by Brian Hanshaw
Top O’ the mornin’, Philly! St. Patrick’s Day is long gone, but festival season is approaching. Philadelphia residents are lucky enough to live within an hour or two of many Celtic/Irish/Scottish/Folk festivals. And at those festivals, you can hear the best genuine, traditional Celtic- style folk music around. The Elders, a Kansas City, MO band, is best described by band’s front man Ian Byrne, as “a folk rock, Americana acoustic band with a pint of Irish”. The group first formed in 1998 after bass player Norm Dahlor went to see a band called Flogging Molly…you know, the Irish/punk rock band known for heavy, fast-paced tempos and adrenaline-fueled punk rock style. Dahlor decided then that he would go back to his hometown in Kansas City and form his own Celtic rock band.
This Celtic-folk style of music has become more and more popular among mainstream crowds, along with a new trend of other contemporary folk-rock bands such as Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, and Of Monsters and Men. This sort of new following has become popular with the college-aged/post- grad demographic, ranging from about 20-35. Through their music, The Elders have reached out to various fans who have followed their music and formed a bond with them to look deeper into their heritage.
“I believe we have empowered many of our fans to research their ancestry because of their relationship with our music. We are very thorough and honest with our lyrics. It is inspiring to listen to some of the stories from fans as to how a particular song may have affected their lives. This had been frequent with the young and old,” says Byrne.
The band frequently receives e-mails from fans telling them how much their music has affected them and how a particular song or lyrics has encouraged them to actually go and research their ancestry. They particularly enjoy bonding with the fans. “Developing a relationship with them during a concert. Taking photos after shows and listening to their stories. Bringing our songs to life. The sweat and energy and camaraderie are highly contagious.”
The lyrics are both nostalgic and poetic, and they touch on many issues in Irish history, such as poverty and hardship. The Elders use a variety of instruments in their music so that each song is original in its style and arrangement. They have been known to incorporate guitars, drums, banjo, accordion, mandolin, piano and fiddle. Byrne told me that he also uses a whistle, a tambourine, and a bodhran. The tempo is usually very upbeat and the lyrics tell stories of love, loss, religion, politics, and so forth. The band has released six albums and three live CD/DVDs. They have toured nationally as well as worldwide. They have played in such countries as Germany, Canada and Ireland. Though they love all of their fans all over the world, there is no greater crowd than that in their own hometown of Kansas City.
“There have been many! Germany comes to mind. A really appreciative and attentive audience. Any show where there is reasonable attendances that are all having a good time. Colorado and Central New York have been great areas for us. We have made a lot of friends there. There is no place like home though. Our Kansas City shows are always so much fun,” says Byrne.
Like most bands, the guys face the inevitable challenge of trying to keep their material fresh and original. Byrne feels that the most effective way of accomplishing this feat is by including the opinions of every member of the band. “I believe we as a band are very fortunate to have each other help with our creativity. This is a democratic band to where we all have a voice with our ideas and decisions. I must boast to you and tell you we have great lyrics and musical arrangements. We keep it interesting and answer to nobody. If we can make ourselves happy with a lyric and song, we know our fans will also appreciate the results.”
Byrne mentions that the greatest challenge is trying to keep their music fresh and interesting. “I think it is all too easy to set yourself into a template of style to where everything sounds like the last! I think one must remain as original as possible to keep inspired and not be drowned or tempted by commercialism.” The band hopes “To continue performing for appreciative audiences all around the world. To have our music recognized all around the world, and to win a Grammy. “
If you are interested in checking out The Elders play live in person, they will be performing this June 14th with Barleyjuice at World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, DE. They are also playing at The Penn-Mar Irish Festival near York in Glen Rock, PA on June 15th.
Want to win passes to see The Elders at Penn-Mar Irish fest? A great line-up including The Elders, The Screaming Orphans and plenty more bands to make you dance all day long! For your chance to win a four-pack of tickets (a $40 value) email That Mag (firstname.lastname@example.org) and include your name, e-mail and phone number. Then be sure to like our Facebook page! Contest ends JUNE 1ST!