Empty Heads boogie to the bagpipes 

Who: Empty Flask

What: Alexander Keith’s Concert Series

Where: All over Whistler

(See Pique to Valley listings each night this week)

Who would have thought the Scottish Highland Bagpipes, synonymous with funerals and memorials, would be a good way to get people dancing at the local pub? But then again, maybe the pipes are finally harking back to their original and intended use.

The Canadian Celtic rock band Empty Flask certainly think so. They’ve been blowing on the bagpipe during their high energy sets to roaring success across the country.

"For centuries they were used for dancing and entertainment, whether going into battle to encourage bravery or to remember those who had fallen," said bagpipe player and Empty Flask member, Ewan Brown.

The bagpipes’ mournful reputation only lingered in more modern times when they were frequently played at war. English, Scottish and Irish soldiers were led into battle by pipers and drummers. As the battles began, the musicians swung off to the side, encouraging the soldiers to fight on. Songs of victories past wafted over the battlefield, reminding soldiers of their heroic legacies.

But now that legacy is all starting to change. Get four big, hairy guys in kilts, arm them with a cache of Celtic classics, traditional and modern instruments plus a good dose of cheekiness and you’ve got one hell of a party. Using the bagpipes, guitars, tin whistle, mandolin, bohrahn and harmonica, Empty Flask cover most of the great Canadian Celtic bands. You’ll hear interesting twists to Great Big Sea, Spirit of the West, Rawlin's Cross and Seven Nations, among others.

Empty Flask’s tune is to take traditional Irish and Scottish tunes and enhance them with drums and guitars to create a new danceable, singable style that anyone can enjoy.

"The people that come to our shows are so diverse," said Brown. "I’ve seen toddlers, teenagers, young adults, moms and dads and even the senior citizens hit the dance floor in unison. I don’t think many bands these days can claim they see that."

Empty Flask have been brought to the West Coast by Alexander Keith’s Kitchen Ceilidh, an annual tour to promote their popular India pale ale. Empty Flask has been creating quite a stir in their home province of Ontario where fans call themselves "Empty Heads," a term the band enjoys.

"It’s a cool name in reference to the Dead Heads and it’s kinda ringing true for us too. We have people that have seen us back home and now Vancouver that are bringing friends and following us to Whistler," said Brown.

The band have big plans ahead following the Keith’s tour, which wraps up after Alberta.

"Our debut album, Got Air , has been doing quite well on the concert circuit so we hope on the strength of those sales and the popularity of the Keith’s tour we’ll get across the rest of the continent before the end of the year," said Brown.

Step out for some bagpipe boogying at any of these locations: Friday at Merlin’s, Saturday at Dusty’s, Sunday at the GLC, Tuesday at Buffalo Bill’s and Wednesday at the Longhorn. All the shows are free and plan to start up around 9 p.m.

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