Irish bands gear up for big day


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"He must have been an admiral, a sultan or a king/and to his praises we shall always sing/Look what he has done for us/he's filled us up with cheer!/Lord bless Charlie Mopps, the man who invented beer beer beer/tiddly beer beer beer."

-- "Beer, Beer, Beer"

And so, many a glass will be lifted on Saturday to good old Charlie Mopps, who is ... not the man who invented beer but does have a name that rhymes with barley and hops.

Celebrated by the Clancy Brothers and others, he is merely the mythical inventor of a brew that has inspired many an Irish drinking song that will be heard in the bars on Saturday.

St. Patrick's Day is when the beer turns green, in this country anyway, and the bands work overtime, playing till their fingers are blistered and throats are raw.

Some bands play three- or four-hour marathons. Others jump from one bar or party to the next.

Dan Macel, of veteran Pittsburgh group Red Hand Paddy, says, "We have three gigs on St. Patrick's Day, starting at noon and ending at 1 a.m. the next day: Hard Rock, Claddagh and Harp & Fiddle. It is nonstop excitement and fun."

"Obviously, St. Paddy's Day for an Irish band is a huge event," says Jim Smerecky, who fronts the rowdy acoustic Celtic punk group Bastard Bearded Irishmen. "It's not something other bands experience or can really even relate to. For example there is no 'metal' day or rock 'n' roll holiday. [Editor's note: not a bad idea.] We play this upbeat, deep rooted music all year long for Irish music lovers everywhere, but for one day it is appreciated by all because on that one day, everyone is Irish."

He says the only day that really compares would be "182 days later, when we celebrate Halfway to St. Paddy's Day!"

That was right around the time last year when the Bastard Bearded Irishmen got a prime opening spot on the Dropkick Murphys' Shamrock-N-Roll show at Station Square. You can tell just from the band's set list what is in store for those who enter the Hard Rock on Saturday night: "Gang's All Here," "Whiskey You're the Devil," The Pogues' "If I Should Fall From Grace of God," "Beer Beer Beer" and "Drinkem, Drankem, Drunkem."

"A very Bastard instrumental," the singer says.

So, how does an Irish band prepare for one of these gigs? Well, it rehearses, of course, and then it plays it by ear.

"We don't have set lists. for the day, we go with the flow," Mr. Macel says. "We gauge the type of crowd and fit the songs to them."

He says some of the fan favorites are Steve Earle's "Galway Girl," the traditional "Follow Me Up to Carlow" and, the biggest?

"Perhaps '500 Miles' always gets the biggest reaction."

That one would be on loan from Scottish pop-rockers The Proclaimers.

Less of a pub band and more a pastoral one is traditional folk group Callan, which will start its Saturday in Slippery Rock and then roll into the South Side.

"There are sing-songy tunes that people recognize and request, and there are bands that do mainly that genre. Think Dubliners. There are also the Celtic rock bands," says bodhran player Kip Ruefle. "For Callan we stay away from both of those genres. We concentrate on what I consider to be the real Celtic music. Our stuff is pretty obscure but includes all the standard types of tunes ... reels, jigs, hornpipes."

As for that newfangled take on the popular St. Patrick's Day beverage, Mr. Ruefle contends that "no self-respecting Irishman would ever drink green beer."

ST. PATRICK'S DAY GIGS

Mullaney's Harp & Fiddle, Strip: Indoors: Mark Geiser (noon); Whiskey Limerick (4 p.m.); Red Hand Paddy (8 p.m.). Outside tent: Ricky Manning (3:30 p.m.); Guaranteed Irish (7:30 p.m.). $10. 412-642-6622.

Claddagh Pittsburgh, SouthSide Works: The pub will open at 8 a.m. with kegs and eggs and live 6 Nations Rugby. Tent: Red Hand Paddy (11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.); Gan Ciall (3-5 p.m.); Shanid (5:30-7:30 p.m.); Callan (8-11 p.m.). Pub: fiddler (10 a.m.-noon); Sean McClory (1-6 p.m.); DJ J-Hov (8 p.m.-2 a.m.). 412-381-4800.

Hard Rock Cafe, Station Square: The Ginger Beards and Red Hand Paddy (outside, free, noon); Bastard Bearded Irishmen, 9 p.m. ($10). 412-481-7625.

Mahoney's, Downtown: Big Jim and the Ravens, post-parade Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Finnigan's Wake, North Side: Doors open at 7 a.m.; $10 cover includes breakfast buffet 8-10:30 a.m.; six acts TBA start at 8:30 a.m. Mike Gallagher, 9 p.m. 412-325-2601.

Smithfield Cafe, Downtown: Guaranteed Irish, noon-5 p.m. 412-281-5452.

Easy Street, One Oxford Centre, Downtown: Mike Gallagher, noon-4 p.m. 412-235-7984.

Barley & Hops, Bethel Park: Terry Griffith, 3-6 p.m. 412-854-4ALE.

Cappy's, Shadyside: Terry Griffith, 9 p.m. 412-621-1188.

North Country Brewing Company, Slippery Rock: Callan, 1-4 p.m. 724-794-BEER.

Peter B's, Sarver: St. Patrick's Day BREWtality Celebration with The Noble Hops Band, All My Monsters and Five Alarm Flood, 6 p.m. Admission is $6 starting at 9 p.m. 724-353-2677; www.peterbonline.com.

Fifth Avenue Place: St. Patrick's Day Family Fun with face painting, Children's Museum of Pittsburgh crafts, live music and play-for-prize games, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Free.


Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com ; 412-263-2576; Twitter: @scottmervis_pg; blog: www.post-gazette.com/popnoise .


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