the McGillicuddys – Crannóg Brewery Beltaine Festival, BC, Canada (May 3, 2003)

Driving 10 hours for one show isn’t anybody’s idea of fun, but I’d been committed to seeing the McGillicuddys at Crannóg’s Beltaine festival since the fall. I was in Seattle for a Timbers soccer match the night before, so it was only really eight hours driving. OK, eight hungover hours, that last few pints of Beamish in Clancy’s in Wallingford had sealed my fate. Within a few minutes of my arrival at the Crannóg brewery I had a pint in hand and began the healing process.

I can’t think of a better place for a Pogues influenced band to play than the source of inspiration, the very brewery itself. Crannóg Ales, Canada’s only certified organic farmhouse brewery, brew Irish style ales, and played host to the McGillicuddys on their recent tour of Western Canada. Crannóg brewer Brian MacIsaac’s knot-work mural on the brewery door was the ideal back drop for the Victoria Celtopunks.

The ancient Celts celebrated the coming of spring on Beltaine with rituals to celebrate fertility. Appropriately enough Morag the cow in a adjoining field was about to give birth writing the McGillicuddys into punk history as the first band to play for a pregnant cow.

Fueled by Crannóg Back Hand of God Stout, Red Branch Irish Ale and Beyond the Pale Ale, the McGuillicuddys played two sets of original, traditional, punk, and trad songs to a select crowd set against the Shuswap mountains. The black-clad five piece, with accordion, guitar, bass, drums, male and female vocals, and whistle transported the crowd to a mythical smoky pub with brawling songs of drink, hard livin’ and hard lovin.’ Opening with Roaring Jack’s “Buy Us a Drink” the McGillicuddys played songs from last year’s Kilt By Death album and hard hittin’ new material such as “A Dozen Pints,” a drink-your-ex-off-your-mind anthem. “Let it Rain,” an ode to the pub-spent days of London winter, “So let it rain/Let it flood away the pain/Wash away my sins/ so I can start tomorrow clean again,” rings as true on the Cascadian Raincoast as on the eastern shore of the Atlantic.

McG’s frontman Mike Walker’s repeated requests for whiskey lead me to break out the Balvenie that I’d gotten at duty free (gotta love the buy six bottles get $10 off card). A punky version of “Nancy Whiskey,” was my just reward. After a whiskey intermission the McG’s embarked on their second, more raucous set. Tossing in covers from the Nips “Gabrielle,” Cock Sparrer “Riot Squad,” to Richard Thomson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” and a fistful of trad songs, the McGillicuddys showed their range of influence, finishing with the Clash’s “White Man in Hammersmith Palais.”

The drive back the next day was soothed by the memories of the night before. The McGillicuddys had proved well worth the trek.

By Abram “Boyo from the Bog” Goldman-Armstrong

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