Of course St. Patrick’s Day is busy for the Irish band Chris Sullivan and Friends. Unlike the rest of us seasonal Paddies and Micks who venture out on amateur drinker’s night claiming to be one of the 35 million Americans of Irish descent (and wake up March 18 beside a strange lad or lass sporting “lucky” green skivvies), Chris Sullivan and Friends concern themselves with Celts year-round. This St. Patrick’s Day, the band will play a lunchtime gig at Hunter’s Glen and a 5–8 p.m. slot at Sean Kelly’s.
The coeducational Western Montana act has performed together for five years, and each member has his or her own individual history with Irish music apart from their collective status as Chris Sullivan’s friends. Pennywhistler Chris met his wife, fiddler Stacy Sullivan, at a Celtic jam in Victor. Bodhran drummer Gary Janego, mandolin picker Mariss McTucker and guitarist John Parker are known to pluck, blow or beat on more than one acoustic contraption during each set. There is no designated vocalist, so each member takes turns singing while the others create backup harmonies. Laws of probability suggest that with five different vocalists, each fluent on several different instruments, no two songs should sound alike.
Although their repertoire consists mostly of traditional Irish songs and instrumentals, Chris Sullivan and Friends are not such purists that they shun everything modern. Chris cites contemporary Irish-American band Solas as inspiration for his group, and if you keep your ears open you might catch the Friends performing a Solas-esque version of Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty.”
For folks looking for standard-issue rowdy songs about drinking and women, Chris says, “we’ve got to do a few of those or it wouldn’t be Irish,” but he’s somewhat selective about his material. Many of those songs “have great melodies, but are about some guy leaving a girl pregnant and going to have a heck of a time around the world.” Since that’s not exactly Sullivan’s pint of Guinness, his family-friendly act is scheduled at a family-friendly hour to warm up for the evening’s headliners, The Celtic Nots from Spokane.
Chris Sullivan and Friends play from 5 to 8 PM, Thursday, March 17, at Sean Kelly’s. The show is free.