Herein lies a look at the music of ShamrockFest 2016.
Celkilt – I entered the ShamrockFest fray in time to see Celkilt, a Celtic rock band, on the Gold stage. The energy of their performance was enough to fire me and the nearby festival goers up for the day of music ahead. Even some of those had drank too much by this point… Celkilt is from Lyon, France and competed on the TV show, France Got Talent. I was intrigued by how much fiddle can be inserted into any given song.
Scythian – Which leads me to the band I most wanted to see (even after having seen them too many times to count). Scythian, a Celtic band led by the Fedoryka brothers (Alexander and Danylo) that started in DC at local Irish pubs like Finn MacCool’s (RIP) and Fado, is a fiddle enthusiasts dream.
They started a bit slowly, easing in to the set, but quickly picked up the thread of dance and fiddle with the foot-stomping, “Hey Mama Ya”. Their St. Patrick Day sing-a-long, “Galway Girl”, won over anyone that hadn’t yet heard of them. While “Dance All Night” and the bare knuckle brawler, “Jack Dempsey”, simply gave the eager masses crowded around the Green stage no quarter and no time to stand still. I will say that this wasn’t the best performance by Scythian (some of their 9:30 Club shows could claim that honor), yet their set imbued the spirit of Celtic music, and is always a joy to experience.
“Hey Mama Ya” by Scythian
The Fighting Jamesons – Next I sauntered over to the Gold stage to witness The Fighting Jamesons. Apt name. They were loud and ready to take over the party mantle thrown down by the previous bands. They gave no time to catch your breath, with songs like the head nodding “Drunken Sailor” and “Everyday Above Ground”. The six lads are local, coming from Virginia Beach, where they started in 2009.
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Back at the Green stage, I took in a few songs from the punk band, Street Dogs (from Boston), before venturing out on one of a couple of trips to explore the grounds. I caught a hint of For the Win and later stopped to catch up with Go Go Gadget (at the Dewey stage), having seen them at last year’s festival. I also poked my head into the Electric Isle tent, only to find myself in the presence of millennials dancing to trance and electronica.
No matter the line-up choices available, one just had to see what Mr. Van Winkle had to offer on the Gold stage.
Vanilla Ice – There is no way to accurately describe Vanilla Ice’s showmanship. It defies explanation, but heck, let’s try. You could tell he was having a blast on stage. Whatever Ice’s real connection to Irish music is (I’m sure I don’t know), he owned the theme by sporting a full kilt (thankfully long).
There was a non-stop parade of people he gave a shout-out to or introduced on stage. He never stopped effusing about the things and people he loves. He loves the Teenage Ninja Turtles (loves them!), and just had to play the “Ninja Rap” for us (his song from TMNT: Secret of the Ooze). The least necessary introduction was the creepy (nightmare creepy) clown that hovered and grinned all around the stage. The clown may have been a member of his band, Krazy Clown, but that detail eludes me. It made its entrance during a cover of a Digable Planets song and never left.
The last three songs or so, he encouraged select members of the crowd to join him on stage. Of course he favored the fairer sex, so the stage could have doubled as rap video shoot without a casting call.
The other noteworthy element was the reaction from the scrum of people loitering around the stage. Some stayed on the fringes, as if to make a hasty retreat if things turned south. Although, his rendition of “Dirty South” did ignite many to move closer. It appeared that most people stood there in shock, grinning widely to their neighbors, “Is this really happening?” It was. It did. And it was pure fun. No matter the rap that Vanilla Ice gets for his music, he absolutely owned that stage and the festival. His performance and song choices were exactly the right mix of party that the ShamrockFest is meant to offer.
Yes, he did play “Ice Ice Baby”.
Flogging Molly – The final band I witnessed was Flogging Molly, which I stayed for the majority of their set. The principal members started out in Los Angeles in the mid-90’s, and have a long track record of music, with five albums to date. Considered a Celtic punk band, you can tell they are comfortable on stage and know what their fans want to experience. The Clash and The Pogues are influences. They are the working man’s answer to sticking it to the man and fighting the powers that be. “Revolution” and “Rise Up” lend to the theme of not taking it anymore. Many of their songs touch on Ireland, and what it means to be Irish. A fine way to end the night.
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Unfortunately, I was suffering from a mean case of jet lag and Ice overload, so couldn’t make it through the final set by Dropkick Murphy’s. I did have a chance to see them live at Coachella a few years ago. I felt green with envy that I missed out this time.