Citizens Report American Irish Culture

Danahey on the Loose at The Irish House Party

The cast of The House Party plays Shay Clarke's living room.
The cast of The House Party plays Shay Clarke’s living room.

If a band is called The Irish House Party, what better way to see them than in somebody’s house?

That’s what I was fortunate enough to do Sunday at the Clarke estate in West Dundee.

Sure, I was gonna go see the act at the Irish American Heritage Center Saturday, but it snowed. Again. See, I have become a weather wuss and am officially tired of this mire and all of Tom Skilling’s weather porn about why it’s warmer in Alaska than here in the Midwest, while it’s 110 degrees in Australia where tennis players are sticking to their rackets and kangaroos are freely giving themselves to crocodiles for relief.

Plus, living in a place that’s abbreviated ILL (Where the license plates should read “The Upper Respiratory Infection Capital of the United States”), I have some weird nasal nonsense, an adult version of the croup, where I cough up parts of my lung and where at bedtime I wheeze, making a sound as if I have a cuddly animal living inside my head – or maybe a tiny baby. Yet, I hope it keeps. This noise distresses the downstairs neighbors the way that their creepy little non–housebroken lame ass excuse for a dog that is a chihuahua disturbs me.

Thus, instead of going out to see a band, the band landed about a mile from me, to tape Shay’s WDCB, “Blarney On the Air,” having a breakfast of coffee, tea and baked goods before heading to the living room for the interview – the first they’ve done for a radio taping where Jameson’s was served.House Party Photo#3

This is the act’s third consecutive year coming to the states. They’ve been offering dinner and a show 10 minutes outside of the center of Dublin for about seven years. Who knows? If PBS finds out about them, maybe  they could be the next Celtic craze but with less fog machines, ballgowns, and purply backlighting. Or maybe the members could take to wearing Lycra and add acrobatics to the mix to become Celt du Soleil.

What The Irish Party is, is an affable trad act that started out in a small room playing for the dustmites, to being booked seven nights a week at its home stage during tourist season in Dublin and taking to England and the States to build the base in fun-to-be-in-the-Midwest months such as January.

The band even collaborated two years ago on Ireland’s “The Late Late Show” with boy band The Wanted on the latter’s ubiquitous ditty “Glad You Came.” Oddly, the original featured accordions along with the requisite pouty model-types with interesting haircuts singing.

Founding member and whistle man Declan Quinn also did the music for the 2013 comedy “Life’s A Breeze,” which stars Fionnula Flanagan and Pat Shortt.

Singer-guitarist Gerry Nolan sounds like he’s had the Carlow knocked out of him according to Shay – but I can’t even tell Minnesota from Wisconsin or Michigan in these parts, let alone the accent differentials in Ireland – where to my untrained ears, third sounds like turd, and sanctuary can sound like century.

The latter is what multi-instrumentalist Isaac Alderson thought Nolan was crooning in “Isle of Hope,”  a number about Ireland’s  Annie Moore,  the first person to pass through the immigration gates at Ellis Island.

That happened in 1877 which was way more than a century ago, which is what confused Alderson – but, hey, he’s a transplanted Chicago native who lives in New York now and who recently gave up eating meat. which could leave anyone dizzy.

Either way, he’ll be back in Chicago with another trad band, the Yanks, who will be playing the 53rd annual University of Chicago Folk Festival Feb. 14 – 16.

House Party Phot#4Completing the touring version, Aedin Martin is the best-looking member of the band – which for trad bands these days could just mean no scruff.  Martin not only plays fiddle and harp – which she can tune with an iPhone app – but also is a champion Irish dancer. And Michael Flatley used to stay at her folks’ house before he became a Dance Lord and his feet caught fire.

She also claims to make a mean brown bread, which if its half as good as the bread Traci Clarke buttered up for the group for lunch, has to be good.House Party photo#2

The quartet are a smaller version of the stage show you’d get in Dublin. Stateside, the band offers a bar version of its sets and a stage version, with audience interaction, stories and comic bits along with the songs.

Hopefully, there won’t be some sort of feedback-meets-the-Daleks-via-Radiohead electronic feedback/robot noises that plagued the taping a bit Sunday. Good sports, the band redid a few numbers sans the ghost in the machine.

You can catch the party, Wednesday  at McNally’s Irish Pub in St Charles from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m; Thursday at Ashling on the Lough in Kenosha starting at 8 p.m.; Friday at the Raue Center in Crystal Lake for an 8 p.m. show; Saturday at St Brendan’s Inn all the way up in Green Bay at 9 p.m.; then Sunday at  County Clare Irish Inn and Pub in Milwaukee beginning at 7 p.m.

For more information, see

And next time you’re in McNally’s ask Shay about the spring tour of Ireland he and Traci are planning, where seeing The House Party in the band’s house is one of the final stops before coming back here, when everything should finally be thawed.

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