Volume 91, Issue 88

Tuesday, March 17, 1998

magically delicious


The Irish run into the arms of London

By Lisa Weaver and Vivien Cheng
Gazette Staff

People of Irish background with a love for Celtic music, or just an affinity for green beer will be in luck tonight as St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by a pair of Canada's most talented traditional artists: The Irish Descendants and The Mahones.


"Growing up, we all had this music in our homes," says Con O'Brien, lead singer for The Irish Descendants. "I've always been a fan of the Dubliners, a singer named Patty Riley and Christy Moore," says O'Brien of his influences.

Hailing mostly from Newfoundland, the band members are Canadian-born, but possess strong Irish roots. The only exception is newcomer Eammon O'Rourke, a fiddler who joined the band last year. O'Rourke is a native of Northwest Ireland, whom O'Brien refers to as "the Irish guy."

The band performs their own brand of Irish Celtic music for crowds that are as varied as Canada is wide. O'Brien says they cater to the Hasbro Age. "You know, when you get a 'Hasbro' game and it says 'Ages 9 - 90' on the side of the box," jokes O'Brien.

He says the band is comfortable playing to any gathering anywhere and is capable of adjusting their performance accordingly. One unifying force for every show is the level of crowd enthusiasm, which O'Brien chalks up to the "infectiousness" of the music.

As for the lyrical content of The Irish Descendants' music, O'Brien says the band writes about their background and culture. "Newfoundland is an interesting and unique place to grow up in," he says. "We are trying to give a general idea of the place and who we are." But not all the music relates to these themes; the band also performs many "good time songs," which is perhaps where all the beer drinking and merry making comes in to play.

On April 7, The Irish Descendants are set to release their fourth album with Warner Music, entitled Rollin' Home. Fans of the band can expect more of the same type of music.

After tonight's show at the Nac, the band heads East. "They tend to know the music a little bit more at home," explains O'Brien. So why would they choose to celebrate one of their biggest holidays in London, so far from the Eastern coast? "It just happened to be a stop on the tour," admits O'Brien. "Although, it is the luck 'o the Irish for London," he laughs.

©Ray Finlay
WHO NEEDS LUCKY CHARMS WHEN YOU'VE GOT GREEN BEER? St. Patty's Day is off to a rockin' start with these laddies. The Irish Descendants (top) and opening act The Mahones (bottom) invite you to chase a few leprechauns, find those pots of gold and drink to the luck o' the Irish tonight at the Nac.


Another band with Celtic flavour, The Mahones, will descend along with the Irish Descendents tonight. But the significance of St. Patrick's Day means much more to the band's lead singer and guitarist, Finny McConnell, than just being green.

"It has as much to do with the good times spent with family and friends as it has to do with the beginning of the band. We formed in 1990 when the Celtic scene was just getting started, played a few gigs for friends and released our first album on St. Patrick's Day."

Since then, the band has released a second album, Rise Again in addition to the numerous gigs they have played across North America. A past major show has included an appearance on the roster of the Guiness Fleadh Festival on Randall's Island, New York, where The Mahones were presented alongside performers such as Van Morrison and Sinead O'Connor.

"It was one of the best gigs we've played," singer/guitarist Finny McConnell says. "We were playing alongside these megastars – but the highlight was seeing Winona Ryder," McConnell adds. Just back from a European tour, The Mahones are going back in May to promote their upcoming release.

Their new album has taken on a different tone – one that McConnell says will be a change from Rise Again.

"Even our second album was different from our first – it was more melodic and less raunchy. Our new album has more of a rock influence, with heavier guitar lines."

This step away from their Celtic punklore influences is due in part to the contribution of the Tragically Hip's drummer, Johnny Fay. Besides drumming on The Mahone's entire new release, the album was completely recorded at the Tragically Hip's studios and co-produced by Fay.

When asked if the yet-untitled release will have a certain Hip influence, McConnell replies, "Oh yeah, I think that the Fay's influence has been inevitable," and laughs. "But our sound has definitely matured – we hope!"

The Mahones will be kicking off the celebration of Irish Pride tonight by opening for the Irish Descendants. In consolation to all the fans who are afraid The Mahones have altered their happy beer-drinking songs too much, McConnell assures that the group has not changed its live act one bit.

London fans haven't been the only ones to see The Mahones and The Irish Descendants together. "They've opened for us a few times," says O'Brien of the Descendants. "It's a good marriage in that we pick up some of their fans who might not know us as well and vice versa."

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998