It was a mixed crowd and a packed house for the Celtic band from Santa Monica and the room was already buzzing before the show started. Green dresses and fire red beards were scattered amongst the ticket holders that all seemed to be accompanied by that heavy vibe that somebody was ready to smash a table or a bar stool in the name of a good time.
Native Irishman and sometimes barkeeper Patrick Murphy took the stage along with the cosmopolitan crew known as Gaelic Storm. The band consists of Steve Twigger, a self-taught guitarist hailing from England, the bagpiper and Irish whistle player from Canada Pete Purvis, the beautiful and talented fiddler player from Michigan Kiana Weber and the drummer from Bakersfield Ryan Lacey. Together they formed a force of nature that had the crowd stomping and clapping along to grand tales sung to the timeless Celtic style that has been fermenting over hundreds of years. Luke Kelly would have raised his glass in praise.
The two-set, two-and-a-half hour show was a classic Celtic celebration of life, music and drinking. The only thing missing was the haggis. The bagpipe and the accordion blared through the strings and blended into Murphy's heavily accented lyrics for an experience that brought you straight to a pub in southern Ireland. A definite highlight of the show was the phenomenal extended instrumental duel between Purvis' bagpipe and Weber's fiddle that had the audience cheering on their favorite player. The talent behind each of the musicians was palpable, a true joy to behold, and the show's energy stayed consistent -- there was no slowing down.
Between songs and whiskey shots, Murphy, like most Irishmen after a pint or five, would entertain the crowd with ramblings and tirades of stories past and Irish culture. One story, which he claimed to be the truest lie he's ever told, involved the memorable time that Russell Crowe punched him in the face after being told to put out his cigarette at the pub Murphy was managing in Santa Monica. The story was eventually told in song that had people singing along and tossing off quotes for Russell Crowe, "the Gladiator," in a prime example of how involved the crowd was with the performance.
As time passed and the end was knowingly around the corner, Gaelic Storm played its final tune, "Tear Upon the Rose." Murphy took his bows along with the rest of the squad and yelled into the microphone, "We'll be at the bar!" The drummer continued to jam away as the rest of the band exited stage left and disappeared into the crowd. The pit was occupied by a group of jolly folks doing their best Irish jig to the galloping sounds of percussion until Murphy's voice boomed yet again. The musicians were in fact at the bar -- on the bar to be precise. Their real finale was played with the four on the bar and the drummer back on the stage in a display that the Pageant has surely rarely seen. It was a fitting end for a show of this raucous flavor.
The rest of the night is mostly a blur of sharing shots with friends and drinking with a band that was more than happy to share drinks as well. Memories might be faded and jumbled the morning after, but the ticket stub and the bruises are all the reminders that are needed of the good times that were had.