Solas brings Irish culture to Long Beach
Published: Sunday, March 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012 15:07
Solas, an Irish folk band, engaged concertgoers with music and stories Saturday night at the Carpenter Center.
The show felt like an episode of VH1’s Storytellers. Each song had a history, and that history gave the songs life.
The first set of tunes were titled “Wiggly Jigs,” and were entirely instrumental. Seamus Egan (flute, banjo, guitar, mandolin), the band’s leader, said, the first jig, written by Eamon McElholm (Guitar, Keyboard), was called “Pancake Tuesday.” The song was a tamer version of Fat Tuesday in Ireland.
Egan said, “The Irish don’t normally do anything tamer than other people, so it’s something to celebrate.”
After the jigs were over, Niahm Varian-Barry (vocals) took the stage and sang a Richard Thomas cover titled “Poor Ditching Boy.” The vocals and the music both took center stage. However, the vocals added a lot to the overall sound, and harmony of the music.
Next up was a set of songs that had of history of confusion. Egan joked that the song “Sunday Waltz” was a song that “went wrong from the start.”
He said, “It’s not even a waltz, so if you all of a sudden feel like waltzing, don’t because it’ a jig.”
Egan wrote “Solo Double Oh,” the second song, after having a “little cup of rocket fuel.” The song was meant to be a jig but turned into something different.
Both songs took the audience back to a time when acoustic music was complex, and had intricate layers. The music contains the raw energy that only folk music can possess.
The passion for the music shows on each player’s face, and the movement of their bodies. Winifred Horan (violin) danced throughout the performance, and the rest of the band, provided the percussion beat with the stomps of their feet.
As the night went on, Solas began to explain the story behind their next album, “Shamrock City.”
Egan’s great uncle, Michael Conway, inspired the album. He was an Irish immigrant, who traveled to Butte, Mont. in 1910 to work as a copper miner, only to die six years later from a blow to the head in the mines.
“Shamrock City” hasn’t been released, but the band played several songs from their new album.
“Tell God and the Devil” sounds like a working song, with an edge that expresses hardship and perseverance.
“Welcome to the Unknown,” is an instrumental song that is meant to express the physical landscape of Butte, Mont. and the emotional landscape of the immigrants traveling to Butte.
Horan wrote the song, and explained that an immigrant’s “heart and soul never settle, because of the home they left behind.”
The tune expresses longing, and was beautifully composed with the violin taking center stage.
The last song they performed from “Shamrock City” was titled “Michael Conway” and was sung by Mick McAuely (Accordion, Guitar). This song was told and sung from the perspective of Conway and his journey. It is a sort of kick back to old folk music, and was reminiscent of folk songs like “Tom Dooley.”
The rest of the night consisted of original instrumental pieces, and covers of a Bob Dylan song titled “7 Curses”, and an Appalachian folk song called “Willy Moore.”
An instrumental extravaganza, titled “Bird in the Tree,” closed the Saint Patrick’s Day concert. It was a explosion of flute, violin, accordion, and banjo solos. The performance resulted in the audience clapping, and stomping along with the beat.
When the band finished playing, the entire crowd stood up and cheered until Solas returned to do an encore with the traditional Irish song “The Boys of Barr Na Sraide.”
For more information about Solas, visit solasmusic.com.