The music is just fun 

The Mahones bring a ‘big Irish stew’ of sound

WHO: The Mahones

WHERE: Garfinkel’s

WHEN: Friday, March 2

About 10 years ago, a 19-year-old girl walks into Stages Nightclub in Kingston, Ontario to find a little known Irish-sounding band in full rock and reel. The girl is me; the band is The Mahones.

I still remember that night vividly and can say that a large part of my love for live music, and especially that with Celtic influence, stemmed from that performance.

"I remember that gig," laughs Finny McConnell, Mahones’ singer and guitarist.

Originally from Ireland, McConnell’s family moved to Canada when he was very young. In the musical hub-bub of Kingston (also home to the likes of The Tragically Hip and Moist), McConnell met Scotsman Andrew Brown. St. Paddy’s Day, 1990 The Mahone’s were born. The rest is a history full of excessive swilling and erratic moshing.

"The music is just fun," explains McConnell of their strong Canadian fan base. "It’s also very interesting, musically and instrumentally. It’s not the same guitar-based music with drum and keyboards. It’s the extras like the tin whistles and accordions that you wouldn’t normally hear."

McConnell sounds like he’s still wiping the sleep from his eyes as he speaks to me from the road. And rightly so. The past month has been a whirlwind for the band with the release of their fourth CD, Here Comes Lucky . The band immediately hit the tarmac, beginning with dates in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where I caught up with them in Canmore.

"We also just shot a video in Calgary on Saturday night for the first single off the album, called One Last Shot. It was shot in a hotel, in a board room and then in an Irish pub that my friend manages called Fionn MacCool’s. There were a lot of people there jumping around… it’s going to be a very lively video. We hadn’t done a live concert video since our very first one, so we decided to capture the energy of the crowd in this one."

An appropriate setting for a song about the last drink of the night.

Whiskey and women are frequent themes on the latest album.

"You got it!" chuckles McConnell. "My favourite whiskey? Scotch, it has to be Glen Fiddich, and Irish whiskey, I like Paddy’s… and my perfect woman? The one I have, the mother of my daughter."

While some of the slower ballads still conjure up visions of rolling green hills and red-haired lasses, Here Comes Lucky also includes some progressively harder tracks.

"In the studio you have the freedom to change. Live though you play what your fans want to hear. We try to please the audience… on their CDs at home is where they can hear the stuff we’re trying to experiment with. We’re trying to cover all our bases. Keep it interesting for everyone including the band."

Part of the progression this time around includes vocals from Canadian Mary Margaret O’Hara and Ian Thornley of Big Wreck on electric guitar. Thornley’s blistering contribution on Raise Your Hands is a stand out. This eclectic gathering of artists and sounds leaves the band without a standard description.

"It’s just a big Irish stew, mish-mash. We don’t even like to be labelled as a Celtic band because people think of acoustic guitars and fiddles and traditional songs. We don’t do that. We do our own stuff. We prefer Irish rock. They don’t invite us to any of the Celtic festivals anyway."

One place they do get asked back to repeatedly is Germany. The quartet returns to Europe this spring for its seventh visit. The last time around, Murphy’s Brewery sponsored the German leg of the tour.

"It could happen again," says McConnell, "you never know. These things just seem to happen out of the blue."

When The Mahones stop in Whistler March 2 nd , bring your dancing shoes and prepare to rock. See if you don’t remember the evening for years to come.

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