Pluck of the Irish
Listen up, laddy.
There are only two kinds of people in this here world. First, there is the Irish. And then there are the people who wish they were Irish. Of course, everyone gets to be Patty O’Furniture for at least one day during the blurry bacchanal when millions celebrate St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea by quaffing Guinness until St. Patrick drives the suds out of their intestines and onto the sidewalk.
I’m not Irish. My blood does not flow green. This fact was once made crimson-clear to me in Ireland, no less, by an Irishman, no less. This soused Seamus — a pug-faced pub dweller from County Galway — welcomed me to the Emerald Isle by smashing his head into my skull in a spontaneous expression of his displeasure with folks who aren’t, in fact, Irish.
Ah, give us a kiss, Finnegan.
But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t kill Kenny to be in Kilkenny. Or that I can’t eat, drink and be merry thinking about Kerry. Those of us with diluted ancestry get sick pining for Limerick. And I have teetered through the streets of Dublin. I have kissed the Blarney stone. I’ve toasted sweet lady Erin with a pint of Caffrey’s in Cork and had one of her native sons happily bust my face in Galway. But it’s not enough. And a single St. Patrick’s Day won’t cut it. We need … uh … Moher.
You can’t throw a leprechaun in most American cities without hitting an Irish pub — or at least a farcical facsimile of one. Kansas City is no exception. There are plenty of places where you can feed your craving for “Come Out Ye Black and Tans” and your jones for Jameson — apostrophe-heavy places such as Blayney’s, Harling’s, O’Dowd’s and, before it went teats up, Fitz’s Blarney Stone.
Still, I found myself at the Uptown Theater last Friday night. It was time for a hoolie — the Elders’ Third Annual St. Patrick’s Day Hoolie, to be exact. I didn’t rightfully know what the hell a hoolie was — if it wasn’t Darius Rucker — but I knew it would be a delirious little donnybrook of its own.
Those searching for Irish-inflected music haven’t exactly been found wantin’ in the years since that potato-famine thing. And several modern artists — from U2 and the Cranberries to Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys — have put their own shamrock imprint on traditional tunes. But make no mistake, it’s the ruddy-faced anthems of yore — with the drummers drumming and the pipers piping — that get the lords leaping and the ladies dancing.
The Elders are well aware of this. Which is why their originals could pass as the kind of tunes we all like to imagine are still played in small country pubs in small country towns all over the Irish countryside. And although the Kelihans and the O’Riada Irish Dancers were some hearty cabbage to start the night, it was the headliners that provided the corned beef. Despite their geriatric name, the Elders — a group unafraid to toss in some wailing guitar — proved themselves to be anything but tired as they coaxed a sizable crowd into making this party off the … uh … hoolie.
The lord of this dance was Elders’ lead singer Ian Byrne. When the tireless County Wicklow native wasn’t playing a flute, rubbing a washboard or shaking a tambourine, he was bounding across the stage exhorting — in his thick brogue — the crowd to scream, clap their hands and move their feet. The audience obliged as the Elders romped through “Haverty Boys,” “Moore Street Girls” and “Men of Erin.”
“Last year on St. Paddy’s Day, we left Kansas City like a bunch of bloody traitors,” Byrne told the crowd. “So this time — despite a bunch of offers — we’re going to stay at home this year.”
The cheers erupted, and the beers lifted. It hardly mattered that St. Patrick’s Day was still six days away.
But if the night delivered a moment for tears, it came when Eddie Delahunt joined the band onstage for “Irish Ways, Irish Laws.” Delahunt, a Dublin native and a staple at O’Dowd’s, W.J. McBride’s and Mike Kelly’s Westsider, has battled back from a debilitating illness that had him on the verge of his very own Irish wake.
“He’s a bloody god,” Byrne said by way of introducing Delahunt. “Thanks be to God he’s still alive. Thanks be to God we’re all still alive.”
And as the Elders tore through “10-Pound Earhole” and recruited some Kelihans for the night’s finale, “Devil’s Tongue,” it seemed a very good time indeed to be alive and Irish. And we all were.
We’ve been accused on occasion of being relentless, bloodsucking vampires. Well, that assessment is closer than you might think. You see, we don’t sleep at night. We don’t rest until the break-a-break-a dawn. We are ageless machines brought to this world for the sole purpose of scouring every club and saloon in the Kansas City metro area. We will not pause until we give you the inside scoop on every dive in every corner of this fair City of Fountains. Which is why our tireless clubs editor, Todd Broockerd, has been working round-the-clock to dig up dirt on the destinations Kansas Citians return to night after night. We now feature an ever-expanding clubs directory in the online edition of the Pitch music section at Pitch.com. Wanna know what James Joyce might think of O’Dowd’s Little Dublin? Have a hankering to find out why the pinball machines at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence tilted the venue in our favor? Dying to know if hitting that all-ages show at El Torreon is worth the tetanus shot? We got your back. Just go easy on the garlic.