They’ve kept us sweating until the last minute, but the jazz festival is definitely going ahead. Come Friday night, you'll be up to the roof of your skull in stout at some unreal gig by a band you’ve never heard of. It was a close call for the organisers, technical staff and the bands themselves. 

The only thing that could possibly stop it now is if a giant flock of covid-spewing bats are unleashed from a shipping container below in Tivoli marked “DANGER – COVID DELTA HELL”. Even still we’d probably fob that off as some sort of pre-Halloween rehearsal for the Dragon of Shandon Festival (which is also going ahead on Halloween night by the way).

We’ve come a long way. This time last year there wasn’t a pair of jazz hands nor a vaccine to be had anywhere. Now the pints, the bands and craic are back albeit with the spectre of NPHET’s furrowed brow looming over it – wrecking the carefree buzz we had hoped would come with the jazz festival.

It’ll be different to previous festivals no doubt. Bars so wedged with people that it takes fifteen minutes to work your way through the crowd to get to the jacks won’t be seen this year. Neither will packed nightclubs where the air is 50% influenza, 40% stout fumes and 10% chip burps.

Besides that though, it’ll still be a joy to be out and about. There will be buskers on every street corner. There won’t be a seat outside a restaurant, bar or café to be had. Even those inevitable Thursday evening Whatsapp exchanges will be back where someone innocently asks if the gang should all go to the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble gig in St. Lukes before learning it sold out about five nanoseconds after tickets went on sale.

The ticket-searching is all part of the craic though. After an hour of furious clicking and scrolling, you eventually manage to grab the last three tickets for some Nordic pianist who, it turns out, specialises in hitting the strings of a grand piano with a four coloured pen sellotaped to his head for most of his set - except for the bit where a woman comes out on stage and screams lines from a 4th century poem in sanskrit.

It doesn’t matter that it’s about as entertaining as standing on South Main Street watching the event centre not being built, it just feels good to be able to say you have managed to see something.

At this stage, we’ve been so deprived of live music that if you put on a gig where you lobbed a couple of stray mogs into a bag-for-life, spun them around in a shopping trolley for half an hour and called it “Jazz Cat-astrophe – Musical Purrfection In The Key of C minor”, it would sell out instantly.

Before you drop your Echo and start panic-browsing the internet for tickets, the good news is that there’s a stack of free stuff that you don’t need tickets for. Firstly, the open-air stage at Emmet Place is back (even though it’s not mentioned on the jazz festival website). There’ll be brilliant big brass bands playing there Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The newest venue on the scene is the Marina Market between Kennedy Quay and Centre Park Road which has a load of free gigs on over the weekend from midday right through to early evening – the pick of which are local brass boys Code of Behaviour and Dublin soul outfit Cooks But We’re Chefs.

A huge well-ventilated warehouse that’s full of mouth-watering food stalls is bound to be a big hit especially with families – parking on pothole-ravaged Kennedy Quay is free too.

Tons of city centre bars will have free live music too – some on the official trail and some off it. You might need to dig around online to get hold of the line-ups though as so many gigs have been thrashed together last-minute. 

With hospital admissions rising, only a gomey langer would assume covid is over, but don’t be afraid to relax, let your hair down and enjoy the festival either. It’s totally possible to wave your double-vaccinated jazz hands and have a brilliant weekend without acting like the Wuhan bat is hovering above your head!