The Syracuse Irish Festival has once again outdone themselves in providing a wonderful experience to all that attended this Friday and Saturday, September 6-7. From social media posts galore, the evenings performances did not disappoint.
Performances Saturday continued to meet and exceed expectations for festival goers. Tom Dooley Choraliers in their dapper kelly green jackets began the day while Attractive Nuisance, a local band who brought their own flair to Syracuse of Celtic Rock made their festival debut this year on the Magner’s Main State. The Moxie Strings joined Syracuse Irish Festival this year all the way from Ann Arbor, Michigan with a new vibe using traditional instruments. The much loved and adored Blarney Rebel Band also did not disappoint in their Celtic mix of ballads, folk songs, jigs and reels. As much as the music they play rocks, their playful banter between band members is just as entertaining to the audience. Rounding out the early hours of the main storage was another local group, The Causeway Giants, who began the windup for the night with their high energy and fun flair and made Syracuse proud. In between sets traditional Irish Dancers performed and wowed the crowd making years of practices and performances look as though it was as easy as can be.
At every festival, there is a breakout group that wows the audience with something new. This year was no different. !!!ToTs!!! and The Pale Green Stars were this years WOW factor. Michael John Heagerty, self proclaimed rapper of all things spuds, totally took the crowd by storm rapping “Twice Baked” and a few other tunes all about potatoes, while Jeff Jones, Brian Coyne and Jeff Tripoli accompanied on bass, drums, and guitar. If you weren’t a potato lover in the beginning, you definitely were by the end.
As Gaelic Storm began to get closer to their performance, the sky began to set the stage for an upcoming show of its own. In the meantime though our favorite Canadians, Searson, took the stage and began to whip the crowd once again into a frenzy as they had the night before. Erin and Colleen Searson, sisters and musical and step dancing partners since childhood, along with Danno O’Shea on drums and newcomer Oriana Barbato Guerrero on bass won the crowd over time and again with their performances. Playing tunes such as “Footstomp”, that lived up to its name, and “Highway of Heroes”, which pays tribute and tradition to those that have served their country proud. Syracuse favorites and regular performers at the local Kitty Hoynes Pub, Searson exclaimed that “Once again the Syracuse Irish Festival 2013 was an amazing festival to perform for! Energetic crowds, welcoming fans and fantastic production. We absolutely love Syracuse and it always feels like coming home.” Searson, Syracuse and Central NY love you too and this will always be a home away from home for you.
Rounding out the night and gearing up for the final act was return Syracuse Irish Festival performers from Annapolis Maryland, Dublin 5, formerly known as The Rovers. The festival could not have chosen a better band to go up against mother nature, because the moment they took the stage, the skies opened up and down came the rain. But the crowds, they loved them and no where did they go. And why would they when the Dublin 5 were playing up a storm? Fronted by Ray Murphy on lead guitar and vocals, Jenn Garman on fiddle and vocals, Eddie McGown on bass, bagpipes and vocals, Jim Martin percussion and Kevin Shook on drums, they played crowd favorites like “Galway Girl” and “Devil Went Down to Georgia”, but it was numbers such as “Raggle Taggle Gypsy” and “Nancy Whiskey”, and finishing off the set with “Tell Me Ma” that brought the crowds to their feet stomping and dancing in puddles. By the end of the performance the crowd had been won over by the Dublin 5; they had them at hello. The most memorable number was “Back Home in Derry” that sealed the fate of those yet unconvinced. The reminiscent tune from Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald” the story behind the tune written by Bobby Sands while imprisoned was a beautiful ballad and sealed any uncertainty that may remain. Well played Dublin 5, well played.
As the Dublin 5 ended their set and the clouds took a break, the stages were set for the final act of the night. And how fitting that in these storms, Gaelic Storm would be finishing out the 2013 Syracuse Irish Festival. From the moment he began his banter, Patrick Murphy charmed the crowd. So witty and expressive, his ability to engage was apparent. Steve Twigger was the hell raiser on stage. Living up to this title with vocals and guitar jamming, he convinced you if there was no one out in the audience, he would still be doing the same thing because he is a true rocker. Walking around back stage with hands taped up, anyone noticing Ryan Lacey would wonder if he had injured himself. Within the next hour though he proved that this was the farthest thing from the truth. His amazing ability to tap out a beat on anything would amaze and incite the audience into a roar. Pete Purvis, introduced to everyone as “The Canadian” brings to the table so much more than beer and hockey, as he plays a multitude of instruments such as the Highland pipes, Uilleann pipes, Irish whistle, bass and the occasional tambourine. This piper is not just a bunch of hot air. He totally rocked the crowd with each instrument he played. Finally rounding out Gaelic Storm was the beautiful and talented Kiana June Weber. The newest member of the group, Kiana balances out these gentlemen with amazing strings and steps that win over the audiences hearts and souls the moment she takes the stage.
From the moment they began, Syracuse crowded the stage and screamed and hollered as though they were teenage girls watching The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965. Their choices for their setlist were a perfect flow to keep this crowd engaged. And engaged is even too calm a word for the reaction they displayed. True performers, they included the crowd as part of their show with two young ladies dueling a dance to “Darcy’s Donkey”, and when the crowd insisted on one more song, they began pulling a multitude of concert goers on stage for the final number. There were two numbers that stood out though, “Me & the Moon” and “Blind Monkey”. As they began to play “Me & The Moon”, the crowd was divided down the center to chant along as they sang and held up lighters/cell phones as though the moon was right there. “Blind Monkey” was the most entertaining Celtic jam session ever witnessed. Each performer showcased their ultimate talents together and individually. It was here that Ryan Lacey became an ultimate hero as he played a wooden box, while Patrick and Kiana waged a Celtic step session battle of sorts. Gaelic Storm proved once again, as the storm blows through, they were the fiercest of all storms and played through to the end with full crowds despite the conditions.
What makes the Syracuse Irish Festival so outstanding? The volunteers, the collaborative efforts with the City of Syracuse, the local businesses that sponsor the event and the attendees. It is one local festival that doesn’t charge for admission because all they want to do is share the music, the food, the fun and make you part of their Irish family. Irish fans are a different breed; there’s something about those that gather to celebrate Irish music, for the events bind them together as though they’ve known each other forever. They’re a family of sorts and through thick and thin, they push through the adversity to celebrate life, love, and traditions each year at all the festivals they attend, and Saturday’s crowd outdid themselves. They endured the pouring rain to cheer on and partake in a party celebration of traditions of centuries from some of the best entertainment around. What makes Central New Yorkers special? Well since the 1960’s at Woodstock, we have proven that no matter how much rain…for good music they’ll stay for the duration.