There is no room at the inns for Peter Garagan. The pensioner from Glasnevin in Dublin is walking through Tullamore town centre, trailing his accordion in a travel wheel bag behind him.
It is Friday evening at Fleadh 2009 and a breeze blows through the town, bringing to life the rows of flags hanging from lampposts. Currents of music are wafting through every street.
A man sings the blues as Gaeilge over the PA system. But there is no room at the inn for Mr Garagan and he is on his way.
"I arrived down by bus this morning, but I can't get anywhere to stay," he says.
"Not a bed to be had. I'd sleep on the floor if I could even get a place, but there is nothing. I've been down for the last two years and I always got something. I'll see, I might try to come back down in the morning."
His plight reflects the popularity of the Fleadh, the largest traditional Irish music festival in the world, which takes place annually, more often than not, under the radar of the national media.
The Fleadh doesn't receive a fraction of the publicity afforded to, for instance, the Electric Picnic, yet in sheer volume it dwarfs all other gatherings. Over 220,000 people are expected to have visited the eight-day festival by the time it winds down today.
While the country wallows in a summer of discontent, numbers are up this year, a development that is attributed to people using the occasion to serve as their annual holiday.
On Friday evening, Tullamore town centre was closed off to traffic. The evening's main attraction would be an attempt to break the world record for the numbers gathered to play traditional Irish music.
This record was set last year at the same venue. It is now becoming a feature of the annual fleadh to beat the previous year's record. The competition for this record is less than fierce.
Crowds began to assemble in the town as the shadows lengthened on the far side of six o'clock. Performers set up spontaneously to play.
Everybody is bearing either an instrument to make music, or a helping of alcohol with which to lubricate the receipt of music.
This is the only music festival in which the performers appear to outnumber the spectators. Every other person milling around is harbouring a dark instrument case of promise.
The town has got into the spirit of things. Shops are transformed for a week. One premises, trading under the sign 'All About Mortgages' now has a sign on its window 'All About Accordions and Concertinas'. Instead of property brochures, the window displays an assortment of instruments. Down the road, a shoe shop is offering 70% reductions as a "Fleadh Special". The retailing doldrums have elicited some creative marketing strategies.
In the midst of all this ceol and caint and something for everybody on the street, the real world raised its battered head down the road in the Tullamore Court Hotel. Therein, Taoiseach Brian Cowen propounded on Nama and banks and the Commission on Taxation and Lord God above was there any chance of escaping all this awfulness for just one night of music and imagination.
The press conference was pedestrian. Nama is still going ahead. Cowen spoke for some minutes in that patter that threatens to squeeze all humanity out of his communication with the masses.
Then he uttered the phrase that out-waffles all others in the current lexicon of economic jargon. He spoke of "distressed assets". What is to be done with these distressed assets? Should they be treated by counsellors? Are they suffering from post-bubble stress disorder?
Later, in O'Connor Square, the world-record attempt was opened by the Taoiseach. Before ascending to the back of a lorry, he mingled. Many of those approaching him had the gait of mourners sympathising with the bereaved.
Whatever blame is accruing to Cowen for the woes, there is little doubt but he is also carrying the load for others who have skipped off into the sunset of fat pensions.
He opened proceedings with a few belts on the bodhrán, and they were off.
Over the following one hour and 40 seconds, a total of 3,457 musicians weighed in with their contribution to set a new record.
The taoiseach beat the bodhrán for one tune, and then a big screen lit up with the name of the next tune due. 'Around The Fairy Fort'.
That sounded too much like Nama. Cowen dropped his instrument.
On nearby Harbour Street, the crowds had thinned out. A man and woman were both seated in chairs on the pavement, squeezing a slow waltz out of their respective accordions.
Another couple danced in the middle of the street, all smiles and fleet of foot, lost for a few moments in music and movement.