Celtic rock band Young Dubliners’ young beginnings were as a bar band. Literally. In their early days in the mid-1990s, they were the house band for the bar that frontman and guitar player Keith Roberts owned in Santa Monica, California, starting out as a duo blending rock ’n’ roll with the Celtic music the Dublin-born Roberts knew as a kid. That bar gig grew a large and loyal following, a following that likely wouldn’t move beyond Roberts’ bar.
When they were booked into a venue called Club Lingerie, which in the mid-’90s was one of the hot bands on the Sunset Strip and the place to be “discovered,” they decided for that show they’d bring their fans with them.
Young Dubliners will perform Sunday at Animas City Theatre. Opening the show is local Celtic band Patrick Crossing.
“In a panic we rented two Santa Monica rapid transit vehicles, and we put kegs of beer on the buses and loaded them up with all of our friends, so we arrived with over 100 people and the place only held 200,” Roberts said. “So, we ran the place, and word got out that these Young Dubliner fellows are huge already, and we were like ‘no we aren’t.’”
That was the start of a busy time for the band. Venues like The House of Blues started calling, resulting in them selling out the room about 40 times, and labels also started calling. That was 1995, the band went full time, and Roberts sold the bar that birthed Young Dubliners.
WHAT: Celtic and rock music with Young Dubliners and Patrick Crossing.
WHEN: Doors open 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Animas City Theatre, 128 E. College Drive.
TICKETS: $25/$30, available online at https://bit.ly/3y06t4N.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.animascitytheatre.com.
NOTE: This is a 21-and-older show.
“So, the bar went away, we released our first full length album and the rest has just been the road, and being in a band,” Roberts said.
In the quarter century they’ve been playing they’ve ignored what commercial radio wants and stuck to their guns on their sound. Like The Pogues, or colleagues and contemporaries Flogging Molly, they keep one foot in the hard rock world, and the other in the traditional Celtic world; songs with vocals stick to the rock, instrumentals are revved-up Celtic tunes. Some traditional tunes played date back to the 1700s.
“We started to write these more anthemic songs that have big choruses but also have an Irish feel to them. We felt that’s when we finally got it together and blended the two,” he said. “But the musicians in the band are so good that it was a waste to not let them loose on instrumentals, and when we started to write Irish instrumentals, we weren’t trying to stay true to traditional playing. That’s tremendous and extremely difficult and people do it a lot better than we do. What happens when a bunch of rock ’n’ rollers write some Irish-sounding stuff and play the riffs on guitars instead of fiddles and mandolins? So that’s what they are. The instrumentals are a big part of who we are, just as the songs are, and they just tend to always be more Celtic sounding.”
In the mid to late ’90s, Durango was a regular tour stop for the band. But tours got bigger and longer, as did the miles the band covered when on tour. Denver sadly became the only Colorado stop for the band. Until now. On this tour, the band is looking to revisit old haunts that were good to them in the early days.
“It became Denver every year, or we might do Grand Junction on the way. This is great, we’ve been trying to get back to places we haven’t been in a long time,” Roberts said. “We love Colorado in general, and Durango is such a beautiful spot. I’m excited.”
Currently, the band is hosting a pledge drive to fund their new album, which will be recorded later this year.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.