American Wake

It may be counter-intuitive. but Milwaukee is home to a pretty notable Irish music fest.  It is, of course, held on the Summerfest Ground, because why not?


The Irish Immigrants who moved this far kept their heritage alive pretty well, and considering the discrimination they faced, who can blame them?  I dunno if they had a difficult time with the predominantly German people who were here (but there’s a reason that ‘German-Irish’ is a pretty common heritage in Wisconsin) but since drinking is an important part of both heritages, they have by now made their peace.

Irishfest attracts bands from distance, Ireland, of course; but also New York stalwarts Black 47 have been here often.  Currently, the hot performers are the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Gaelic Storm, who pack stages.  But of course, we delve further afield….

The stage listings had an interesting thing this year; there were many bands with a graphic say “Music Nova Scotia “.  And I have to say right here that Friends Of Zombie The Stanfields would have fit right the fuck into this festival, yes.  I remarked that at Summerfest, a large number of the bands I saw and talked to were from Nova Scotia.  I have to give props to the city for making a fruitful effort to spread the music of the city around.  I kind of wish american cities still had money to do such a thing, but apparently our money is reserved for strip mining, bailing out rich people, and building weapons.


So, yeah. IrishFest.  Irish music.  Irish-y music.  We spent a long time watching Derek Byrne and Paddygrass and having good beers. and then looking for something appropriate at the late night headlining spot.  Which we found in a band called Cutthroat Shamrock, whose website says “punk, appalachian, and Irish” Oh my that’s a sweet spot that is.  The band looked like ZZTop after taking an unusual career twist, but played like Split Lip RayField had merged with the Pogues (although the bass player used a proper upright, not a modified pick up gas tank).  Here they are playing a song:

And even better, for their last song, they brought out the singer and fiddle player from local Irish-punks Whiskey Of The Damned to sing and play along.  AND THEN, because the stage crew had to break down the stage, but the band didn’t feel like stopping, they came out into the crowd with their guitars to sing one more un-amplified.  God, I love it when a band is having more fun than you are.

Then, we got new beers and wandered up the grounds to the next big stage, and saw Screaming Orphans (OK, I admit they could have picked a better name).  Four sisters from Ireland, playing, pop-rock, and including keyboards, fiddle, or accordion as necessary.  As Larry kirwan (Black 47 bandleader and Friend of Bastard) says “I am Irish, this is my music, that makes it Irish Music”.  As ever, seeing women in a band was great, considering the misogyny of the music industry; but even more, at an Irish music festival where women seemed largely relegated to playing fiddle or dancing that weird, restricted dancing style on the side of the stage.

And, being musicians, they of course knew that they should pay tribute to the local heroes (and because the are self-proclaimed Angry Girls):

Seriously, they had me at the “big hands” part.

And then they played this (but with three guys from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers):

I LOVED the lyric modification to “shot of vodka/ shot of vodka/ rum an a rum an a rum an a coke”

But as much as I love that song, i really want them to change the gender.

At the end of the day, I spent the evening at a wonderful festival with the woman I love, and we saw great stuff and had great talks and great beers, and I saw great new bands to add to my Library.

As is typical, I recommend all you readers to check these bands out, but not just by doing the cheap download.  Get your fucking ass off the fucking couch and go see some fucking live music. Rock music is not the only one that lives in the live venue; musicians live to play for YOU, so goddam it, go out and be the second half of that equation.  Music means NOTHING unless someone is receiving….


2 responses to “American Wake

  • paleotectonics

    Great post. Love Gaelic Storm. You ever try scots stuff, Battlefield Band, Runrig, Dougie McLean, Big Country?

    Awesome last 2 paras – got some sand in my eyes…

  • Derek Byrne

    Derek Byrne from Paddygrass here, very happy you enjoyed our music. Hope to see you at a show some releasing a new CD soon. Love to send you a copy

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