of this "modern" take on a Dublin tour were coming from— they show a vinyl LP—which may not be instantly recognizable to the younger generation.
What Is Rock'n'Stroll?
Installed a few years ago, plaques highlight Dublin buildings where music history happened. We are not talking Händel's "Messiah" here (which was first heard in Dublin), we are talking U2's "Desire." In an effort to get the younger visitors moving, Dublin invented the Rock'n'Stroll, a self-guided tour through music history.
Buildings are identified by plaques in the design of a vinyl long-play record, giving the reason for its importance. The design of the plaque was not meant to be nostalgic—vinyl was still cutting-edge when the Rock'n'Stroll was invented—which may bode ill for the tour being up-to-date in the fast-changing world of rock'n'roll.
In fact, while the plaques are still to be seen, we haven't seen the Rock'n'Stroll promoted in recent years. So the walking tour might follow the advice giving by CSI-stalwarts The Who in "My Generation": why don't you all f-f-f-fade away?
Right on Henry Street, you'll find a plaque that tells you Ronan Keating was once selling shoes here. Now Ronan (and his former group "Boyzone") may be accused of many things, up to and definitely including the pre-meditated murder of musical classics, but never of being rock'n'roll. Neither would this sobriquet fit the "Dubliners," the seminal folk group remembered at O'Donoghue's Pub.
Some people might be a bit confused by the choice of artists to be found on the Rock'n'Stroll.
And What About the Sights and Sites?
Just off Grafton Street, the Rock'n'Stroll plaque informs us that the Hothouse Flowers used to spend their money (made busking in the vicinity) in a pub here. Now that's what we call music history ... apart from the puzzled look some people might adopt when faced with the problem of recollecting one hit single the "Hothouse Flowers" had (hint: "Don't Go," also a very fitting comment on the Rock'n'Stroll).
Another great moment can be found just up the road on St. Stephen's Green, the venue where U2 played some of their first gigs. The only problem being that the area has been massively redeveloped since the venue has gone and been replaced by a restaurant ... but the plaque at least keeps the memory alive.
So, Anything Exciting at All?
Well, yes and no—sure fans of U2 will be delighted that they are where one of the first concerts took place, despite the sobering reality of the site. And fans of Irish folk music will make a pilgrimage to O'Donoghue's (one of Dublin's best pubs) anyway, it is a legend on its own. So the dedicated enthusiast of music history will be pleased overall.
And it is a way of getting around Dublin with a twist, exploring some sites (slightly) off the tourist route. So, it's not that bad after all.
Where Can I Join the Rock'n'Stroll?
The Dublin Tourist Office used to sell brochures, detailing the tour and giving you information on the music stars honored and these may still be available. Start in Grafton Street or St. Stephen's Green.
Otherwise just keep looking for those plaques while strolling around on your own. See the Rock'n'Stroll as part of the entertainment while discovering Dublin, without following the route. That may be the best approach, unless you were an avid follower of the Irish music scene in the 1980s.