Wayne Webster wandered along the only street in the tiny village of Feakle in western Ireland, clutching his fiddle and looking for a place to play.

It was after midnight, and the catchy rhythms of traditional music spilled out of the town's four pubs. But there was barely elbow room anywhere, let alone space for another fiddle.

"You can't even get into a pub, let alone a session," lamented Webster, a retired American teacher.

Traditional Irish music, with its hint of American country music and links to the music of Scotland and of Brittany, in France, has gone through periods of being out of favor, even disdained.

But these days, the Irish blend of toe-tapping reels, jigs, chanteys and hornpipes, wistful airs and haunting tunes, played with pipes, flutes, fiddles, concertinas, guitars, mandolins and the bodhran -- a goat-skin drum held with one hand and played with a stick -- pops up everywhere.

Fans flocked to Feakle in County Clare this month for the town's International Traditional Music Festival.

"This is No. 18, and it's getting frightening, it's so successful," said organizer Gary Pepper.

Louise O'Connell, a teacher from Cork, watched her friends tear through jigs and reels outside Pepper's Bar.

"You could meet an awful lot of people who would say they're not into it," O'Connell said, adding that she would probably have been in a disco if her friends had not dragged her along.

"But I'd say that you would also meet a lot of people now who would say it's not uncool." The crowds of professional musicians, amateurs, tourists and locals packing Feakle's pubs would certainly agree.

Thanks in part to the enormous success of Irish dance extravaganzas like "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance," which have been seen by tens of millions of spectators, Irish traditional, or trad, music is enjoying a renaissance.

Trad musicians cross the globe, and wherever there's an Irish-themed pub, there's a good chance one is playing Irish music there.

"Irish music is no longer something that just happens in Ireland, it's not even something the Irish own, no more than the Jamaicans own reggae," said Martin Hayes, born into a family of musicians in Feakle and now one of the world's top interpreters and innovators of Irish fiddle music.

Hayes, who got his first fiddle when he was 7, wowed a sold-out concert audience at the festival with a medley that came to a heart-stopping climax then carried on for another 15 minutes.

Jeroen Hoogeveen, 33, who works at a flower auction in the Netherlands, traveled to Feakle to hear Hayes, improve his own fiddle technique and immerse himself in music.

"For me, it's music without selfishness, it's from the heart and from life, and you feel it and you get it," he said.

Feakle isn't the only town in Ireland using music to woo visitors. Doolin, near the dramatic Cliffs of Moher in west Clare, is renowned for nightly trad sessions in its pubs.

Festivals like the one in Feakle offer amateurs a chance to rub shoulders with professionals at concerts and workshops.

But farmer Mark Donnellan, 29, who plays fiddle at Pepper's every Wednesday, thinks there is also another reason why more and more people are rediscovering Irish music -- some after giving it up during adolescence.

"It's probably harder to meet people through the more conventional methods," he said. "There are always nice people around Irish music."

Traditional Irish music has regained popularity in wake of shows like "Riverdance," above, and "Lord of the Dance."