The region’s veteran Celtic rockers gear up to record fourth album live at Abbey Bar in Harrisburg, headline King Street Seisiún in Lancaster
Brendan Power is committed to honoring his Irish roots through music. But don’t expect to see him on stage in a kilt.
“I wore [a kilt] one time, and it looked like a prom dress because my legs are so short,” says the vocalist for the Kilmaine Saints. “I won’t wear one ever again.”
To add to his embarrassment, that “one time” was a full house. The Kilmaine Saints just happened to be opening for the Dropkick Murphys (of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” fame).
Wearing a much-preferred ensemble of jeans, a black tee and signature Paddy cap, Power describes the life of a saint – a Kilmaine Saint – over a pint of Guinness at Tellus360 in Lancaster.
Power is no stranger to the venue. Last year, the Kilmaine Saints headlined the debut King Street Seisiún – a Saint Patrick’s-themed open-air block party in downtown Lancaster co-produced by Tellus360 and neighboring Irish pub Annie Bailey’s – before packing up, loading in to Tellus360’s main stage and playing an encore set to a packed house. The Saints will return to East King Street once again to headline the King Street Seisiún on Sunday.
And that’s just one small piece of the month Power and his fellow Saints have in store. With a fundraiser, live album recording and tons of Saint Paddy’s revelry all slated for March, it’s going to be one heck of a month for the local Celtic rock group.
Power wouldn’t have it any other way – but not without generous amounts of beer, Red Bull and hot tea with honey to keep his voice intact.
“I’ve actually brought jars of honey on stage. Most people are doing lines in the green room. I’m like, ‘I need my honey!’” he says with a laugh.
The band members are just as candid – and downright fun – on stage as they are off.
A fixture at festivals across the country, they’ve played alongside such acts as Gaelic Storm, Scotland’s Red Hot Chilli Pipers and the Dropkick Murphys.
“Kilmaine Saints shows are filled with raucous merriment,” says regional music promoter Sarah Staub, owner of Greenbelt Events, who helped facilitate the band’s upcoming live recording at the Abbey Bar at Harrisburg’s Appalachian Brewing Company.
Expect “foot-stomping, fist-pumping, beer-drenched Celtic rock that can only truly be experienced live,” she adds.
The Kilmaine Saints came marching in with their first album in 2010 – The Good, The Plaid, and the Ugly – and haven’t looked back. Now a fixture at festivals across the country, they’ve played alongside such acts as Gaelic Storm, Scotland’s Red Hot Chilli Pipers and the aforementioned Dropkick Murphys.
Part punk and part bagpipes, the group’s sound speaks to a variety of audiences.
“It doesn’t matter if people have Irish heritage or Scottish heritage,” Power says. “I think people really enjoy the pomp-and-circumstance of hearing the actual bagpipes. You throw in a fiddle playing with it – it just becomes a sound unto itself. It’s unlike anything else.”
The Celtic ensemble features Power (vocals and bodhrán), Billy Brown (Irish bouzouki, banjo, tin whistle, bagpipes, guitar, bass), Dave Nields (guitar), Jon Heller (bagpipes, bass), Liz Mallin (fiddle, vocals, guitar) and Mike McNaughton (drums). Heller and McNaughton, who are members of the Lochiel Emerald Society pipe and drum band, co-founded the group.
“I think because it’s such a unique niche, people really enjoy it,” explains Power, who hails from County Mayo, Ireland.
From the political “Go Home British Soldiers” to the pint-raising “Saints Are Up,” the band serves up a batch of original anthems to stir any crowd.
Don’t be surprised to hear a few Saint-ified covers along the way. A bagpipe-infused version of House of Pain’s “Jump Around”? Now, that you’ve got to hear.
Here’s where you can catch the Kilmaine Saints in Central PA this month:
Sixth annual Kilmaine Saint Patrick’s Day
Abbey Bar, Harrisburg; March 13
doors open at 8 p.m., show at 9 p.m.
$7 advance/$10 at the door
tickets & info
Watch the Kilmaine Saints’ recording of their fourth album – Live at the Abbey Bar. And don’t be shy. “I want to hear the people screaming and yelling and having fun, too. That’s what it’s about,” says Power.
In fact, fans have a chance to join the band on stage if they contribute to the event’s crowd-funding album efforts. There’s even the chance to earn “A Day with the Saints” by making a minimum contribution.
“We get you into a festival, you come around, you hang out with us, you drink with us, you party with us,” says Power. “You’re there for the entire festival, you do everything we do – except you’re not going to play. But we are going to make you carry shit.”
King Street Seisiún
Tellus360 and Annie Bailey’s, Lancaster; March 15
Kilmaine Saints play from 5-6:30 p.m.; event runs 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
tickets & info
The Kilmaine Saints storm the stage again at the second annual King Street Seisiún, hosted by Tellus360 and Annie Bailey’s. Gaelic for “session,” seisiún refers to a gathering of musicians at a pub. After a wildly popular inaugural year, “They’re going to do it bigger, better this year,” says Powers.
Local groups The Ogham Stones and Fire In the Glen are the opening acts. Amidst the March mayhem, the Saints are proud to headline an event with close ties to their Celtic heritage.
“It is your duty to preserve your own culture and your heritage, whether it changes with style – whether the music sounds different,” Power says. “You are still part of it, and it is your responsibility to keep it.”