The nice thing about living in New York is that even after you leave Ireland, the music follows you home. Case in Point: this past weekend, Hell's Kitchen's non-profit Irish Arts Center hosted a showcase of up-and-coming Irish musicians who put a contemporary spin on trad music. The event, which was sponsored by Culture Ireland in association with this year's Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference, was hosted by Irish singer-songwriter (and longtime New Yorker) Susan McKeown.
Slide(pictured above), a five-piece from Dublin and Cork, played high-energy music (the "slide" is a fast-moving tune from the south of Ireland) with rock-like flair - particularly fiddler Daire Bracken, who jumped around the stage like a rock guitarist. Galway's Marian McPartlan sang Sean Nós dirges and familiar tunes (including Shane MacGowan's "Rainy Night in Soho") with the maturity and wisdom of a life well-lived. Fidil, a trio of young fiddlers from Donegal, were obviously talented but left wanting for a bit of bass or bodhrán; it sounded more like Suzuki class than a session. And, The Frost is all Over, which powerfully combined accordion and uilleann pipes with still and video images, could have done without the histrionic, distracting narrative by poet Dermot Bolger (read by actor Eamonn Hunt.)
But the stars of the night were Guidewires (pictured below), another five-piece who played tight, energetic music that seemed like it was ready to explode off the Donaghy theater stage. Each of the musicians is well-known back in Ireland, including five-time all-Ireland champion