Thu, May 16, 2013.
The Mahones have been carrying the torch for Irish punk music since forming in Kingston, Ontario in 1990. Featuring front man Finny McConnell, born in Dublin and raised on both traditional Irish sounds and classic punk, the group has enjoying continued success, watching every flavour of the day fall away, while the appetite for their aggressive approach has stayed strong and even grown of late. "That's our sound, fast and furious," offers McConnell, on the line from Toronto. "We never joined in on the trend in the first place, we were outcasts from the beginning! We were too raucous. Then 20 years later, it turns out we were pioneering the Irish punk scene, and now we're respected."
It's a sound that actually caught on fast and furious on the East Coast right away. With our interests in all things Irish, The Mahones found a natural following as soon as they hit the road, and McConnell remembers it well. "When we first started touring, in the early 90's, one of the first places we went was the East Coast, and the first place we played was Shediac. The first thing we saw was the big lobster, and I love lobster." It turns out it was the start of a mutual love affair between the band, the audience, and, umm, the lobster. "we like to get down twice a year," says McConnell. "We love it out there, it's one of favourite places in the world. I love it in the summertime, I'm from Ireland, and it reminds me of there. The people are really friendly. You'll never see us at the big Celtic fairs, we're too raunchy, but there's lots of people that love it."
The group couldn't get down on an earlier tour, but made sure to include some dates here before heading out on one of the busiest summers of their career. Thanks to their long, hard work, and that of others, including their pals in Dropkick Murphys, they're now bringing their show to the rock festivals, if not the Celtic ones. "The tours are getting bigger and bigger, more and more dates," McDonnell marvels. "We just added the States, all kinds of festivals. We're in Europe all summer, we had to turn down festivals in North America, because we're booked overseas." As soon as they wrap up a week of Atlantic Canadian shows, they hit the U.S.for a long stretch with the Murphys.
Far from rivals, their Boston cousins are big fans and friends of The Mahones. "Ken Casey from the Murphys is on a song on our new album," says McConnell. "We do it light speed, and Scruffy the bagpipe player played on another one. We're very good friends with this guys, we've been hanging out for a decade. Scruffy's from Calgary, he's been a friend since the 90's, and used to come to our shows with his pipes, and ask to join the band. But I was never a big fan of the pipes, I'm more of an accordion guy. He even said he'd play for beer and pizza. Good thing I turned him down, I saved their band! We've played with them eight times now. Their great friends and treat us really well. They wanted us to join them on their East Coast last year, but we were already booked. That was too bad."
That's okay, it's a great line up Thursday night in Fredericton. The group is playing the Boyce Market, along with two fine regional trad groups, Sprag Session from Halifax, and 10 Strings And A Goat Skin, from PEI. It's a launch party for a new Picaroons brew, called the Plaid To The Bone, and a fundraiser, with proceeds going to Fredericton Society of Saint Andrew Pipe Band. That show starts at 7. Then The Mahones keep travelling, appearing at Moncton's Plan B on Friday night, and you know that's going to be a crazy show in that venue. The excellent Jerry Leger opens.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).