First of all: Hello, and welcome!
Yes, this place is still alive - we over-dramatize things sometimes, hence the "dying" part.
Now, on to your questions:
The application: First you should post a thread here
and get approved, then we'll open up the other forums for you. If that is in fact where you can't post, then either come bug me on IRC or send me a PM and I'll see if I can get it sorted out.
As for IRC: The webchat should
work, but I can't say anything specific as it's Nazeo and not me who set it up. However, there are free IRC clients available (I'm guessing you tried mIRC).
These would be:
If you need anything else, don't be afraid to ask~