Over a five-day span, the Young Dubliners will play to crowds in Boston, New Jersey, Annapolis, Ballston Spa, and back to California, where they live. It’s not out of the ordinary for a band on the road to have such a hectic schedule. But, somewhere in there was supposed to be a day off, said Roberts. And, he admits, he’s the one who messed that one up.
He said he won’t hear about it now. But, “at 3:30 in the morning, at the Albany Airport is when I’ll hear, ‘whose idea was this?’ ‘Why are we here?’”
Young Dubliners have been on the Celtic rock scene for 25 years, and through the course of time they recognize particular venues they enjoy playing. Irish 2000 Fest is one of them. So, when the show’s promoter approached him more than a year ago, he accepted the invitation. No sooner did Roberts hang up the phone did his agent ask, “Do you know what you just did?” pointing to a hole in the band’s tour schedule.
That hole was Sept. 19, and he had just filled it.
“Irish 2000 has been a favorite of ours,” said Roberts, who shared the band still encounters venues that don’t appreciate the amplification equipment the band uses to support its rock sound. “[Irish 2000 Fest] really supports rock music.”
The Saratoga County Fairgrounds hosts the 19th Annual Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival, Friday Sept. 18 through Saturday, Sept. 19.
“We’re hoping for blue skies, good weather and a good crowd to go with the good times of the festival,” said festival executive director Matthew Nelligan.
The festival promises non-stop music with more than 20 performances scheduled over three different stages. There will also be Irish dance, a children’s area, crafts, food and beverages.
“It’s one of my favorite days of the year because all things Irish are celebrated,” said Rick Bedrosian from Hair of the Dog. “Almost more than St. Patrick’s Day, because that’s become more about drinking for some people. Here, I’ll get to see people I rarely get to see. People either come to see Hair of the Dog 50 times a year, or five times a year, [but] they will be at this one.”
To add to the excitement, Bedrosian said Hair of the Dog will be recording the show for an upcoming video.
Both nights feature music playing until 11 p.m. On Friday, the festival stage hosts music from Flashpoint, followed by The Fighting Jamesons, the Screaming Orphans and closing with the Glengarry Bhoys.
On Saturday, three stages open up to a wide variety of musical talents, and a fourth one dedicated to Irish dance.
This year’s stages feature, in order of appearance:
On the Contemporary Stage — Hair of the Dog, Emish, the Screaming Orphans, Shilelagh Law and The Young Dubliners.
On the Tim Nelligan Traditional Stage — Flashpoint, The McKrells, DAIHM, The Druids and Get Up Jack.
On the Patricia McSweeney Memorial Stage — Triskele, Shadowland, Rakish Paddy, Frank Jaklitsch, Three Irish Voices with Jaklitsch, Who’s Your Paddy and The Brothers Flynn.
Traditional Irish folk music can be characterized by the use of a tin flute, drums, or bag pipes. The genre is not limited by these instruments, of course. There is, indeed, the harp, too.
There’s something about a traditional band playing “hell for leather” in front of a live audience. Roberts appreciates the traditional music as much as the next paerson. But, the Young Dubliners’ front man said he was drawn by a different sound when he was younger.
“First time listening to Big Country with the electric guitar. They were putting their own spin on traditional, though Scottish. But, when I heard those guitar riffs, I was like, holy …,” he said.
Big Country made a splash in the United States back in 1983 with a self-titled track that become popular on MTV. But, the group is known to incorporate more folk story lyric than the pop variety that was popular on American radio waves.
The clashing blend of contemporary rock with traditional Irish music has been popular for more than a decade, with the emergence of bands like Black 47 and Dropkick Murphys on the East Coast and the Young Dubliners out on the West Coast. The genre was thrust into mainstream interests thanks to Hollywood movies and the adoption of Murphy’s “Tessie” during the Boston Red Sox championship run in 2004. (Actually, some of the players from the team can be heard lending their vocals on the track. Members of Dropkick Murphys are devoted Red Sox fans and deliberately paid homage to the show tune last popular when the Red Sox beat the Pirates in 1903.)
“The funny thing about what we do. It would work in Ireland. We were putting in our Irish and European influences in [the music]. I knew that what we were doing. If I loved it, [people] would, too. … When we play in Ireland, England, Demark – it goes down as well as I thought, I ever hoped it would.”
The Schenectady Pipe Band will also be playing throughout the fairgrounds on Saturday, along with special attractions for the kids that include Celtic Critters, rides and a magician.
The 2015 beneficiary of Irish 2000 will be the United Irish Societies of the Capital District, producers of Albany’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The not-for-profit Irish Music and Arts Festival, Inc. organizes the annual festival. The goal of the organization is, “To preserve, protect and promote Irish history and culture in the 21st century.”
In addition to producing the festival, Irish 2000 also supports other non-profit organizations. Since its inception, the festival has donated more than $350,000 to a variety of charities. Past recipients include the Wounded Warrior Project, the Double H Ranch and the Irish American Heritage Museum.
The idea of an Irish Festival that would appeal to all lovers of Irish music and arts originated during conversations between Nelligan and fellow festival co-founder Jim Shaughnessy in 1996.
Both Nelligan and Shaughnessy had been involved in a number of efforts to increase awareness of the Albany branch of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and to raise funds to create a new Irish Cultural Center in Albany.
Since it started, the Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival has grown in both attendance and in the number of entertainment attractions. In 2007, the festival launched a highly successful two day format.
Today, Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival is one of the top five Irish festivals in the United States. Its mission is “To preserve and protect Irish Culture in the 21st century.”
During its inaugural year, Nelligan and Shaughnessy were joined by a small, dedicated committee of Hibernians and set out to plan the event without having a firm idea of how popular it might be. The first Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival took place on Saturday, Sept. 20, 1997, at Heritage Park in Colonie. Even with a torrential rain, more than 2,500 people packed the music tents to enjoy bands as diverse as the Makem Brothers and Black 47.
“We as performers, we put out the energy initially, but get it right back from the crowd,” said Scott Apicelli of Get Up Jack. “We both feed off of one another. We like to see that …. It’s always great to have the combination of the two – great music and great crowd participation. It’s what keeps us coming back for more.”
Tickets are on sale at the gate. Tickets for Friday are $20, and tickets for Saturday are $25 at the gate. Children 12 and under are admitted free. All sales at the gate are cash only. There is a $3 parking fee.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.