click to enlarge St. Pat's party up
The Emerald Underground joins in the parade of Celtic music this weekend with shows at Lime Street Cafe on Saturday night and Danenberger Family Vineyards on Sunday afternoon.

Welcome to that most wonderful time of the year when the true "March Madness" occurs. And, yes, I'm talking about St. Patrick's Day happenings in Springfield, Illinois. Granted, St. Patty's Day partying happens all over the U.S. – and other parts of the world for that matter – but around our town we've always shown a special appreciation for enjoying Celtic craic with a genuine Irish hooley.

The continuation of the tradition rests mainly with a local organization that began decades ago involving area families interested in paying respects to their Irish heritage. This marks the 40th year of the group hosting a downtown parade that focuses on fun, marching bands, floats and a love for Irish ancestry. But we're here in this space to discuss mostly music, so just think of how the Celtic world has influenced our national music throughout the ages. From Irish folk tunes becoming the basis of popular songs for hundreds of years all the way up through contemporary artists such as Van Morrison, U2, Thin Lizzy, Sinead O'Connor, the Pogues and many more musical acts, the reach of Celtic-influenced music is pervasive and permanent.

We definitely have a few local combos doing music based on the Celtic sounds in a variety of ways, though it's generally just once a year (much like the popping up of gaudily decorated lawn leprechauns) that they appear. With the dozens of other music groups playing who are obviously in support of the partying atmosphere supplied by the St. Patrick's Day connotations, if not in performing the Irish music itself, this weekend looks to be a party-filled blast of green-fueled fun.

Since we have three main Irish-y acts in town and they each play more than once this weekend, let's just list who and where for each to avoid any Celtic concentric confusion. The Emerald Underground – the granddaddy of all our groups – plays what they call Celtic Fusion, a combination of rock and shamrocks, shall we say, featuring songs by the likes of Gaelic Storm, Young Dubliners, the Coors and many more. The quintet lands at Lime Street Cafe this Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Danenberger Family Vineyards on Sunday (2 p.m.). Plus, if you're in New Harmony, Indiana, on Friday night, experience them at the Rapp-Owen Granary.

Skibbereen, named after a famous place in Ireland (and a traditional song as well) describe themselves as an "Irish traditional and Celtic rock band" and cover a superb variety of just such music. The Skibs will be at Boone's on Friday (5:30-7:30 p.m.) for the green version of Friday Night Jazz & Blues, sponsored by the Springfield Area Arts Council, and downtown on Saturday at Whiskey Jacks in the heart and guts of the parade festivities at 1 p.m. Then they head off to Peoria on Sunday evening for a show at Kenny's Westside Pub (5:45-7:45 p.m.) for Kenny's 11th anniversary party.

McKinney & Hennessey, which is the duo of Rick Dunham and Tom Irwin (me!) named after our great-grandfathers, plays pub-style, acoustic-based Celtic folk music, mostly covering the Clancy Brothers classic drinking songs and standards from the St. Pat's Day songbook. On Saturday, we will be at George Rank's after the parade (1:30-4:30 p.m.), then gallivanting over to Harvest Market upstairs (6-9 p.m.) for a nitecap. On Sunday (3-6 p.m.), catch us at It's All About Wine for our St. Pat's day proper show.

Other Celtic-style groups playing Thursday in ticketed events include Broken Brogue (from Decatur) at the Hoogland Club Room and Rebels-Devils (from Oklahoma) at Twisted Tree Music Hall in Jacksonville.

Now go have some fun and don't forget to get your green on.

Tom Irwin

Tom Irwin, a sixth-generation Sangamon County resident, has played his songs and music for nearly 40 years in the central Illinois area with occasional forays across the country. He's contributed to Illinois Times since 2000 by writing Now Playing, a weekly music column, as well as features stories and other articles...

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