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Last Weekend @ Riley’s:
The St. Patrick’s Day Shows

March 25th, 2017

Pittsburgh’s still the best place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. That’s according to Niche.com, which places the Burg ahead of Boston (the city that held its first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1737) and Chicago (where they dye the Chicago River green in the saint’s honor). Pittsburgh’s Parade Day traditions might be younger than Boston’s, and our rivers might not ever go green, but Pittsburgh is still the best place to be for mid-March celebrations … and the place to be in Pittsburgh (at least for my money) is Riley’s Pour House.

This post is a follow-up to Parade Day @ Riley’s: Just the Beginning, which I managed to post between a couple of marathon gigs on Parade Day Weekend. I intended to be as timely with this post, but the St. Pat’s performance schedule proved to be even more demanding than the one on Parade Day. We played ten hours over two days, dividing our time between the pub stage and the tent. Now, after a week, I’m finally ready to do some blogging.

The St. Pat’s weekend got rolling on a snowy Friday afternoon, but the weather didn’t deter the crowd. By evening, the party was in high gear as piper John Walsh (above) did his traditional march through the pub.

Meanwhile, out in the tent, hundreds were dancing and singing along with Mike Gallagher and his son John (right). Bandmate Lauren Moore and I arrived at the end of their set, in time to hear their rousing rendition of “A Nation Once Again.”

We took the stage at 5:00, and before long the place was at capacity. At once point, I had to pause and snap a picture (left). I can’t prove it, but I sense it was the best party this side of Dublin.

At 8:00, Mark Guiser took over the pavilion stage while bassist Duane Davis joined me for two more sets inside the pub. Then, the next night, we did it all again.

I’ve been playing March shows like this for years. They’re fun but demanding, and over time I’ve learned a thing or two about pacing the sets so as not to run out of steam. But this year I decided it was time to purchase some new gear to ease the strain of back-to-back performances. I offer the following as a bit of musician shoptalk. FYI.

First, I opted to play some of these shows with a Martin 000×1 rather than my usual full-size Guild. I love my all-wood dreadnought, but the Martin — with its smaller design and laminated back and sides — makes standing and playing a lot easier, especially during the final sets. Second, I fashioned a mic-hat that provided more freedom on stage. It might seem like a small thing, but the wider range of movement seemed to keep me limber as the night wore on. That’s the mic-hat (and the new Martin) on the right. The microphone, a Shure WH20XLR, comes with a wire head brace that looked like it might get uncomfortable fast.

The hat seemed like a good way to provide padding while keeping the thing in place. Headgear for a 21st-century scop. What do you think? Maybe I should market these.

Images © The 21st-Century Scop, 2017.

Parade Day 2016 @ Riley’s Pour House:
“the sweetest melody”

March 13th, 2016

walsh from stage“I thought I heard a piper play the sweetest melody / People gathered round a’ dancing and singing so merrily . . .”
– “Caledonia” by Dougie MacLean

But we didn’t just think it. If you were one of the 1,000-plus revelers who packed the tent and pub at Riley’s Pour House on Parade Day, you saw and heard it for real.

Here’s how it happened.

As band mate Duane Davis and I were midway through our second of four sets on Riley’s outdoor stage, we noticed bagpiper John Walsh standing in the wings. We’d been waiting for him, since John’s piping has always been one of the high points of Riley’s Parade Day celebrations. We wrapped up our song, introduced him, and for the next 10 minutes the tent rang with the echoes of the highlands.

That’s John on the left, in a photo taken from the stage, looking out over the packed tent. An amazing performance.

SPMeanwhile, inside the pub, St. Patrick (Richard O’Malley) held court at a center table, taking a break after marching through the streets of Pittsburgh.  His appearance was another one of the many offstage attractions that always makes Riley’s the place to be on Parade Day. Other attractions included a pair of sword-wielding belly dancers who performed atop the bar later that night.

That’s Richard “St. Patrick” O’Malley pictured on the right.

Sorry . . . but I didn’t get photos of the belly dancers.

Riley's Parade DayNevertheless, the real attraction was the crowd that overflowed both tent and pub, spilling into the street out front and the alley behind.

Composed of some of the best people you’re likely to meet this side of the Blasket Islands, the members of the audience made the show, dancing to “500 Miles” and singing along with us on a show-capping performance of “Wagon Wheel.”

What a rush!

Duane and Larry at Riley compressed (340x247)At 8:00, Duane and I moved to the pub stage, where we  continued playing until midnight while The Wild Geese Band performed under the tent. (That’s Wild Geese below, Connolly & Davis to the right, in case you’re wondering.)

Along the way, we were joined by Lauren Connolly-Moore on mandolin and vocals. All told, Connolly Davis performed for eight hours. Quite a workout, but I’m ready to do it The Wilde Geese Bandagain. Scop on! 

Image Credits:

All photos copyright © 2016 Lawrence C. Connolly, The 21st Century Scop.

The Parade Day banner is from the Riley’s Pour House website: rileyspourhouse.com/

St. Patrick’s Day Shows: Music Marathons

March 8th, 2016

with Duane and LaurenIf you want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style, Pittsburgh is the place to be. That’s according the Niche®, who also says:

Pittsburgh has one of the highest percentage of its population identifying as Irish, great access to bars, a thriving St. Patrick’s Day Parade that boasts over 20,000 participants, and a staggering amount of St. Patrick’s Day hype on Facebook.

10649746_714754118572430_5509741742800892289_nAnd Pittsburgh also has Riley’s Pour House, where bandmate Duane Davis and I will be performing under the big top on Riley’s Outdoor Stage from 4:00 to 7:30PM on Pittsburgh’s Parade Day. After that, we move inside to the pub’s stage where we’ll play till midnight.

Also performing under the tent on Riley’s Parade Day Weekend are The Corned Beef and Curry Band (Friday, 8-11PM) and The Wild Geese (Saturday, 8-Midnight).  You can also expect John Walsh on bagpipes, a visit from St. Patrick himself, and plenty of other surprises. Hope to see you there!

Images: 
Duane Davis, Lauren Connolly-Moore, and Lawrence Connolly. (Top)
The Corned Beef & Curry Band. (Right)

Rockin Riley’s:
St. Patrick’s Weekend and Beyond

March 15th, 2015

Rocking the Pour House St. Pat's Weekend - Friday night - compressedPittsburgh is the number-one city for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. That’s according to Niche.com, who shows the Burg beating out Chicago, Philadelphia, and even Boston for top honors.

According to Pittsburgh Magazine, past attendance at the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has ranged from 150,000 to 350,00.

Fittingly, the best advice anyone can give about attending St. Patrick’s Day events in Pittsburgh is simply this: Arrive early!

Tommy and Jimmy - compressedThat advice definitely applied to this weekend’s events at Riley’s Pour House, where the place was already packed when Connolly & Davis (above) took the stage at 8:00 on Friday night.

Backing us up were good friends Tommy B and Jimmy Z (right), and Lauren Connolly-Moore — who brought down the house as she lent her soaring voice to our renditions of “Leaving Liverpool,” “Bye, Bye Love,” and others.  In all, the night was an effective prelude to the following day, when Jim Riley opened the tent in the lot beside the main building. All day Saturday, the party became a two-stage event with both sites hosting capacity crowds that overflowed into the front and rear courtyards.

tent openConnolly & Davis took the main stage from 6:00-8:30 that evening, opening for The Wild Geese Band, who brought the first phase of Riley’s St. Patrick’s bash to a close.

Among the event’s other highlights were performances by Erich Dagnal and John Puckett, and a special appearance from the boxers of Team Ireland, in town to take part in Pittsburgh Donnybrook, to be held at The Priory on March 17.

irish boxing team from ireland - compressedCarnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek introduced the team at 8:30, bringing them onto the big-top stage along with Team Pittsburgh’s boxing coach Jack Mook (right).

“It’s going to be an honor to fight you,” Jack told the team, although naturally he predicted a win for Team Pittsburgh.

This year’s Donnybrook event is sold out. If you don’t have a ticket, I’ll hope to see you back at Riley’s.

The final phase of Riley’s St. Patrick’s Party party will be held on March 17, featuring pub favorites Mike Gallagher, Young John Gallagher, and Mark Guiser. Music starts at 2:30 and continues until the last Guinness is poured.

patrickstoriesaAnd if that still isn’t enough, you’ll want to be sure to return on March 31, when Riley’s monthly Story Night will feature St. Patrick’s Day Stories — a chance to revisit the party in story form. If you have a story to share, whether it involves this year’s three-day party or any any other St. Patrick’s Day related event, we hope you’ll consider joining us as we respond to the ancient Irish question: Cad é an scéal? (What’s the story?)

Until then . . . scop on!

Images:

Connolly & Davis — photo by Lauren Connolly-Moore.

Tommy B and Jimmy Z, performing at our January show; Riley’s Garden Tent Sign; and Jack Mook with Team Irish — photos by the 21st Century Scop.

St. Patrick’s Day Stories – image from celebratingholidays.com. It’s a neat little image, even if it does have a four-leaf clover masquerading as a shamrock. Perhaps it’s intended to suggest the luck of the Irish. In any event, it’s a step removed from St. Patrick’s trinity symbol. Alas!