OUT THERE: Going Green?

OUT THERE: Going Green?

It seems the Irish are finally coming around on this whole St. Patrick’s Day thing.

Its origin is tied to the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, thus suggesting a more solemn tone than the bacchanalian excess that is the North American celebration.

However, the sway of the church has diminished and the popularity of the parades and shenanigans popularized across the pond have taken root there.

“I think everybody loves a holiday where you can just drink, in the afternoon,” suggests John Campbell, of traditional Irish pub band Celtic Way.

Leprechauns be damned, green beer be cursed, but if there’s a single stereotype left standing through it all it would be that of fun-loving drunkards. Unlike much of the lore surrounding the patron saint of Ireland, it wouldn’t be a complete myth, and since everyone is Irish on St. Paddy’s Day, we can all share some of the credit/blame.

Celtic Way has been around, in one form or another, since 1973, playing as Irish Stew up until the ’90s. While band trips to the States have shown them another level of rowdiness, the band has managed to be banned from playing the King’s Head Pub again after a fire extinguisher was let loose in the club and a bathroom door was broken one year.

Another time, Campbell was accosted by a young woman who came up onstage just before the band was to start and managed to lose her cellphone. After helping look for a time, he asked that she leave the stage so they could play.

“She turned around and said, ‘You don’t talk to me like that’ and slapped me in the face and ripped my shirt. Then she fell on her face on the drum riser, and she was wearing a little skirt and her skirt went up so her thong and ass were sticking out at everybody,” he recalled.

The band plays three sets Saturday night at the Irish Association of Manitoba club on Erin Street at 8 p.m., two more in the afternoon of St. Paddy’s Day proper on Sunday at 3, and then three sets Sunday night at Shannon’s Irish Pub downtown.

Stepping in at the King’s Head on Sunday night is veteran Celtic rockers the Dust Rhinos, who also play Fionn MacCool’s on Regent Avenue that afternoon. Their annual Big Sociable event on Saturday night at the Park Theatre is sold out. That show tends to attract the more dedicated fans of a band rocking into its 27th year of performing.

“I know for a lot of people it’s maybe a big drinking day, but for us it’s really a musical day,” frontman Blair McEvoy said. “And we get to go and play music for all kinds of people, and generally everyone’s in a good mood and happy. It’s also a day where you know to take the next day off.”

On that front, you’ve got to hand it to Newfoundland and Labrador, where the Monday following St. Paddy’s Day is a public holiday.

Of course it’s not all about Guinness, Jameson’s and/or Irish Car Bombs for everybody. McEvoy is of Irish heritage but doesn’t drink. He jokes he writes lots of drinking songs because he actually remembers what happened the next day.

Over at the Irish club, as its commonly known, they have even more reason to celebrate this year.

St. Patrick’s Day central for the local Irish community, they never have any trouble filling the place for its slate of events this weekend, which include all the traditional touches in the food, drink and entertainment departments. But after a few lean years during the rest of the calendar, its membership is on the rise again, climbing some 40% over last year to more than 200.

The club has a new sign installed this week to increase its visibility on Erin Street, and is working at improvements to its accessibility and overall design.

“To be honest with you, we as a board were trying to decide whether or not it was time to look at selling the club. And this year was going to be the year to decide, and it just turned around, touch wood. Hope it continues that way,” president Joe Savage said. “It seems like the Irish are on the upswing.”

Kking@postmedia.com

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