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Alan Doyle of the band Great Big Sea performs at the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest on Friday, July 16, 2010. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

Great Big Sea is marking a great big milestone. The Canadian music mainstays have been together for 20 years.

Front man Alan Doyle says their success comes down to "courage and patience and grit."

"It's never been a big job you know. I don't know, it's been hard sometimes, but it's always been fun and we've always felt kind of lucky to even be in the game for a summer, let alone for 20 summers," said Doyle.

The group played to a sold out crowd in Halifax on Friday night as part of its XX tour.

"I always say I like a full room. And if that's 50 that's fine with me. And if it's 50,000 that's fine with me. I like for there to be a sense of occasion in that room, and you make the most of whatever that is," said Doyle.

Great Big Sea performed its first concert on March 11, 1993, opening for the Irish Descendants at Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L.

During the early gigs the band was often paid with a combination of cash and beer.

"We drank an ocean of beer in our early days, and we're pretty unrepentant about it, I suppose," said member Bob Hallett.

"Plus we were really enamoured with that drunken Irish-English pub sort of poetry character, those guys like Shane MacGowan and Brendan Behan, so we spent a long time trying to emulate that. But we wouldn't have lasted 20 years if we kept drinking like that."

After two decades and going strong, the Newfoundland folk rockers say there’s no saying when the song will end.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say it was a lot of hard work sometimes. But it's been the best kind of work you can get as far as I'm concerned," said Doyle.

The XX tour isn't over yet.  There will be one more gig on home turf, in St. John's, on Saturday.