As the lushness of summer dies off and autumnal colors bathe the landscape, Irish music is keeping things green for a little while longer in the Garden State of New Jersey.
It’s a bit weird to see the bar bands that prowl your favorite pubs at night existing in the brilliant sunshine of the last two weekends, but they didn’t seem any worse for wear.
Birmingham Six is a spirited band formed in the fall of 2006. Taking its name from the six men wrongfully convicted of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, the band mixes traditional, rebel, contemporary and original Irish music to form its sound.
Their energetic live shows have become stuff of legend in the pubs of South Jersey and their native Philadelphia. I caught their sweaty set during the Irish Festival at the Jersey Shore in Sea Girt.
Their set was peppered with spirited instrumentals and chestnuts from the Pogues, Flogging Molly and the Tossers, with a little Clancy Brothers to boot.
Longtime readers of this column know how I hate hearing the same 10 songs at any given Irish festival, yet Birmingham Six managed to avoid that with obscure tracks like Flogging Molly’s “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” which is a hootenanny and a tear-jerker all at once when played in expert hands like these.
Mandolins and fiddles are played with breakneck speed and by the time their set ended, no one was sitting in their seats. The band can be found on www.birminghamsix.com
The band was the perfect appetizer for the Snakes, a wickedly fun outfit that, in the words of this columnist some years ago, offer “all the sudsy glory that you’d expect from a great bar band.”
They have made quite a name for themselves over the last 12 months, playing spirited sets in places like Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City with their irreverent, sloppy takes on tracks like “Dirty Old Town” and “Poor Paddy” from the Irish songbook slipped between cover versions of the Rolling Stones and Johnny Cash.
To see where they’re playing next, log onto www.thesnakesband.com
I was barely recovered from that festival when I stumbled into the Guinness Oysterfest in Red Bank, New Jersey this past weekend. It was there I encountered Brian Kirk and the Jerks in broad daylight.
The Irish American performer has been sweating it in the clubs for the last two decades, releasing original material and delighting crowds with a wicked sense of Irish humor and a ferocious live band.
They turned up the funk on Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” and Kirk got a few laughs when he introduced the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing” as a “homegrown country song.”
The band behind him, complete with a three piece horn section, switched on a dime as they moved from funk to blues to disco and back. You can follow Brian’s antics on www.jirks.com
While Brian wound things down on the west stage, the legendary Pat Roddy and his band set up shop on the east stage. They have a southern fried vibe to their blend of Irish American rock, slipping in buttermilk battered renditions of the Allman Brothers in their set. On this Indian Summer day, their breezy Eagles-inspired rock was just what the doctor ordered.
Roddy can be found on www.patroddy.com
and while you’re there, pick up a copy of his great disc of originals, Shed My Skin.
All of the bands have many upcoming dates on their websites, guaranteeing a plentiful harvest of Irish American rock this autumn! Put down the iPads, get off Twitter, and rock a club this weekend!