February's BostonIrish Calendar of Irish/Celtic music

A triple bill of Irish/Celtic punk rock at The Burren on February 8 will feature Vancouver's The Dreadnoughts (who will presumably be in a better mood than shown here) with local bands the Gobshites and Mickey Rickshaw. 


February might seem like the paradigmatic calm before the storm of March and its St. Patrick’s Day-related festivities, but there’s a fair amount of Irish/Celtic music in Boston and vicinity during the shortest month.

•The phrase “pure dead brilliant” is Scottish for, basically, “excellent” or “the best.” So, you can gather that an event called Pure Dead Brilliant Fiddle Weekend (“PDB” for short) promises to be pretty darn good. Originally a small retreat/workshop for advanced Scottish-style fiddle players, it’s now a major gathering over President’s Day Weekend in Groton that features instruction, performances, and tons of jamming with an impressive faculty. The 2024 PDB is already sold out, but you can catch the kick-off concert on Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. at the Groton Hill Music Center. PDB director Hanneke Cassel will lead the proceedings with appearances from, among others, The Fretless, Keith Murphy, Katie McNally, Jenna Moynihan, Neil Pearlman, Scottish Fish, Elizabeth Anderson, Rakish, Lissa Schneckenburger, Colin Cotter, Mike Block, Eden and Lukas Pool, Eamon Sefton, Mary Frances Leahy, and Louise Bichan

Go to grotonhill.org/concerts (and if you want to know more about Pure Dead Brilliant Fiddle Weekend, see pdbfiddleweekend.com/pdb).

•The Burren will host an evening chock full of Irish/Celtic punk rock on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. with local outfits The Gobshites and Mickey Rickshaw and Vancouver-based The Dreadnoughts. The Gobshites – self-described as “Jimmy Buffet or Kenny Chesney for the barfly crowd” – have released six albums and a bushel of singles (including “The Whistle Before the Stop” with guest star Ramones drummer Richie Ramone) and shared the stage with notables like the Dropkick Murphys, Black 47, Gaelic Storm, and The Young Dubliners. The eight-person Mickey Rickshaw has sought to avoid being pigeon-holed – in an interview several years ago, band member Mike Rivkees said the group doesn’t sing “about Guinness, St. Paddy’s Day, and Boston sports” – by focusing on songs about working class life in modern-day Boston and infusing their sound with punk, ska and hardcore. Instead of a band, The Dreadnoughts consider themselves as “an advocacy group” based on the idea of folk and punk music forming “a perfect union,” and they put this into action with a repertoire that includes sea shanties, Balkan dances, klezmer, German polkas, even a Viking war chant or two, yet always tied to pure punk rock.

The Burren’s Brian O’Donovan Legacy Series will present Irish singer-songwriter Karan Casey on Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Casey’s 2023 album “Nine Apples of Gold” affirmed her standing as one of Ireland’s most vital artists: The songs – whether authored solely by her or in collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Sean Óg Graham (he and fiddler Niamh Dunne will be joining her at the Burren show) – can be passionate and fiery, such as those that speak to the struggle to acknowledge history’s troubling chapters (“I Live in a Country,” “The Weeping Time”) or achingly beautiful (“Nine Apples of Gold”) and rooted in traditional song idioms (“Daughter Dear,” “Return to the Wild”). And as the inclusion of “Rocks of Bawn” shows, as did her rendition of “The King’s Shilling” in her last visit to the Burren, Casey is as devoted as ever to the folk song tradition. She has also branched out into other modes of expression, such as through her stage shows “I Walked into My Head” and “The Women We Will Rise.”

For information on these and other Burren events, see burren.com/music.html.

•The Boston Uilleann Pipers Club doesn’t just sit around making music – it also organizes events that are open to the public, and the club’s concert series welcomes Will Woodson and Caitlin Finley on Feb. 24 at the Canadian American Club in Watertown. The Portland, ME-based duo – Woodson on flute and uilleann pipes, Finley on fiddle – is firmly grounded in the Irish-American brand of traditional music that grew out of the 1920s and ’30s, and have a deep appreciation for the first generation of recorded Irish musicians, including legendary figures like Michael Coleman, James Morrison, and Paddy Killoran. Among their various projects and activities, they recorded the album “The Glory Reel” with accordionist-pianist Chris “Junior” Stevens, evoking music heard in the dance halls, vaudeville theaters, and house sessions of that long-ago era. Woodson and Finley will present a workshop for pipers and fiddlers from 3 to 5 p.m. and then a concert at 8 p.m. 

For ticket information and other details, see bostonupc.wordpress.com/events

Talisk, the Scottish trio known for its propulsive, raucous, and tightly-knit blend of Scottish and Irish music elements, comes to town with a new lineup on Feb. 29, when they play at Somerville’s Crystal Ballroom at 8 p.m. Winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award and Folk Band of the Year from the BBC Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, the band is led by Mohsen Amini, whose fleet-fingered, vibrant concertina playing has to be seen to be believed, and is built around his chemistry with fiddler Benedict Morris and recent arrival Charlie Galloway on guitar, who succeeded long-time member Graeme Armstrong last November. 

For more about the concert, presented through Global Arts Live, see globalartslive.org/events/list-events.

•The Irish Cultural Centre of Greater Boston in Canton brings in North Cork singer-songwriter Meadhbh Walsh for a Valentine’s Day show on (of course) Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Walsh counts not only Irish luminaries like The Dubliners, Mary Black and Christy Moore as influences but also contemporary, faith/religious and American country music as well. A performer since her early teens, Walsh found herself drawing attention for the weekly videos she posted on social media during the Covid lockdown; her Facebook followers quickly grew from 1,000 and now number at least 116,000.  She released two albums in the space of a year, the most recent being “Unforgotten,” which includes covers of contemporary Irish folk songs like Albert Niland’s “Sail on Jimmy,” Bobby Sands’ “Back Home in Derry,” Patsy Cavanagh’s “Home to My Donegal” and Shane McGowan’s “A Pair of Brown Eyes,” as well as older classics such as “Óro Óro” and “Far Away in Australia.”

For information, go to irishculture.org.