Two bands. Two sets of brothers.
It was Irish Music Night at the Alive at Five concert series in the Corning Preserve’s Riverfront Park, and despite the sweltering summer heat, a couple of dancers leapt to the dance floor to cut a jig or two.
It began with the Ruffians, straight outta NYC. They were a rough ‘n’ tumble bunch led by guitarist-vocalist Sean Griffin and his bassist-brother Dan Griffin. Fueled by uileann pipes and fiddle, they were a perfect warm-up act – rough around the edges and without much need for subtlety, but full of spirit and enough attitude to keep things chugging along at a brisk, slightly bruised, never-slow-down Celtic-rock pace.
The Town Pants returned to Alive at Five in the headline slot, and rightly so. The six-piece band from Vancouver, Canada, took the stage with a new, soon-to-be-classic hangover anthem, “Death Feels Like Me Today,” and roared on for an hour and a half, mixing rousing drinking songs (like “Shore Leave”) with ballads (“Coming Home”), more poetic fare (“Old Vancouver Town”), bootlegger songs (“Rum Runner”) and even pirate shanteys (“Monahan the Mutineer”).
Led by Dave Keogh on four-string banjo and vocals, the band took a few unexpected detours, firing up a Celticized romp through Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” and mixing that old bluegrass warhorse “Orange Blossom Special” into a medley with their own rousing original, “Breakfast with Saint Swithin.”
Keogh even weighed in on that most unfortunate of musical inventions – the wah-wah banjo – to fortify the high-flying funk of fiddler Ivanka Watkin as she soared through the otherwise tasty instrumental “Gin and Milk.”
Guitarist-brother Duane Keogh added sensational sibling vocal harmonies throughout the show, and grabbed the microphone to handle the lead vocal chores on several tunes, including “Sailor Song,” with its genre-defining lyrics:
“I said that I loved you.
I was drunk,
But I meant it anyway.”
As the guitarist pointed out, “It’s kind of like an Irish Hallmark card.”
THE TOWN PANTS SET LIST
Death Feels Like Me Today
Come With Me
Trains Not Taken
Old Vancouver Town
The Weight of Words
Gin & Milk
Monahan the Mutineer
Galway Girl (Steve Earle)
The Unlikely Redemption of Oliver Reed
The Old Landlord
Run to the Hills (Iron Maiden)
Breakfast With St. Swithin/Orange Blossom Special
Mr. Valentine’s Dead
THE RUFFIANS SET LIST
My True Love
The Man You don’t Meet Everyday
Dirty Old Town
She’s Marryin’ Him For the Money
Fiddle tune (instrumental)
The Lover’s Waltz
Never Will Marry
Medley of fiddle tunes (instrumental)
Jug O’ Punch
More to Life