Citizens Report American Irish Culture

Milwaukee Irish Fest Announces 2013 Festival Entertainment Lineup

Milwaukee Irish Fest Announces 2013 Festival Entertainment Lineup

Celtic Music Highlights include Nova Scotia Showcase and Several Must-See Acts


Pat Boarders & Jimmy Keane of BOHOLA
Pat Boarders & Jimmy Keane of BOHOLA

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (June 3, 2013) – Milwaukee Irish Fest, the world’s largest Irish festival, announces their entertainment lineup for 2013. With several exciting acts and a Nova Scotia Showcase, guests will want to stay and play during all four days of the festival. The annual celebration takes place August 15-18 this year on Milwaukee’s lakefront.


“We travel the world in search of the finest in Celtic entertainment,” said Patrick Boyle, executive director of Milwaukee Irish Fest, who visited Ireland and Nova Scotia this year. “After seeing many phenomenal bands perform in their home towns, we cannot wait to share their talent with our guests.”


With more than 100 acts performing this year ranging from world-class musicians to award-winning dance troupes and choirs entertainment highlights include:


Nova Scotia Showcase

Each year, Milwaukee Irish Fest highlights an aspect of Celtic music and culture. This year’s showcase is Nova Scotia, the Canadian province whose name means “New Scotland.” Nova Scotia is home to a very unique brand of Celtic music rooted in the traditions of the 18th century Scottish immigrants who arrived there after the Highland Clearances. Guests can expect a wide variety of the Irish and Celtic song and instrumental traditions of Nova Scotia in the Showcase.


“Given our history and unique cultural experiences, Nova Scotia has become one of the major international centers for traditional Celtic music. We’re delighted once again for the opportunity to bring some of our finest performers to Milwaukee Irish Fest and we will continue to foster our long-term relationship with one of the most important and largest events of its kind in the world,” said Brian Doherty President of Music Nova Scotia who is partnering with Milwaukee Irish Fest on the showcase.


Audiences will hear traditional Irish-influenced Cape Breton music with the Barra MacNeils, Appalachian “New Grass” from the Modern Grass, and Americana Folk provided by Old Man Luedecke and Dave Gunning. Audiences will also experience the Cape Breton fiddle and piano tradition when they hear Cassie and Maggie MacDonald.


The Gaelic language is a huge part of the music tradition in Nova Scotia and Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIssac will perform several songs in Scottish Gaelic. Evans and Doherty bring the traditional Irish Folk songs with them to Milwaukee as does Buddy MacDonald with his story telling and Cape Breton ballads. Lastly, Sprag Session will deliver high energy sets of Celtic fusion with traditional fiddle driven by drums, bass and guitars.


Guests will be invited to gather ‘round as they are treated to special Kitchen Party set during the opening night of the festival with artists from Nova Scotia. A tradition in Nova Scotia, a Kitchen Party is a musical jam session typically held at someone’s home.



Returning for their 14th year in a row, audiences will be sure to enjoy the Celtic Rock of headliner, Gaelic Storm. The growing success of Gaelic Storm traces back to their appearance as the party band in the movie, Titanic. This year the band welcomes a new fiddle player, Kiana Weber, who will carry on the tradition of putting on an action-packed show. Other headlining Celtic Rockers include Dublin 5 and The Elders.


Tom Paxton, a well-known American songwriter from the Peter Seeger group who recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the GRAMMY Foundation, will return to Irish Fest this year.


Festival headliners appearing for the first time include: The Willis Clan, an award-winning family band of 12 children from Nashville that has toured with Brad Paisley; Cutthroat Shamrock, a regional band covering the genres of punk and bluegrass; and Creel, the house band at Raglan Road Irish Pub in downtown Walt Disney World.


When it comes to folk headliners, audiences will enjoy The Makem and Spain Brothers and Evans and Doherty.  On Saturday night, the groups will collaborate along with Tom Sweeney for a special performance as the combined act, Seven Deadly Sons. Additional folk headliners are Ed Miller and Tom O’Carroll.


Rounding out the featured artists are: Kevin Burke, who will wow audiences with his fiddle playing, and bands Bohola, Nashville Ceili Band, and Switchback who blend Traditional Irish music with contemporary styles.


New Bands

An exciting freshman class of bands will make their first appearance at Irish Fest. Two of the must-see acts are: JPTrio and Niamh Farrell, a young, traditional band from Ireland and Ronan Tynan, a famous Irish tenor most known for his moving performances of “God Bless America” following 9/11.


Several new artists hail from Nova Scotia and are part of the featured showcase. They are: Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, who blend original and Celtic music; Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIssac, who are returning roots and Trad artists who will perform together at Irish Fest for the first time; The Modern Grass, a band that fuses folk, roots and bluegrass; and Old Man Luedecke, who performs narrative-driven folk songs.


Representing the Galician part of Spain is Carlos Núñez, a world-renowned piper who has previously played with the Chieftains. And from Scotland, Manran recently performed their infectious blend of Traditional and contemporary music at the 2012 London Olympics.


New artists who are also headliners are Creel, Cutthroat Shamrock, Dublin 5, Ed Miller, and The Willis Clan.


Bands from Ireland and Northern Ireland

A variety of musical styles will be represented by artists from Ireland and Northern Ireland. They are: We Banjo 3, an all banjo band; Tom Sweeney, who stays true to the ballad tradition; The Screaming Orphans, who adds pop and rock strains to melody-driven songs; and Goitse, who blends modern rhythms and traditional melodies.


Additional bands from Ireland who are performing for the first time this year are JPTrio and Niamh Farrell and Ronan Tynan.


Bands from Scotland

Not to be confused with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who consider themselves among the legion of fans), the Red Hot Chili Pipers are an energetic band that has played at both the 2012 London Olympics as well as private parties for Richard Branson. Mànran is the only band to make it into the Top 40 UK Singles Chart with a Scottish Gaelic song.


About Milwaukee Irish Fest

Milwaukee Irish Fest is the world’s largest celebration of Irish music and culture. The four-day festival showcases more than 100 entertainment acts on 16-stages at Henry W. Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee’s lakefront. The annual festival occurs every third weekend in August. The 2013 festival takes place August 15 to 18.


More than just a festival, the Milwaukee Irish Fest organization is passionately committed to igniting a love of Irish culture in all people. Milwaukee Irish Fest teaches Ireland’s music, dance, drama, sports, culture, children’s activities and genealogy through year-round programming. For more information, visit


About the Artists

Barra McNeils

As a group, the six MacNeil siblings from Cape Breton Island are widely regarded as one of the greatest live concert acts in the Celtic world. The group is deeply rooted in Celtic music, culture, dance, language and history.  The Barra MacNeils live concert experience brings multiple lead vocalists, beautiful sibling harmonies, and top instrumentation blended with dancing and storytelling.



Irish music’s accordion virtuoso Jimmy Keane and the remarkable bouzar player and vocalist Pat Broaders, comprise Bohola. Penned Irish music’s newest “supergroup” by The Irish Herald, Bohola plays a driving, yet very emotive style of Irish music infused with a raw and gritty modern sound.


Buddy MacDonald

Buddy MacDonald has been a singer, songwriter and entertainer for over thirty years and has performed with musicians from all over the world. He hails from the North Shore of Cape Breton where he was exposed at an early age to the singing and story-telling of some of the great singers of his native Island.


Carlos Núñez

Carlos Núñez hails from the Galician region of Spain and remains undisputed as the tradition’s greatest piper. He is also enormously popular across the rest of Spain and throughout Europe and Latin America. Due to his close personal connection and multiple collaborations on many of the The Chieftains albums, he was dubbed “The Seventh Chieftain.” His own records have gone platinum in Spain.


Cassie & Maggie MacDonald

Born in Halifax, with strong roots in Nova Scotia, Cassie and Maggie MacDonald have been wowing audiences across Canada with their unique blend of original and traditional Celtic music. Cassie’s fiddle playing has been described as “sweet and elegant with just the right amount of raw power” while Maggie’s piano playing has an irresistible drive that will leave your foot tapping.



Damien McCarthy and Colin Farrell formed Creel in 2004 and began playing gigs together across Europe. They were discovered and invited to be the house band at the Raglan Road Irish Pub in Kansas City. Soon, they moved to the Raglan Road in Orlando Florida in downtown Walt Disney World.


Cutthroat Shamrock

A rowdy and rambunctious band who describes their genre as Appalachian Celtic Punk, Cutthroat Shamrock has been known to unite the wicked and amaze the innocent. They meld the traditions of Ireland, the rhythms of Appalachia and infuse everything with a bite of punk.


Dave Gunning

Dave Gunning is folk singer-songwriter from Pictou County, Nova Scotia. Over the span of his career, Gunning has released nine albums, received a Juno Award nomination and has been awarded two Canadian Folk Music Awards. With a rich baritone voice and down-to-earth songs, the charismatic Nova Scotian chronicles the life journeys of ordinary Canadians.


Dublin 5

Dublin 5, formerly The Rovers, is a high energy Irish Rock band based out of Annapolis, Maryland. The name Dublin 5 is the region in Ireland where Ray Murphy, lead singer in the band, grew up as a child.  They have taken the Celtic music scene by storm thanks to an eclectic mix of traditional roots and blazing instrumentals with an amped up rock twist.


Ed Miller

Ed Miller has been hailed as “one of the finest singers to come out of the Scottish Folksong Revival” and as “one of Scotland’s best singing exports.” Originally from Edinburgh, he has for many years been based in Austin, TX where he gained graduate degrees in Folklore and Geography at the University of Texas.


The Elders

The Elders formed in Kansas City in 1998 and have been providing raucous, foot stomping Celtic rock ever since. The band flawlessly blends Celtic storytelling and traditional music with elevated tempos and contemporary instrumentation.  Known for their bristling lives shows, the Elders have set the American music scene on its ear with their quality playing and energetic performing.


Evans & Doherty

Kevin Evans and Brian Doherty have been an integral part of the Canadian East Coast music scene for over twenty years.  Evans & Doherty perform a lively blend of traditional, original and contemporary songs, with a liberal sprinkle of stories and humor.  The duos’ resonant guitars and rich harmonies have been set down on 10 CDs recorded over their 26 year career.


Gaelic Storm

From their start as a bar band in Santa Monica, California, to international performances, Gaelic Storm has been one of the most popular acts in the history of Milwaukee Irish Fest. The band was launched to stardom in 1997 with their role as the party band in the film Titanic. Famed for their rousing, energetic shows and post-concert fan meet and greets, Gaelic Storm has set the standard for infectious music.



Goitse is a five piece Trad band consisting of members who met as music students at the University of Limerick.  With several members who have earned All-Ireland titles, the band takes modern rhythms and traditional melodies and synthesizes them into their unique style.  A recent Milwaukee Irish Fest and the festival circuit favorite, Goitse provides a modern take on traditional Irish music.


JPTrio and Niamh Farrell

JPTrio and Niamh Farrell is a fresh, lively and innovative band that describes their music as Celtic, roots, and funk. They have been hailed as great instrumentalists with a lot of innovation and terrific percussion. JPTrio is brothers Ted (banjo, tenor guitar and vocals) and Jos (button accordion, keyboards and vocals), Paddy Hazleton (percussion and vocals), and joined by Niamh Farrell for the main vocals.


Kevin Burke

Kevin Burke’s fiddle playing has been at the forefront of traditional music for over 30 years. His work in the early 1970’s with such renowned performers as Arlo Guthrie, Christy Moore and the Bothy Band helped established him as a first-class musician. During his long musical career, he has earned international acclaim in both Europe and America.


Makem & Spain Brothers

After years as a powerhouse Irish vocal group, the Makem Brothers joined forces with the Spain Brothers in 2003 to form a quintet as strong and unique as anything in Irish music today. The Makem brothers are from County Louth, Ireland, and stem from a great Irish music lineage that includes their father, the late Tommy Makem. Joined by second-generation performers, the Makem and Spain Brothers are a driving force in Irish folk songs today.



From seeing in the New Year as house band on BBC ALBA Hogmanay, to a sellout show at Celtic Connections, a special performance at the London Olympics and numerous International shows, 2012 was another fantastic year for Mànran. The band blends a delicious mix of drum, bass, accordion, fiddle and flute to create an infectious and recognizable sound.


Mary Jane Lamond & Wendy MacIssac

It was in Nova Scotia, while visiting her grandparents that Mary Jane fell in love with Scottish Gaelic traditions and song. Wendy is an award-winning fiddler, piano player and step dancer from Cape Breton who began performing publicly at age 5. Their music achieves a delicate balance between the musical sensibilities of two artists, showcasing the melancholy of Gaelic song and the joy of fiddle tunes.


The Modern Grass

The Modern Grass was born in early 2011 in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has since released five albums and toured relentlessly. The group’s latest award winning album, High on the Mountain, explores new territory in folk, roots, and bluegrass music.  The Quintet is already kicking up dust in the Canadian music scene with international tour dates.


The Nashville Ceili Band

The Nashville Ceili Band has been delighting dancers and performance audiences in Nashville, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia for years with uplifting traditional music. Jigs, reels, waltzes, and hornpipes get people dancing and clapping and are played with a strong attachment to the Irish, Scottish, and French Canadian traditions.


Old Man Luedecke

Old Man Luedecke is the recording name of Juno Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and banjo player, Chris Luedecke, of Chester, Nova Scotia. With skillful precision and a storyteller’s heart, Luedecke’s narrative-driven folk songs are playful, coy, and soul warming.


Red Hot Chili Pipers

Bagpipes with attitude, a blazing rock band and a show so hot it carries its own health warning, the Red Hot Chili Pipers have been rocking the world from New York to Beijing with musicianship of the highest order and a passion for pipes that will leave you breathless. Formed in 2002, they have fast become a global phenomenon, taking their signature “Bagrock” sound to the masses.


Ronan Tynan

Ronan Tynan’s ability to simultaneously console and inspire is well-documented. In the wake of 9/11, his singing softened the sorrow of many. Ronan was gold medal-winning Paralympian and an orthopedic doctor before seriously considering formal voice study at age 33. He went on to win several talent shows, performed numerous operas and joined The Irish Tenors.  In 2005, his self titled album debuted #2 on Billboard’s Classical Crossover Chart, just behind Josh Groban.


Screaming Orphans

The Screaming Orphans are made up of the four, close-knit daughters on one of the finest vocalists to emerge out of the Céilí band scene, Kathleen Fitzgerald. Following in their mother’s musical footsteps, they formed a band that stays true to their roots in traditional Irish music. Adding their own touch, they have a strong focus on melody-driven songs with pop and rocks strains.


Sprag Session

Sprag Session is a group of five musicians from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia whose music lingers somewhere amidst the rich, soulful roots of traditional music and the grooves of rock and funk. Their unique style of Celtic fusion will have you up and dancing Cape Breton-style. A breakout hit at our festival in 2012, they have been fan favorites for years when together as The Colin Grant Band.

For over two decades, the musical partnership of Brian FitzGerald and Martin McCormack, known as Switchback, has been entertaining audiences around the world with their unique American Roots music blended with Celtic Soul.  The duo has shared the stage with such notable Celtic musicians as Cherish the Ladies, Gaelic Storm, Liz Carroll, and John Williams.


Tom O’Carroll

Dublin born folklorist, folk-singer and instrumentalist Tom O’Carroll brings a wealth of stories, humor, wit and history to his performances. Whether playing a plaintive air on the tin whistle or singing and playing rousing traditional songs to the accompaniment of the guitar or the bodhrán (Irish drum), Tom will captivate all with his lively program of Irish culture.


Tom Paxton

Tom Paxton has become a voice of his generation, addressing issues of injustice and inhumanity, laying bare the absurdities of modern culture and celebrating the tenderest bonds of family, friends, and community. Tom received a 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy during the 51st Annual GRAMMY® Awards.


Tom Sweeney

Tom Sweeney, from Omagh, Northern Ireland, envelops the very essence of Irish culture into his performances. Inspired by his grandmother, the late Sarah Makem, the great ballad tradition was instilled in him from boyhood. Sweeney carries with him an endless amount of songs, stories, poetry and tunes. His shows run the gamut of emotion, fun and Irish history.


We Banjo 3

Award winning Irish banjo band We Banjo 3 are direct from Galway, Ireland. The multi-instrumentalist band members, Enda Scahill, and brothers Martin Howley and David Howley, are internationally renowned for their incredible technical virtuosity and musical innovation.


The Willis Clan

With 12 children in the family, The Willis Clan is a large family band of talented musicians, dancers, athletes, writers, and artists. Living in middle Tennessee, they merge their Irish roots with other music and dance genres to create a unique blend of the old and new. A reality show on The Willis Clan will debut this summer on GAC.


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