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Thursday, March 15, 2012 12:23 am

Under the Irish influence


This weekend The Emerald Underground performs all over creation in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

In Springfield our Celtic heritage runs deep, with St. Patrick’s Day as one of our most anticipated holidays, celebrated with the long-running marching band parade on the nearest Saturday to March 17. Other celebratory activities include corned beef and cabbage on every corner, excused excessive drinking, sporting Irish colors as a one-day fashion statement and singing songs like a true green Irishman.

Irish ways, or Celtic ways, to be more general and specific simultaneously, are alive and well in the capital city other than just during St. Paddy’s Day festivities. The lively, serious and dedicated heritage emanating from the British Isles permeates much of our early American folk history while continuing to percolate up into contemporary culture. Area groups such as St. Andrew’s Society of Central Illinois, Ogilvy Studios and Illinois Elks Pipes and Drums, and events like the Highland Games and Celtic Festival, Ancient Athletics and Robert Burns Supper, encourage a fresh outlook and renewed participation in the old ways.

Along with these organizations, local Celtic bands came to be, including Stone Ring Circle that evolved into The Emerald Underground (former members include Lanny Montgomery, Jack White, Laura Conant, Hank Helton, Denny Moore and Debbie Ferguson) performing “Celtic Fusion” and Doon the Brae that soon became Exorna, doing tunes of a traditional Irish pub band, with front man Victor McMullan actually born and raised in Northern Ireland.

This is a busy time of year for Celtic musicians, playing parades, pubs and places being Irish for a day. Watch and listen for dancers and the pipes and drums groups popping up all over town. As The Emerald Underground (Nat Radwine, Joe Kath, Theresa O'Hare, Bill McKenzie, Lori McKenzie, Tom Irwin and Chas Blythe) celebrates a decade of making music with shows at Lime Street Café on Friday and Saturday, Marly’s Pub directly after the parade and Sunday at Hill Prairie Winery, Exorna (Victor, Forrest Harris and Tim Duggan) also commemorates 10 years of merry music making, and does so by playing shows in Peoria, Danville and Champaign. On Saturday the Fake McCoys, led by Mark Butler, the English-born, former Exorna guitarist, entertain from 5 to 8 p.m. at Marly’s, plus opens for TEU at Lime Street. Skibbereen, coming off a recent CD release party, plays the Elks Club on Friday, then on St. Pat’s Day does the Tin Can Pub at 9 a.m. and continues the binge with a 4 p.m. show at Catch 22.

Let’s take a pause to introduce the Tin Can Pub, situated at 225 E. Monroe in the former Bedrock’s and Remy’s location and operated by your genial host, Scott Francis Kelly. Opening on St. Patrick’s Day with Skibbereen and free corned beef and cabbage in the morning, Elvis Himselvis at 2:30 and a live radio remote from Boss 96.7, the bar specializes in can beer only, with more than 80 varieties, plus your usual mixed drinks. Scott set up a real CD jukebox with cool selections and stays open Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Congratulations to the Tin Can Pub and welcome to the local family of bars.

In a decidedly un-Irish event but worthy nonetheless, the hip and cool all-ages venue Black Sheep Café presents an extraordinary concert on Saturday. The event features Kevin Seconds, frontman for legendary punk/hardcore band 7 Seconds and Kepi Ghoulie, the singer/guitarist of the popular punk/pop rock band the Groovie Ghoulies. As stalwarts of the American punk scene, these two guys are not only good, they’re legendary in the circles they travel. Opening the show are local heroes Jason Perry of Resident Genius with his new band Sin Taxi, Kirk Donely of the Transatlantic and Blackfeet, plus Big Bones, featuring members of the popular Obi Wan KBM.

Now go for the green and get Irish-ed in it.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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