*Editor's Note: Welcome to season two of Mike Farragher's "TAYSHT" series, his column and podcast exploring Irish America's culture and food. You can read the previous installment here.
If you’re an Irish American, then Shilelagh Law is your story.
Your story, that is, if you’ve won All-Ireland championships, have a penchant for pizza and late-night White Castle runs, and amassed a rabid following of fans up and down the Northeast corridor!
Shilelagh Law was born out of the close-knit Irish American neighborhoods of Yonkers and The Bronx. After a few years of wandering around after graduating college, Terence Brennan, Richard Popovic, and Stephen Gardner re-connected over their mutual love of old Irish songs.
When a heavily distorted version of “Wild Rover” found its way onto their punk and hardcore set list, Terence soon picked up the bodhrán, and a new direction was born. The fast and rowdy liberties they took with old Irish standards gave the songs new life and dragged them kicking and screaming into the light of a new day.
Denis McCarthy joined Shilelagh Law after hearing about them from his brother Kevin and seeing a flyer in a men’s room. He wisely tore the flyer down to remove any other fiddling competitors, not that he needed to. Denny won multiple All-Ireland championships in a number of categories.
“It came at a perfect time in his life,” Kevin McCarthy reveals on the latest TAYSHT episode. "After our father died, he kinda walked away from music for a while, and this brought him back.”
Kevin, a masterful piano accordion in his own right, soon joined the band, and a legendary lineup was formed.
To immerse oneself in a conversation with this band is to immerse oneself in a high school locker room, where verbal towel snapping and chops busting is the primary mode of communication. What lurks beneath, however, is a tight musical brotherhood and an incendiary jam band chemistry when they hit the stage.
They’ve become a regular at Citi Field for the New York Mets Irish Heritage night, and have seen their music featured in movies (including one I made), a Honda web commercial, and, most recently, the CBS cop drama "Blue Bloods."
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I caught up with the band before their latest barnstorming tour to celebrate 25 years together. Popovic has recently unearthed old diaries, planners, and videotapes from the early days, and they reveal on the TAYSHT podcast that there is a loose plan to drop that on their fans throughout this anniversary year.
I’m here for it!
To find the nearest Shillelagh Law show or to pick up some merchandise for the St. Patrick’s season, check out their website here.
Check out the latest TAYSHT podcast, featuring Shilelagh Law, here and over on Spotify:
*Mike Farragher is a playwright, filmmaker, novelist, and podcaster. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @brainonshamrox, or visit his website MikeFarragher.com.