St. Patrick's day is known for lots of things: funny hats, fake Irish accents and killer concerts. So, as we find ourselves on the verge of everyone's favorite excuse to drink green beer, we wanted to help get everyone in the mood by highlighting some of the best Irish- and/or Celtic-themed bands in Texas.
10. North Texas Irish Youth Band
The North Texas Irish Youth Band are a rotating ensemble of students from McKinney's North Texas School of Irish Music. The NTSIM is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization aimed at teaching the fine art of Irish music. While the school does offer various private lessons for adults, its main goal is to enrich the lives of young folks by offering classes focused on many traditional instruments like the bagpipes, harp, bodhrán and banjo. They also offer sessions on Gaelic vocals — which is just as cool as it sounds.
As far as the NTIYB itself, the students practice together a couple of times a month and play at least three concerts a year. This year, like many of their list-mates, the NTIYB were featured at the North Texas Irish Festival. Their dedication to Irish music, and at such an early age, certainly merits an appearance on this list.
9. Skeleton McKee
Skeleton McKee's influences range from Irish folk to bluegrass to country to swing. The band boasts two lead vocalists: Marj Troyer on the banjo and Betsy Cumming on the piano accordion. Rounding out the band are North Texas Caledonian Pipes and Drums-inducted drummer Trae Hamilton, blues-infused bassist Rodger Harrison and guitarist Jeff Christian of the Sultans and Kelvin.
Skeleton McKee has an original, smokey, bluesy quality to them that makes their music addictive, but satisfyingly traditional. Like several of their list-mates, Skeleton McKee recently made an appearance at this year's North Texas Irish Festival. But more often than not, you can experience them in all their wonder at The Celt in McKinney.
We'll go ahead and say it: If ever there was an Irish folk band that could knock One Direction off the cover of Tiger Beat, it's Flashpoint. Flashpoint's sound is rich, sophisticated, energetic and full of promise for the next generation of Celtic performers.
According to their Facebook, bandmates David Mehalko, Daniel Mehalko and Joseph Carmichael came together in 2009 after meeting at O’Flaherty Irish Music Youth Camp in Richardson, and the rest was history. Since then, the band have been making their rounds on the Irish/Celtic festival circuit and were even featured on a couple of compilation CDs, Jammed and Irish Music in Texas – Continuing the Tradition, both of which were released in 2012. In 2014, the band released their own EP, A Timely Misadventure, and they also appeared at this year's North Texas Irish Festival.
7. 5 Second Rule
Incorporating original material, fiddles, bouzoukis, whistles and drums, 5 Second Rule are the epitome of Celtic folk music. While making their local pub rounds and appearing at many local festivals, according to their website, the Dallas-based quintet have consistently been named Reverb Nation's No. 1 Celtic Band in Dallas. It helps that they have a star-studded cast of local artists.
Two of their members, David Lovrien and Rick Holt, are teachers at O'Flaherty's Irish Music Youth Camp in Richardson. Additionally, both Lovrien and Holt, along with Michelle Feldman and Traditional Irish Music Education Society (TIMES) president Paul Dryer, are members of the Trinity Hall Session Players. And that's not even taking into consideration lead vocalist and guitarist, Mike Tidwell, who's been rocking out all over Texas and California for the last 35 years. To be honest, the only thing that could make listening to this band even more fitting for the upcoming holiday would be a tall glass of Smithwick's.
6. Irish Rogues
Dubbed "Dallas' Premier Pub Band," Irish Rogues have been giving DFW a regular dose of authentic Irish folk tunes for the last 30 years. When these guys aren't jamming out at Trinity Hall Irish Pub in Dallas, you can count on finding them at the annual North Texas Irish Festival, which the Irish Rogues have performed at every year, since the festival began in 1982.
The current Rogue lineup includes banjo, violin and mandolin master Earnie Taft, bouzouki wizard David Sparks and Steve Harrison, who plays just about everything else. Together, these three musicians go above and beyond to engage their audiences by passing out sing-along booklets at their gigs and encouraging others, musically inclined or not, to join in on their performances.
What would happen if you crossed a hair metal band with Irish punk? You'd probably get something that looks a helluva lot like Houston's stout Irish rockers the Blaggards. Fronted by Irishman Patrick Devlin, who falls somewhere between Lemmy and Brett Michaels on the rockstar spectrum, the Blaggards might just define Texas' contribution to Irish rock 'n' roll. And along with bassist Chad Smalley and drummer and Irish step dancing champion Michael McAloon, the Blaggards combine tradition, hair flips and ass kicking to create something altogether Irish — and, well, Texan.
In addition to injecting some real, Irish rock into the world, the Blaggards' music has been featured on CBS' show The Good Wife and even feature films like last month's How to Be Single. Never a group to slow down, the Blaggards already have a healthy set of tour dates this year, which includes their 7th Annual Worldwide Tour of Ireland in the fall. If you can't make it out to a show, check them out online. We suggest beginning with "Drunken Sailor" in honor of St. Patrick's day.
4. String Theory
Hot off their recent appearance at this year's North Texas Irish Festival, String Theory are one of the newer (and younger) Celtic-folk bands in the area. While this band sticks to more of the traditional, high-energy Irish songs, their musical background would suggest a deeper appreciation of their craft. The main three members, Nathan Kennedy, Meg Tapley and Jesse Ramirez, are all accomplished musicians in their own right.
While all three artists participate in other musical projects, Kennedy is a national fiddle champion and a teacher at the North Texas School of Irish Music, Tapley handles the Irish flute and is currently attending UNT, and Ramirez has a master's degree in guitar and is currently a professor at Mountain View College in Dallas. One thing's for sure: If you're looking to kick up your heels and remember the green mountains of Erin, String Theory can take you there.
3. Black Irish Texas
Are you more of a Flogging Molly/Dropkick Murphy's kind of Irish music fan? Well, look no further. Austin's Black Irish Texas serves up the type of gravelly, punk-rock jams that are probably right up your alley — and they do it with a stand-up bass, a mohawk and the kind of growl that only comes from a Jameson-fueled good time.
Now if you're looking to sing along to "Danny Boy," you'll need to look elsewhere; Black Irish Texas refuses to be your average "Irish pub drinking band." Although, frankly, with their Peaky Blinders good looks and their raw, unabashed stage presence, there's little room for confusion.
2. The Killdares
The Killdares are DFW's go-to Celtic-rockers, and for good reason. This seasoned quintet have been kicking ass and taking names in the Celtic-rock realm for the last 20 years. But don't pigeonhole this band into the stereotypical "Irish-folk" genre. The last two decades have yielded some of the best upbeat, neo-Celtic indie-rock one could hope to find outside of Ireland.
Twenty years is a long time to keep the party going, however. And according to the band's official website, 2016 will be their last year together. That said, in addition to a few more announced shows, you'll be able to catch the Killdares on March 17 at Idle Rich Pub's Annual St. Paddy's Street Party.
1. The Rogues
Houston-based band the Rogues may be one of the best-known Celtic bands in the United States. Armed with their kilts, bagpipes and a healthy sense of humor, these Texans have managed to churn out 10 albums, landed 1st place at the World Pipe Band Championships and even a handful of Grammy nominations. And that's just the tip of the iceberg for these guys.
Several years ago, the band created their own theater production called Celtic Crossroads, and their cover of the classic Irish folk song "Bonny Portmore" landed on the soundtrack to the 2011 film Kill the Irishman.
The Rogues are traditional Celtic-folk music, in every sense of the genre. With albums like Hollerin' for Haggis! and Off Kilter, what's not to like?
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