Pint of gold
During an evening with the Blarney Band, Irish stories and melodies are delivered with plenty of teasing.
“Pale Guinness … I’d send it back,” Dan Shannon solemnly advises a man sipping an amber-colored pint. He and his father, Keith, speculate on the possible existence of a Guinness lite, then launch into a rousing drinking song claiming, “If moonshine don’t kill me, I’ll live till I die.”
“If you drive home fast enough—you’ll get there before you leave,” Keith later tells a departing patron.
The father-son duo has played regularly at Ceol Irish Pub since its opening last year. In 2007, from February to December, the Blarney Band logged in 70 gigs in Northern Nevada and California pubs, Renaissance Fairs and various private celebrations.
“We change it up as much as we can,” Keith says of their music that incorporates voices from the Irish tenor to the drunk stumbling home from jail, as well as the guitar, mandolin, banjo and bodhran. Their repertoire spans a full range of the Irish genre, from the traditional “Fields of Athenry” to the “Son Never Shines” an acoustic version of the Flogging Molly hit.
“You’re encouraged to make it your own, as long as you put the spirit into it,” Keith says of Irish music.
“What’s amazing is the age range that it pulls in—early 20s to 80s,” Dan says.
The diverse appeal of Irish music is evident in the crowd assembled at Ceol, businessmen in suits, students in Wolf Pack hoodies, even a guy sporting a Kelly green Mohawk. By its nature, Irish music appeals to multiple generations and welcomes audience participation.
“The audience becomes the third band member,” says Keith.
At 11 p.m., after two solid hours of performing, the band pays a spirited musical homage to Charlie Mops, the fabled inventor of beer. The melody is sharp and fast-paced, but the chorus is easy for the audience to chime in “Beer, beer, beer.”
The Blarney Band infuses even non-Celtic music with the Irish spirit. Their rendition on the “Do Re Mi” song from The Sound of Music defines the notes in the scale in relation to beer. “Fa, a long long way to go for beer.” At the close of “It Brings Us Back to Guinness,” Keith insists that had the Von Trapp children learned the Blarney version, they would have had fewer issues later in life.
Of the Kingston Trio’s protest song “M.T.A,” Keith says as he picks up his banjo, “It should have been an Irish song.” The audience’s feet tap along with the rousing tale of the man unable to pay the subway tax doomed to ride the train forever. Gradually, the music fades with the final lyrics, “Man who never returned.”
The Blarney Band’s Friday performance rang particularly true with one visiting Irishman, who later asked Dan from which county they hailed. To his surprise, Dan replied “Truckee.”
The Blarney Band is best enjoyed among a group of friends, accompanied by a pint of Guinness.
And, as Keith says, “You’re welcome to sing along, it’s Irish music for gosh sakes.”