Harrisburg’s Hidden Celtic Music Scene

I spent the latter part of my last post lamenting how Irish pubs and St. Patrick’s Day events don’t play enough Irish music.  It looks like I may have spoken too soon.

Last night I drove up to Harrisburg to go out with a buddy of mine from home who lives down there.  Harrisburg’s an easy half hour drive from Lancaster, and worth checking out if you’re within driving distance.  It has a cool little bar scene located on 2nd street, that’s always a little more hopping than I think it’s going to be.

We started our night at McGrath’s, an Irish pub that as far as I know sticks to the top-40’s (although I may be biased…last time I was there I was denied entry due to my “drunk eyes.”  I was maybe on drink five).   After dinner, we dropped my buddy’s girlfriend back at their apartment and headed back into town.  We discussed our game plan and felt we should explore some new bars, expand our repetoire if you will.

We parked and headed to Ceoltas, planning on adapting the one drink and go policy until we found a bar we liked.  We only ended up leaving later on because we had plans to meet friends at a different locale.

Ceoltas looks like your average Irish Pub: alot of dark wood, stained glass, but…this bar was playing the Pogues when we ordered our drinks.  A Flogging Molly song came on next.  It wasn’t a fluke.  We’d found an Irish bar that plays Irish music.

We decided to stay for a bit so got comfortable when I noticed a large flyer advertising a Wolfteones show.  The Wolfetones are an Irish rebel band with a folk music sound.  They’ve been around forever (since 1963, the bartender informed us) and our playing at Ceoltas on February, 20 for $20.00.  The bar, as we’d soon learn, has a second floor for performances.  The Wolfetones most popular song is arguably “Celtic Symphony” or “Grafitti On The Wall” as I know it.  My favorite college bar, Oscars, played this nightly when I was in school. I’ll be attending the show, if just to see this song live.

Around eleven, a DJ came in and the Irish music stopped.  We decided we’d finish our drinks and head out, but decided to check out the cover band upstairs first.  When we asked about the band, the bartender said he didn’t know a ton about them, but that all the cover bands they get are interchangeable.  “It’ll probably be some old guy singing Journey,” he said, like it was a bad things.

Journey it was not.  The band was called the Kilmaine Saints, and at first inspection they seemed to be what I had only dreamed about before: an Irish punk rock cover band.  We entered just as they were starting a rousing version of Dropkick’s “Boys on the Dock.”   They were really good.  They played selections by Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, and Flogging Molly, as well as some original stuff I enjoyed.  My only complaint was that the lead singer was every now and then adopting a fake Irish accent…but once again I spoke too soon.  When reading up a bit on the band today I discovered the lead singer is actually from Ireland.  My bad.

I’ll leave you with a short clip I took of the band covering Flogging Molly’s “What’s Left of the Flag”, another song you should acquaint yourself with for March.  I apologize for the length, but my phone was rapidly losing battery power at this time.

One response to “Harrisburg’s Hidden Celtic Music Scene

  1. Pingback: Harrisburg Bars | PA Weekend Fun·

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