New England acts The Makem and Spain Brothers and the Joshua Tree join Derek Warfield & the Young Wolfe Tones, The Screaming Orphans, McPeake, Enter the Haggis, and The Prodigals as headliners for this year’s Boston Irish Festival, which will take place June 17-19 at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton.
Other musical performers appearing at the festival include Boston Black Thorne, the John Robert Murphy Band, Dicey Riley, Erin Og, the Denis O’Gorman Band and The Ha’penny Band.
In addition to music, festival-goers will be able to choose from a generous offering of events and activities spotlighting dance, sports, history, film, art, literature, genealogy research, and other aspects of Irish culture. Families and children will be able to enjoy games, amusements and other entertainment. Various items — clothing, jewelry, artwork and more — will be for sale at the always popular O’Connell Street Marketplace.
Making a welcome return to the festival will be Keltic Dreams, a unique elementary school-age dance group from Harlem, NY. The troupe — which came to Canton in 2006 — is comprised of children mainly from African American and Latino backgrounds, and brings a multicultural dimension to its performance of Irish dance.
All festival information, including ticket prices as well as news and updates on performers, is available at bostonirishfestival.info.
A look at this year’s Main Stage acts:
The Makem and Spain Brothers have energized and charmed audiences with their dynamic vocals and equally strong instrumental accompaniment, evoking the “classic” Irish balladry and traditional music that has been a common thread in both their families. The quintet has played at festivals and concerts throughout North America and Ireland, appeared on PBS specials, and recorded four albums and a DVD.
The Joshua Tree, Boston’s own premier U2 tribute band, has developed a national reputation for its ability to capture the magic and majesty of the Irish rockers who have become a world phenomenon. The group prides itself on reproducing the distinct sound of U2 — covering the very early years up to the present — while maintaining artistic integrity.
Derek Warfield & The Young Wolfe Tones extend a musical legacy that goes back to 1963, when Warfield co-founded the original Wolfe Tones — who over the next 38 years went on to earn acclaim for their fiery Irish patriotic and traditional songs. That sound lives on, drawing a new generation of listeners as well as older fans.
The eight-member group McPeake also has ties to a distinguished legacy: that of the McPeake family, whose roots in the Irish music tradition stretch back more than a century. McPeake is linked to this past, with Francis McPeake IV carrying on the piping heritage that began with his famous great-grandfather, yet also cultivates a very contemporary feel with original songs and modern arrangements.
Boasting a good sense of fun as well as diverse musical interests, The Screaming Orphans — their self-description is “when honey and gravel collide” — are four Irish-born sisters whose sound has been compared to The Bangles and The Cranberries, and who draw upon influences ranging from The Beatles to Abba to Irish traditional music. They’ve released six recordings, including 2009’s “East 12th Street.”
For the better part of two decades, The Prodigals have played vibrant, well-crafted Irish rock, blending a brand of funky and anarchic energy they call “pure New York” with a passion for Irish music. Their most recent release, “Whiskey Asylum,” is a collection of songs spanning 1999 to 2009.
Toronto-based Enter the Haggis brings together a prodigious blend of rock, fusion, bluegrass, traditional Celtic fare, agitpop, folk, and even Latin flavors. While the band’s Celtic influence remains palpably intact, which is likely the reason why core fans have stayed so loyal over the past decade, they continue to break new ground with every offering — and the power of the music is only made more significant by their socio-political conviction.