Scythian, DC’s homegrown Celtic band, stole the show at the ShamrockFest last weekend during their performance at RFK Stadium.
The polished banter and showmanship among the four current members was fully on display as they kicked off their set with their well-known “Irish Polka,” calling out to the crowded field before them to dance to your left! to your right! to your left! And they welcomed revelers to bounce back and forth with beers in hand.
Alexander Fedoryka, Josef Crosby, Danylo Fedoryka, and Tim Hepburn put on a spirited display of a group united as they earnestly enjoyed their time on stage as much as the audience. They appeared at ShamrockFest as part of a tour for a new acoustic album, Old Tin Can, technically scheduled for release on April 23. But some of the liveliest songs came from last year’s Jump at the Sun, including “Paint This Town” and “Fields of St. James.”
Early in the set, the band introduces “Paint This Town” as a song about moonshine and dancing, and they fire up some appropriately loose and rootsy barnstorming as Alexander takes lead vocals and his signature fiddle for the song.
They close out with “Fields of St. James,” which they dedicate to “Irishmen who don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Danylo switches off from rhythm guitar to accordion for the number as Alexander spins a tall tale.
Scythian demonstrate some versatility in a slightly darker song, Whiskey, a sea shanty of sorts, from their 2012 album “It’s Not Too Late.” Josef and Alexander both take up violins as Josef leads some darker, mournful vocals in telling whiskey that “it’s a devil” that “has taken all that is good from me.”
The band sings as a chorus for the happier “Hey Mama Ya” a zydeco-style song from their fourth studio album, American Shanty. The audience embraces it as nonsensical, riotous fun.
Scythian celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, and the band is going strong despite some lineup changes over the years, including the addition of drummer Tim only within the last year or so.
As they do annually, they are performing several pub shows in the DC area as a nod to their roots. On Thursday, they play at Fado (808 7th St. NW, DC), and on Friday, they hit Flanagan’s Harp & Fiddle (4844 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, Md.), the new incarnation of the suburban pub where they actually got their start (formerly at 7637 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda). On Saturday, Scythian head to Baltimore to perform at Mick O’Shea’s (328 N Charles St., Baltimore, Md.).
Scythian have gotten really quite good and the core members have truly demonstrated that they know what it means to put on a show. It’s worth your while to catch them again soon, particularly if you’re inclined to see them in an intimate pub show this weekend rather than at a sold-out ShamrockFest with an audience of thousands last weekend.