Liverpool Irish Festival @ The Caledonia, Kelly’s Dispensary 9/10/14

If you’d have bumped into Mikey Kenney a few months ago, he’d have told you he was learning how to tap dance while simultaneously playing the fiddle. Based on this, any band in which he features is bound to intrigue. Previously masquerading (mainly) as Ottersgear, Mikey was usually found solo at MelloMello’s first incarnation (hopeful thinking for the future), his tunes ringing of Ireland, but not necessarily focusing. Merging his talents with that of bandmates Nick Branton and Simon Knighton to form THE BOG STANDARDS, it’s been allowed to blossom as the three have taken full advantage of their rumbling presence on the Liverpool pub music scene with this recent venture, an education on Irish and American folk. Liverpool Irish Festival provides a perfect setting for three young musicians intent on massaging the roots of Irish music into a culture that owes a lot to its traditional Celtic heritage.

The Bog Standards are all about those songs that romance the imbibed memories of all those of Irish descent, no doubt having heard from the older members of our families that when you’d go down the pub, everyone would “give a song”. Irish sessions led by the band members on Tuesday afternoons in The Caledonia no doubt set this scene, but it’s the polished nature of the Bog Standards proper where they display their best. Before visiting The Caledonia and Kelly’s Dispensary on their billed nights, I was fearful of wistful panpipes. But The Bog Standards hit hard, their melodies instantaneously transporting you to those green lands, managing to embody the most swirling of Irish music. An early outstanding rendition of These Hills is enough to cement the attention of the crowd. Kenney’s a cappella rendition brings a smile to the faces of those captivated by the interlacing sounds, and his voice really is something else, reverberating about the room as he sings with his entire body, the dancers delighted. Their version of trad folk sounds like the kind that makes you feel real nostalgia even if you’ve only been to a wedding in Cork, once. Are they in our blood, this race of people, their music celebrated by their children miles away?

Before long the crowd is spinning as if in the underclass deck of the Titanic (as depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster of course – not sure if it was actually like that). The toe-tapping gets a little too fast for my skills, but Knighton’s stomp box expertly drives on as Nick Branton whistles around the sharp and precise fiddling of Kenney, surely fatal to anyone standing behind him. The delivery of crowd favourites Rocky Top and Michael Hurley’s The Slurf Song – one example of how the Bog Standards have incorporated an easy Irish slant on folk from overseas – intensifies further the atmosphere of this already emotionally charged gig.

Delighted is exactly how you’d describe the audience of a Bog Standards gig. Though regularly billed, with the energy this band creates and feeds off, it’d be great to see them move out of the dicey world of pub residencies and into ticketed venues. Though as your nana would tell you, the pub is exactly where this music is supposed to be.

 

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