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Colcannon and the spirit of St. Patty’s Day

March 17, 2010

In honor of St. Patty’s Day, today I post a review of a March 7th hap’nin at the Midwest Theater.

Straightaway I must disambiguate this post. I am not talking about colcannon, a dish best served hot. I am talking about Colcannon, a band best experienced live. (The Colorado Colcannon, not the Australian one.)

Colcannon is an Irish band that also plays some Scottish tunes and the occasional Eastern European composition, complete with throat singing. (Yes! Throat singing! I’ve been a fan of it since seeing Ghengis Blues.)

Colcannon at the Midwest was an awesome event. The theater was packed, all but the front few rows filled (which I’ve noticed is a peculiar habit among Midwest-Theater-goers: they always fill the back rows first). The concession stand was supplemented with Irish creme and green beer. The concert was so engrossing that attendees were shocked at concert’s end to find that three hours had passed and the sun had set.

Colcannon on stage at the Midwest Theater

From left to right in the above photo, the band members are Rod Garnett (flute and fife), Jean Bolger (one mean fiddle and occasional accordion), Mick Bolger (vocals, tall tales, and bodhrán), Mike Fitzmaurice (double bass, guitar, bass harmonica, and THROAT SINGING!), and Brian Mullins (guitar, mandolin, and a cittern/bouzouki named “Ruby”).

Some of their songs are slow and sad. Some of their songs are joyful, with rhythms that are impossible to sit still through. Some of their songs are lyrical and get stuck your head and come out to play days later. All of them are worth a listen. (I am partial to a song off their most recent “Three Days in May” album: “Katie’s Rambles / Swimming in the Gutter.” *heehee*)

And one of the band members is particularly worth a watch onstage: Brian is a kinetic sculpture with an oscillating steel flatspring for a spine and the goofy energy of a third-grader.

But Colcannon is not a band to take the stage just to perform music.

Colcannon members have conversations with their audiences. Mick is the main explicator, but the other band members tell stories, submit commentary, and solicit audience feedback as the spirit moves them. On this day, one of their sidetrack conversations was funny stories about children.

The band members are also educators, happy to explain their instruments and musical style.

Mick explained how to tell the difference between a reel and a jig. If you can say “peanutbutter-peanutbutter-peanutbutter” in time to the music, it’s a reel. If you can say “elephant-elephant-elephant”, it’s a jig.

I spent the rest of the concert mentally singing about elephants and peanut butter.

The band was scheduled to perform a concert for schoolchildren the next day. I’m sure they were a hit! (They’ve won a Parent’s Choice Award, after all.)

So, in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, I encourage you to eat some colcannon and listen to some Colcannon. You’ll be glad you did.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 17, 2010 12:57 pm

    We need to figure out a way for you to get paid for these magnificent blogs!

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