We all knew one of Those Kids in high school or middle school. You know the type I’m talking about: obsessed with British culture, watched Doctor Who religiously, owned a tea tin with the queen’s face on it, listened to the Beatles non-stop, talked with a fake British accent sometimes (the more I describe it, the more I realize I was one of these kids…) Well, I had my British phase, but it quickly got swept to the side and replaced with my Irish Phase (I say this as if I am still not in the middle of my Irish Phase).
It all started in 8th grade, as most good stories do.
One of my friends had invited me to a concert: “It’s sort of like…punky Irish rock but also like traditional Irish and they are great, you’ve gotta come with me”. I was offered a free ticket, a free ride, and free dinner. Who was I to pass up such an offer? We got to the concert and the smell of cheap beer and various other illicit substances hit me in the face like I had run smack into a wall. I looked around me and saw a wall of runs-too-small band t-shirts hanging on the wall, each with various pictures of pirate ships, skeletons, and the like. “Flogging Molly,” a small black t-shirt with a pinup girl on it read. Around me were a motley crew of individuals: overweight balding bikers covered in tattoos, small emo boys with those swishy bangs that drove me crazy in middle school, the odd Irish mom-looking type… And there were we: two short chubby teenagers with braces and glasses, one of us clad in too-tight skinny jeans, the other in oversized basketball shorts.
The lights dimmed and the crowds went…insane. Bikers were slinging beer left and right, sending souvenir cups flying through the air and spilling all over the unsuspecting concert-goers, myself included. I would have to find a way to explain to my mother why her 14-year-old daughter came home smelling like stale beer and a bunch of sweaty Irish men, but that was a problem for later. A bunch of dudes with beards and red hair, and then one super cool lady that I had a crush on.
And as soon as they started playing I fell in love. The bass was pounding so loud that I could feel it pumping my heart and the intense guitar was underscored by some super rad electric fiddle (way more badass than it sounds). I bought a shirt from their merch store and then bought their most recent album at the time: Drunken Lullabies. That album was all that I listened to for an embarrassingly long time. I listened to it on my super snazzy white mp3 player and learned all of the songs on my out of tune but well-meaning guitar (accompanied, of course, by faux-Irish-accented singing) without understanding literally any of their politically-charged lyrics.
For your listening pleasure, I have included two of their songs below!
Rebels of the Sacred Heart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gdlkx_cIqtE
If I Ever Leave This World Alive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POHYhiYZIbk (acoustic, super chill and lovely song)
Every year since then, at least once a year, I have gone through phases that last a solid week where I will listen to nothing but them and scream their lyrics at the top of my lungs while driving in my car.
My love for Flogging Molly led me to get really into Irish music in general; I started listening to traditional Irish music, even stuff in Gaelic and Irish (there is a difference). I remember one time in high school, one of my friends invited me to this little dive bar in Montrose (for any of you non-Houston folks, that’s the “gayborhood”) where she said some local bands would be playing. The place was called McGonigal’s Mucky Duck (which is still the best name I have ever heard) and it was small and crowded, with tables packed so closely that you could barely walk between them. One of the headliners was (I believe) called Clandestine and the lead singer was a middle-aged woman with this beautiful head of bright red curly hair. All of their music was really good, but there is one song that stood out to me and that I still think of to this day. It was a cover of this song called Away From the Roll of the Sea and it was one of the most beautiful renditions I have ever heard. I searched high and low to find a version of her singing it, but I have never been able to find it. The song itself is so incredibly beautiful, so I’ll give you a link to a pretty good version, just as long as you know that the version I heard was better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eY9NPu5yeJA
A year or two later, I was struck with a particularly bad case of insomnia and the sads, so I was up at around 1 or 2 am, surfing the channels on basic cable. I came across a telethon fundraiser raising money for cancer and was like “This will do”. They had various local celebrities and personalities giving interviews, but what caught my eye was the cute elfish-looking man singing a beautiful Irish folk song. Within minutes, I was sobbing like a little baby. The song, I later found out, was Isle of Hope (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt9UQcKJH_w) and the singer was Emmet Cahill, a member of Celtic Thunder. For the next two hours, I scoured youtube for videos of Celtic Thunder, watching anything and everything that I found. Then I scrounged what little money I had together and bought a DVD of one of their performances (Heritage) off of Amazon. For the next few weeks, I would watch that DVD at least twice a week, until I knew all of the songs by heart. One of the things that I love most about Celtic Thunder is that they cover such a broad range of genres. They sing contemporary hits, a bit of country, Irish traditional music, and much more. I’m gonna include a few of my favorites below:
Black Is the Color: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKSFOC8b6Yw
Maid of Culmore: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4MpgIgosdM
Since then, I’ve added a bit more to my repertoire of Irish music, but Flogging Molly and Celtic Thunder will always be my favorite. Irish music is just great, guys. It’s so melodic and gentle and comforting.
Another honorable mention – The Parting Glass by The High Kings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcSqI1KZiLI