Gaelic Storm forges friendship with fans

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Ann Fiore
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

JANESVILLE—Since 1996, Gaelic Storm has climbed many a mountain as an Irish band.

It has appeared in a blockbuster movie. It has released 10 albums. It has toured across the United States and parts of the world, sharing foot-stomping Irish drinking tunes and story songs.

But after 17 years in the business, the band this year added a few “firsts” to its resume.

It recorded its first album in a boathouse.

It offered its first workshop in the Catskill Mountains to share music and teach songwriting to fans.

It agreed to perform twice at Janesville's first Irish Fest, which runs Oct. 3-6.

Gaelic Storm has played in this area before, but these days it comes more often to bigger cities such as Milwaukee and Madison. The band is known for its close connection with fans, the most passionate of whom are called “Storm Chasers.”

In a phone interview from somewhere in New York, guitarist/vocalist Steve Twigger described it as a “very energetic, lively, clap your hands, stomp your feet” kind of band.

Concerts are family friendly and tend to attract several generations of families. Over the years, Twigger said, band members have been inspired by fans' love for Gaelic Storm's songs—whether they're played at a wedding or a wake.

“Our songs are the soundtracks of people's lives,” he said. “That's been a huge surprise to us. Obviously, we got into this business with no grand ambitions whatsoever—just got together to enjoy ourselves, enjoy the music in the company of good friends.”

Hearing fans' stories, he said, “Honestly, that picks you up every day. Even if we just wanted to stop, we really couldn't.”

Gaelic Storm spends about 200 days on the road, and it tries to put out an album every two years. This year, the band tweaked the formula by recording an album in a real boathouse in Annapolis, Md., Twigger said.

The collection of seafaring songs is called—not surprisingly—“The Boathouse.” The CD was released in August and is only available on the band's website and at shows.

Despite the limited release, it still reached No. 1 on Billboard's world music chart.

“Our fans really took to the idea,” Twigger said.

He described the recording process as “very fast”—less than seven weeks—which made it a fresh, new experience. Band members enjoyed it so much that they'll probably make another album like it at a different location—maybe in a hillside cottage in Nova Scotia or a warehouse in Dublin.

Another new connection with fans was forged this summer in New York's Catskill Mountains. Gaelic Storm offered its first Rag and Bone Workshop, which featured a week of camping, music workshops and songwriting. About 30 to 40 participants signed up to learn how to play fiddle, drums, guitar and bagpipes.

“The stories were just incredible,” Twigger recalled. “It really turned out to be more of a spiritual get-together. The music was just an excuse to bring good people together and share.”

Tickets are sold out for the band's Saturday, Oct. 5, show at the Janesville Performing Arts Center, but a few are left for Sunday, Oct. 6.

If you're still hesitating, would it make a difference if we told you that Irish frontman Patrick Murphy is a Packer backer?

With all of the band's Wisconsin gigs, Murphy makes sure he gets to Lambeau Field a couple of times a year. Twigger said he has had to sit with Murphy in the chilly bleacher seats.

“He's a huge Packers fan,” Twigger said. “It's ridiculous.”

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