For the journeyman bands who’ve been booked on the five makeshift stages, the City’s celebration is a chance to play in front of fresh faces, out in the sunlight away from the dank recesses of the downtown and island bars they’re so used to.
The names will be familiar to music-loving locals—Liquid Ginger, A Nickel Bag of Funk, High Velocity, Chuck Courtenay, Bottles & Cans, the Train Wrecks, the Eric Culberson Band, the Hitman and the Accomplices are among the performers.
Two kinda-local favorites we don’t see enough of —Les Racquet and the Royal Noise—are part of the festivities too. Now based in Philadelphia, the jazz/funk Royal Noise is putting the finishing touches on its third album in a Savannah studio.
And how about this? Danielle Hicks & the Eight Ohm Resistance, profiled in last week’s Connect, and Hilton Head’s Cranford Hollow, which has a sizeable Savannah following.
Sure there are some familiar faces in the bunch, but for quite a lot of the people who’ll be visiting Savannah for the first time, they’ll all be new bands.
And it’s virtually nonstop!
Check out the entire massive schedule at riverstreetsavannah.com
A longtime musical tradition in Savannah is the once-a-year triangulation of Irish folk musicians Harry O’Donoghue, Frank Emerson and Carroll Brown, all together onstage at Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub.
All three of these guys tour, all over the place, all the time. And they’ve all been playing Kevin Barry’s regularly since it opened in the 1980s. O’Donoghue happens to be the only one who calls Savannah home.
From March 15 through 17—the meat of this St. Paddy’s Day weekend—they’ll play together, in combos and, ultimately, as a trio.
For the musicians, it’s a high holiday of the greatest proportion.
“I start to look forward to it almost immediately after the last one,” says Emerson, a resident of Virginia. “We have an absolute ball.”
Emerson, who’ll perform solo March 13, and alongside Brown (from Charleston) on the 14th, says that not a lot of the drunkenness and mayhem of downtown celebration spills into the venerable public house.
“Kevin Barry’s is kind of an oasis,” he believes. “Primarily, it’s a mature crowd. You don’t get too many of the kids in there—it’s not their kind of music. It’s definitely not rock. It just appeals to an older audience.”
That’s not to say that the place isn’t packed during the Irish-est of Irish celebrations. 'Tis.
There are two stages at Barry’s, which is designed like a traditional, un-adorned, all-wood Irish pub.
One or two of the guys will be singing, playing and telling stories on one stage while another is setting up to do the same on the second.
“We do it in a kind of round-robin thing on the two stages,” Emerson says. “We do a really long set together at the end of the evening, a couple of hours. But it seems like it lasts 10 minutes to us. We enjoy it that much.”
They trade off on guitar, bass, pipes, tin whistle et cetera, as it comes to them. The storytelling is more or less spontaneous, Emerson explains, and the laughs are unexpected and constant. They’ll take requests and then decide who’s going to sing the lead. Then the harmonies arrive.
There’s no rehearsal necessary, because these old pros know very well what they’re doing. And no set list. “We know the first one or two,” Emerson chuckles. “And after that ... it’s kind of like being in a prize fight.
“After the first jab, it’s fine from then on. Once you get rid of the nerves, then you’re all set.”