A Gaelic Storm is in the forecast for Green Bay
The Irish band will spend St. Patrick’s Day on stage at the Meyer Theatre
By Kira Doman
Well-known celtic band, Gaelic Storm is bringing its foot-stomping, irish-jigging music to Green Bay this St. Patrick’s Day.
The group’s core members, Steven Twigger and Patrick Murphy, have been traveling the Midwest region with their Irish folk tunes since 1998. Ryan Lacey joined in 2003. Peter Purvis was introduced in 2005, and Katie Grennan, the newest addition featured on the fiddle, came on board in 2016.
Formerly residents of the Emerald Isle, Twigger said all members now call the U.S. home.
“We all live in different cities in America,” he said. “So honestly, for the last 15 years, it’s been 90% America (for tours), I can’t remember the last time we toured in Europe.”
Part of the reason for this, Twigger said, is that their music does so well, specifically in the midwest.
“The markets have been so good here, and certainly in and around the Midwest, such a unique touring region… two hours in any direction, you’re in a different city.” Twigger said. “So it makes touring a lot easier. We find ourselves back in Chicago, obviously Milwaukee, we roll through Wisconsin quite a lot. But in the course of the year, we cover most corners in the States.”
Though touring keeps the band busy, he said it’s not an easy road to take.
“It’s tough on the road,” Twigger said. “It’s a lot of miles out there. It’s a lot of different hotel rooms every night. It’s airports and living out of suitcases and, you know, trying to find decent places to eat and staying healthy. And of course, that’s been high on our priorities lately,”
Touring for more than 20 years, Twigger said he and his bandmates have come across some unique venues, including Big Top Chautauqua in Bayfield where they’ve returned multiple times.
Twigger said the venue is simply a circus tent with a stage and a few rows of seats. If tickets sell out, he said general admission tickets are sold which are located directly outside of the tent, in the open field surrounded by hills and trees.
“I love that venue,” Twigger said. “I like the sound, I just like the vibe there. And I know that we bring a bit of a party atmosphere to it, and always have a good time up there. I mean, it’s remote. It’s hard to get out there. But, we certainly enjoy it when we’re there.”
Twigger said there is no shortage of places to play in the Midwest.
“We enjoy our shows in Chicago around the St. Patrick’s run,” he said. “Every year, we play the weekend that they dye the river green in Chicago and stay there for about two nights. So that’s always absolutely mental, to be honest with you. It’s sort of hard to beat that energy,”
This year, Gaelic Storm is spending St. Patrick’s Day in Green Bay as it takes the stage at the Meyer Theater. When asked where the band sees the most enthusiastic celebrations, Twigger responded without hesitation:
“I’m from England originally, and I’ve actually always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day here in America, since 1985,” he said “You know, Patrick’s from Ireland, and he’ll tell you straight away that it’s a bigger celebration in the States, than it is back in Ireland. Irish Americans really take the day to celebrate their heritage. So you can imagine being away from home probably amplifies those thoughts.”
Though the community is afforded the opportunity to celebrate the holiday with the group’s lively Irish jams, for Gaelic Storm, it has always been its biggest workday.
“We enjoy the shows, we enjoy the energy,” Twigger said. “But we’d start off and do like a morning TV show or something, and then move on to a mid-morning show somewhere, and then mid-afternoon maybe a little song for a TV show somewhere else, and then our shows at night. So we’d be so busy those few days.”
He said that typically over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the group performs up to 12 shows.
Twigger said he has his own St. Patrick’s Day traditions outside of playing gigs,
“No matter what, I still try to sneak out and sneak into an Irish pub somewhere and have a pint of Guinness, it’s a tradition with myself,” he said. “No matter where we’re at, I want to sample the atmosphere on that day,”
It’s the atmosphere on that day Twigger said he enjoys the most, wherever he is.
“There’s sort of a local atmosphere wherever we’re at, whether we’re in Chicago or Milwaukee or Minneapolis or whatever, I like to kind of sneak out and just be incognito there and have a pint,” he said. “There’s usually a band like us back in the day. You know, so it’s always kind of fun to watch.”
Still, he wouldn’t trade the band’s busiest months of February and March for anything.
“We get a huge boost there (during those two months) as people are getting into the flavor of the holiday around the world, really.”
Album production / COVID-19
Twigger has produced the band’s last nine albums, as well as written a large collection of its songs.
“I think our third album, Tree, was sort of – for me – the transition to our independence,” he said. “We had a producer there, Jim Cregan, on that album, who used to be the guitar player with Rod Stewart and wrote a lot of songs with Rod Stewart. So, I got to write with him and got to see him produce, and I learned a lot from that whole session on that album.”
Twigger said the COVID-19 pandemic forced the group to adjust how they did things.
“We shifted to live streams just to get some source of income, and we didn’t want to deplete the savings that we had, that had to be distributed to pay the bills,” he said. “So it’s been catching up since then.”
After touring for nearly 20 years, the band found it arduous to get its traveling boots back on after an 18-month hiatus.
“We started to sort of dip our toes back into the water in late July (2021),” Twigger said. “They were mostly festivals, outdoor events, so we could isolate a lot more, we could all be out in the fresh air and ventilation wasn’t a problem. Milwaukee Irish Festival has certainly been one of our favorites over the course of time. Festivals bring their own energy. We have bigger crowds there.”
Twigger said at these outdoor festivals it can still entertain upwards of 15,000 people.
As COVID-19 continues to provide unpredicted patterns, Twigger said the band makes constant adjustments as it travels.
“It’s been difficult,” Twigger said. “Every town we went to had a different way of approaching it. Sometimes you get there and there wasn’t a mask in sight. Almost like it didn’t exist. Then in other towns you had to show your CDC COVID-19 card to enter a restaurant or a bar. So, it’s been a mixed approach. We’ve had to adapt to every place we’ve been. It’s still a little strange out there.”
Twigger said the step back sparked a renewed likeness to a setlist favorite.
“‘One More Day Above the Roses’ is a good foot-stomper, and it’s got a good message in there for people to live life to its fullest,” he said. “And, you know, especially in this day and age, I think people take that to heart. So, we get a lot of requests for that (song) from people that have survived whatever it might be, or maybe you’ve even lost a loved one and requested that song to remind you that life is kind of precious. So, that’s always a staple.”
When putting together a setlist for its tour, Twigger said, it often proves difficult to select the songs it would like to perform.
“We have 12-13 different albums out right now,” he said. “So there’s a lot of material to choose from. It’s actually hard to introduce new things because, with that many albums, people have so many different favorites they want to hear. You know, and we can certainly dig deep and just go ‘Oh, gosh, we haven’t played that in 10 years.’ So it feels kind of fresh to us. So we’re introducing new things slowly.”
Gaelic Storm is currently working on its 13th album, which they began working on in March 2020. It planned to record during the summer of 2020, Twigger said, but the pandemic pressed pause on things.
“We’ll have a new album just as soon as we can find the time to get in the studio and record it,” Twigger said.
He even said it is looking to release a vinyl edition of its next album.
“It’s been nice to see the resurgence of vinyl and people actually enjoying the album as an entity,” Twigger said.
Twigger said it may be hard but he still sees himself touring the United States with Gaelic Storm in the future.
“We get paid, you know, ultimately for putting smiles on faces,” he said, “and there’s no greater reward than that. We take people away from their troubles. There’s plenty of that these days. We take people away from their troubles for a couple of hours and send them home with some good memories. So honestly, to be the sort of purveyor of that is a treat in itself.”
Kira Doman is an editor and freelance journalist who graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay in the Spring of 2021. Her editing work can be found in Sheepshead Review, Northern Lights and Ellis Clark’s 2020 novel “With You.” Her writings can be viewed in The Driftwood and Green Bay City Pages. She is passionate about subjects such as social justice, current affairs and the arts. In her spare time, she is a barista, an average yet avid hiker, and a full-time cat mom.