Before James Wilson moved here in 2008, there were no Irish rock bands in Sacramento. Traditional bands like Nine-Eighths Irish and Griffin had carved themselves a niche in the local folk market, but fans of the harder-edged Irish rock, played by bands like the Pogues and Flogging Molly, had to go elsewhere to enjoy live performances in this genre.
Now all of that has changed, thanks in large part to James Wilson. The multi-instrumentalist, whose parents hail from Ireland, is a founding member of Black-Eyed Dempseys and a current member of Whiskey and Stitches and Stout Rebellion. Along with the Pikey’s and Hanover Saints, these five Irish rock bands play to wider, and younger, audiences all the time.
“When we first started,” says Bobby Easton, lead singer of Stout Rebellion, “the clubs would thank us for our promo kits and say, ‘Maybe on Saint Patrick’s Day.’ Today, we play six gigs a month and get offers for way more than that.”
The increased exposure has created a generation of new fans who can catch live shows every week. O’Mally’s Irish Pub in Old Sac hosts an Irish rock show every first Friday of the month, Roseville’s Boxing Donkey has two shows per month, and the Delta King Riverboat in Old Sac hosts an Irish pub night every Thursday. This is not even to mention the countless venues that host Irish rock events on an occasional basis or high-profile annual events like DeVere’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebration or the Shamrockin’ Half Marathon at Raley’s Field, both of which showcase local Irish rock to crowds of thousands.
“It’s unbelievable,” says Wilson. “I never thought I’d be this busy.”
In 2009, Wilson’s two Irish rock bands rarely had conflicting gigs, but the demand for Irish rock has grown so much in the past two years that Wilson now has a stand-in.
“It’s weird when you think about it,” says Mike Dalton, lead guitarist for the Pikeys. “Some of our songs were written in the nineteenth century, but it seems so natural to just rock them out.”
“People love tradition,” says Wilson, “but they also love new things. Irish rock or Irish punk is a great way to mesh the old with the new.”
Wilson is celebrating his 50th birthday next week with an event he hopes will become an annual tradition. “Irishpalooza” is being held at Harlow’s on Friday, August 12th from 6:30 – 9:00. Wilson’s two bands—Stout Rebellion and Whiskey and Stitches—will play there along with the Pikeys.