Something very strange is happening in Ireland with its young folk. They have begun taking to Irish rebel music in a way unseen in a very long time.
It is an extraordinary development as what once was banned in many cases has become the favored form of music from a different generation.
The reversion to the culture of Irish rebel music is not the full story, but part of it.
Opinion polls show the under-40s generation in Ireland is sick and disillusioned by the perennial government contenders Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and seek a profound change.
Sinn Féin offers that only alternative choice and they have streaked ahead in most polls showing particular strength among young voters.
Side by side has come an entirely new perception of groups like The Wolfe Tones whose music embodies that protest spirit. Recently, that newfound affection among the young for them became very evident.
Electric Picnic is Ireland's Glastonbury festival, held in late summer with headline acts from all over the world and 70,000 revelers in attendance. The venue is in the open air in the Irish Midlands giving it a Woodstock feel that each new generation gets to enjoy.
It lasts three days and has become a definitive event of an Irish summer for thousands of young people.
Pop sensation and Grammy winner Billie Eilish - an Irish American from Los Angeles, her last name is O'Connell - was one of the headliners at this year's festival and attracted huge numbers.
But she was utterly overshadowed by the incredible reception for The Wolfe Tones, a band composed of three grandfathers - Brian Warfield, Tommy Byrne, and Noel Nagle.
The Wolfe Tones, a band that celebrates its 60th birthday - yes, 60th - next year swept on the stage to an incredible reception.
View from the outside… unbelievable lads ☘️👏🏼 Main stage next year 😉 You’ll never beat the Irish!! pic.twitter.com/Rs1LZEl55a— Stephanie Zambra (@StephanieRoche9) September 4, 2023
It felt like a time warp to me. I remember singing along with them at the Wexford Inn in Dublin 50 years ago. Yes, 50 years, when I was a young student in college.
Back then, the group was regarded by most in high places as a cowboy rebel band who sang banned IRA songs and were beneath contempt so much that many of their songs were banned from RTÉ radio for a time.
But now, a generation on, the three working-class grandpas musicians from unfashionable Inchicore, Dublin have suddenly become the ‘next big thing.'
The band never went away though, playing classic numbers such as “The Men Behind the Wire," "The Broad Black Brimmer," "Come Out, Ye Black and Tans," and many others throughout The Troubles.
They also focused on forced emigration in songs like "The Streets of New York" and "The Flight of the Earls."
Despite winning acclaim for their rendition of "Grace," the story of the tragic marriage of Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford in his jail cell before his execution in 1916, the band was still vilified in high places.
But it is a relatively unknown song that has truly catapulted them back into the top echelon.
“Celtic Symphony," a Wolfe Tones original penned in the late 80s, contains the chorus "Ooh, ahh, up the Ra," which you can now hear belted out from Sydney to Sligo.
The Irish women’s soccer team sang the chorus in their dressing room in celebration after qualifying for the World Cup last October. The instance proved controversial, prompting an apology from the team and, later, a UEFA fine.
The Wolfe Tones, however, defended the Irish soccer team, saying afterward: "If you don’t like a song then don’t listen to it but don’t try to stop others from listening to it."
Last weekend, they played it to the throngs of crowds at Electric Picnic:
It has become the battle cry for many in the young generation of Irish and The Wolfe Tones are unstoppable now, heralding a new era where long-repressed rebel songs will no longer be kept off the air.
Opponents still criticize and demean, but judging by the incredible reception from young people at Electric Picnic, Irish rebel the music has far from gone away.