Gaelic Storm is that band. They're infectious. They're the definition of fun. They're meant to be seen rather than heard. They have the ability to make a show played at a venue the size of Bend's Tower Theatre, where they'll perform Monday, feel like it's actually taking place inside some hole-in-the-wall bar where the only drink choices are Guinness, Harp and Irish whiskey. They're a sing-along, dance 'till you drop, make-it-up-as-they-go, Celtic band whose music sticks in your head for days after hearing it.
"People say we have a lot of energy," Gaelic Storm Guitarist Steve Twigger said. "We're not really a sit-back-and-look-at-me type of band. We really like to get the whole place hoppin'. We want to get a big party going."
I've seen many Celtic bands perform in my day but this one - currently four lads and one lovely lasse; not the band's original incarnation - plays 125-or-so shows a year, and has been grinding it out on the road since forming in 1996. Gaelic Storm is the real McCoy, only this McCoy doesn't play straight-ahead Irish and Scottish standards, although songs like "Johnny Jump Up" are alive in their catalog and appear on official releases. The band takes traditional Celtic music and blends it with many other influences.
"We really have a world percussion sound and we sort of blend that with the Celtic background," Twigger said. "I'm from more of a rock background. I played in fairly heavy rock bands all my life, which brings that heavy rhythm to the table. I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Queen, David Bowie - bands like that."
Rehearsal is something Gaelic Storm doesn't devote much time toward. All five band members live in five different locations - Austin, Texas., Annapolis, Md., Boulder, Colo., Chicago, and Ottawa, Canada. A couple of times a year the band will fly into Austin to rehearse at Twigger's home, or they will convene at an undisclosed location in the tri-state region of Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, hole up in a hotel and practice in its ballroom for a week or two.
"But we're far from a virtuoso, sit-in-a-circle-and-write type of band," Twigger said, "and I think that translates into our live show. We like to think of the audience as another member of the band. We teach them lyrics to our songs to get them singing along during the chorus."
Gaelic Storm's audience and popularity grows with each passing album, mostly by word-of-mouth, Trigger claims, although sales of its music and an appearance in the 1997 blockbuster film Titanic haven't hindered progress in the least. Gaelic Storm's fifth album, How Are We Getting Home?, released in August 2004, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard World Music Chart, No. 10 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart and re-entered the spotlight in September 2005 at No. 3 on the World Albums Chart. Their next album Bring Yer Wellies, released in July 2006, made its debut at No. 2 on the Billboard World Chart, No. 16 on the Internet Sales Chart, and No. 31 on the Independent Album Chart. The band's latest album, What's the Rumpus?, released this past July, reached No. 1 on the Billboard World Chart.
"There are times when I feel like we've gained every fan one person at a time. Word of mouth is exponential, and thanks to our website (www.gaelicstorm.com) it has multiplied rapidly," Twigger said.
This is Gaelic Storm's first pass through Bend, but I imagine the musicians will make new friends out of us locals by the end of the evening. "We'll find a local watering hole and meet there," Twigger said.