A breath of fresh Eire
The Young Dubliners will headline the Vail show, preceded first by Great Big Sea and then Seven Nations. Traditional instruments such as fiddles, bodhrans and bagpipes meet hard-driving guitar work, fierce drumming and heavy bass lines in the variety of styles represented by the three bands.
Many large-scale festival-style tours have attempted to cross the continent, propelled by a potential sea of fans. Most of them fizzled. The Uprooted Tour, a bit smaller in scope and more diverse in sound, has achieved what the others didn’t: prosperity.
“We’ve just finished the first leg,” said Keith Roberts, frontman for the Young Dubs. “It was so successful, the crowds were so amazing and so much bigger than any one of us (bands) could have drawn.”
“We don’t enjoy radio play, we have to work for a living,” said Sean McCann of Great Big Sea.
The Uprooted Tour was Roberts’ idea, and came about initially as an effort for the three bands to share each other’s fan bases. Depending on whose territory they’re in (the Young Dubs reign on the West Coast, while Seven Nations is king on the East Coast) they take turns headlining. The combination of friendly competition and shared energy has earned the tour a reputation for good, clean fun with forays into the raucous and rambunctious.
The Young Dubliners
The Young Dubs are no strangers to Vail, playing roughly five shows a year. Despite the obviously Celtic undertones, they mostly resemble the Dave Matthews Band. They have a rock melodic side with jam roots fully intact, a product of being on the endless tour.
“We work our asses off to get the fans,” Roberts said. “You live in one part of the country that happens to have an appreciation for music, you support hard working road bands and jam bands. That’s not true for the whole country. We want to tap into the American roots vibe that’s there. I think it’s there, you just have to find it.”
That’s the reasoning behind the tour’s name. They’re all steeped in roots music to a certain extent. They’re also sharing each others’ roots, growing new audiences for each other.
“There are many people who’ve never heard of us even though they search out folk or Celtic rock,” he said.
Roberts and the rest of the band have always been more interested in pleasing their fans than being labeled musicians’ musicians. Roberts is joined on stage by rock-solid drummer David Ingraham, bassist Bren Holmes, guitarist Bob Boulding, fiddler Chaz Waltz (he plays like a Paddy), and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Dellisanti.
They are still riding the wave of their latest album, “Absolutely.” A collaborative effort of the entire band, it’s the first album to capture the magic of their live shows.
“I’ve noticed recently that I can’t write a song about how miserable life is without supplying some way out,” Roberts said. “I guess one could say this album is ultimately about hope – from hoping you’ll overcome tragedy, to hoping you get the girl.”
Seven Nations caused a stir at a Hot Summer Nights concert two years ago: people actually were listening to the music instead of simply socializing. With the sort of rockin’ bagpipes they boast, it’s a given they’ll demand attention.
The quintet became poster children for Dewar’s Scotch Whiskey, as the company was seeking out people fighting current trends with independent spirits. Seven Nations is indeed that.
“We are lucky,” said Kirk McLeod, frontman for the group. “Because we come from two different cultures. We love American pop and rock and roll. But we also love our Celtic roots music. We want to touch everybody with our art. And so far, we have been very, very fortunate.”
They’ve put out seven indy albums thus far, and recently signed with Razor and Tie in time for their latest release, “and now it’s come to this.”
Seven Nations is McLeod (lead vocals, guitarist, bagpipes, keys), Sturby (bass), Scott Long (bagpipes, mandolin, shuttle pipes), Dan Stacey (very old and very special German violins, fiddle-style of course) and Crisco (drums).
Great Big Sea, Sean
Great Big Sea is an aggressive folk rock band out of Newfoundland. That’s right – Canada. Because they’re an island with a large Scottish, Irish and French population, fiddles and whistles were the sounds of the street.
“We didn’t even have radios until the ’50s, so we went straight from jigs and reels to the King of rock and roll,” said McCann (vocals, guitars, bodhran, tin whistle) about the Newfoundland population.
McCann isn’t afraid of stepping up to the plate and declaring himself the best looking, best sounding, most athletic and intelligent member of the group. He promises a high-paced show from all the bands.
Great Big Sea is big on the East Coast but has been enjoying their time in the West. The Uprooted Tour made a stop in DisneyLand, and McCann got to meet Pluto and Mickey.
“There was this really weird sexual tension between them,” he said. “I always thought Pluto was a guy, but he’s not.”
Their song selection ranges from new arrangements of traditional songs to their own original work, which is influenced from music across the board: Bela Fleck to the Violent Femmes, The Clash to Radiohead. Their latest album, “Sea of No Cares” is a fine collection of melodic, danceable tunes.
As for their goals as musicians, they don’t ask for much.
“World domination – fundamentally, sexually, intellectually,” said McCann. “We want to become huge in America, become rock stars, join the Disneyland mafia. The usual.”
Great Big Sea was in Colorado a few years ago. Hockey fans all, they got to play with Ray Bourke, as well as sing their tunes. They intend to have just as much fun this time around.
The Uprooted Tour concert kicks off Saturday at Ford Amphitheater. Gates open at 3 p.m. with music starting a little after 4 p.m. It’s a blanket-friendly venue. Tickets are $17 presale and $20 day of show, and can be bought at all area outlets, by phone at 476-2918 or via the Web site at http://www.vvf.org.
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.