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Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005 08:26 pm

Bearing the Celtic-music cross

The Lash plays Marly’s on Friday and Saturday

The Lash, a self-proclaimed Celtic Americana band from the Lansing, Mich., area, began as a simple St. Patrick’s Day escapade. According to Rob Kladja, the only original member still with the group, two separate local Lansing bands decided to launch impromptu Irish groups on St. Patrick’s Day in 1997. The two groups found other, joined forces, and became an instant hit as the only eight-piece Celtic-influenced band around with a 13-song repertoire. Soon the Lash began to live the large life of a popular Celtic-rock band. By 1998 they had released Celtic Mayhem Live on CD (available as a free download at www.thelash.com/cml.html) and were playing more than 200 shows a year. As the touring time increased, group members began dropping like flies and the lineup changed regularly. By the time the smoke cleared, around 2004, the Lash had survived 14 membership changes, released a studio CD (Every Direction, 2003), and played with everyone from Huey Lewis and the News to the Clancy Brothers, and its members were just about worn out. After a self-imposed hiatus from traveling for some much-deserved rest and reflection, Kladja reports, the now-four-piece band has stabilized, both in membership and direction. A new CD, Fire Under Grace, is in the can, scheduled for release on St. Patrick’s Day. The music on the disc, in Kladja’s words, “has a definite Americana, even alt-country, feel at times, although it’s still rooted in Celtic rock.” Plans include pushing CD sales to several thousand copies, routinely filling 500- to 600-seat rooms during live performances, and making a sane living playing music. We all know how important it is that Irish bands imbibe to be a part of the grand tradition of blessed drunkenness. Can the Lash still hold its liquor and put on a good show? Kladja reports, “We’re not the hard-drinking band we used to be — we once drank 14 rounds of Jameson’s during a show. Age and common sense have prevailed, but I would say I can still outdrink the rest of the band and still play, although that’s in large part because I have such a brilliant band supporting me.”
The Lash performs 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2 and 3, at Marly’s Pub, 9 W. Old State Capitol Plaza, 217-522-2280.

It wasn’t so very long ago that Springfield’s only Thursday nightlife diversions were open mics, DJs, and karaoke, but several clubs have begun featuring live music. The Oohs, the most recent Thursday addition, play at Mojo’s (225 E. Monroe St., 217-544-3400) in a very special acoustic version of their normally very electric show. They call it Ac-OOHS-tic. Pretty clever, don’t you think? Me, too. How about a big Springfield welcome for Suzy and the Smokers, our newest local blues band? Of course you won’t recognize the name of the band, but followers of the area music scene will surely know most of the players. Fabulous bluesman Bill Evans handles guitar; Suzanne Carr, of JackFlash and recently of Mojo Jones, belts out the vocals. John Turner is the drummer, Blake Everist plays bass, and Rick Speers takes on the keyboard. Carr described the group as a “swingy boogie-blues band,” and I’m taking her word for it. They make their debut hosting Blue Monday, the Illinois Central Blues Club’s long-running weekly get-together, at the Alamo (115 N. Fifth St., 217-523-1455) on Dec. 5. If you have a craving to contribute to the goodwill of the holiday season but would like to party while doing so, maybe the Parrot Heads in Lincolnland Christmas in the Caribbean shindig is just the thing for you. The annual event at Casey’s Pub (Knights of Columbus Hall, 2200 S. Meadowbrook Rd., 217-241-7101), held this year on Saturday, Dec. 3, features central Illinois’ only known Jimmy Buffett tribute band, the Boat Drunks. The $5 cover charge benefits Toys for Tots and several other Springfield charities, and if you bring a new, unwrapped $10 toy, you’ll receive a free 50/50 raffle ticket. The show starts at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.philclub.org. Chantilly Lace (2660 S. Fifth St., 217-522-7447), the south-side hangout chosen by readers of Illinois Times as the best place to dance in 2005, now features local bands on some weekend nights. Check out the cool sounds of Eldorado from 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. Hey, Chantilly Lace might be the Best Live Music Venue for 2006.
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