I can sure see why St. Patrick’s Day is a favorite holiday for a lot of people. Some years it’s downright spring-like around here on March 17, for one thing, and it’s such a simple holiday. Todd Snider summed it up nicely in a recent interview: “You wear green. You drink. Congratulations, you did it!”
You don’t have to buy presents for anybody, cook a big feast, decorate eggs, think of a good costume or anything. Like Cinco de Mayo, it’s a minor holiday in its land of origin that has been blown out in the United States, basically as an excuse to party.
Snider is one of my favorite singer/songwriter/storytellers, and he’s back at the Cavalier Theater on Saturday — that’s St. Patrick’s Day for those of you not keeping track. Thanks to Snider, I don’t have to make a hard decision about what musical opportunity to take on Saturday. My hardest decision will be which Green Bay Packers shirt to wear for the occasion — for some weird reason, my wardrobe is shockingly lacking in green apparel.
If not for Snider, who is bringing his dog Cowboy Jim along for the show, I would have had some hard deciding for where to go to hear some music and celebrate good ol’ St. Patrick on Saturday evening.
For fiddlin’ finesse, it’s hard to beat Laurie Lewis, a California-based pillar of the bluegrass music community who won a Grammy Award in 1997 for her part in an album called “True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe” and was earlier nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for her collection of duets with Tom Rozum, “The Oak and the Laurel.”
Lewis, who was twice won California’s female fiddling championship and was twice named Female Vocalist of the Year at the International Bluegrass music awards, is playing Saturday night at Leo & Leona’s Tavern and Dancehall.
This is a rare treat, having Lewis perform in our neck of the woods, and you don’t have to take my word for it. Mandolin ace and “newgrass” pioneer Sam Bush has this to say about her: “She is newgrass in the truest sense of the word, in that she uses bluegrass instruments to create new original music: It’s music for now. As a fiddler, she could be from the 1940s or from 2010; it’s timeless. As a singer, she knows the rules of bluegrass and how to sing in her own voice. She’s probably one of the few female singers who really knows the nuances of the Ralph Stanley vocal style.”
For something a little more Irish, you might want to head over to the Pearl Street Brewery and catch A Hundred Sows and Bucks, a local band featuring Buck Towne, Dustin Lamm, Matt Dunn and Joe Dodson. Not only do you get great entertainment from the band — a swirled up acoustic combination of classic rock, traditional Irish and folk — you also can get free corned beef and cabbage and gouda-and-stout bread from Great Harvest Bread Co.
Samplings of multiple variations of PSB’s Evil Doppelganger — including the new Blonde Doppelbock — also will be offered as part of this event, which starts at 4 (music runs from 6 to 9 p.m.). This could be a fun warmup on the way to the Todd Snider show, eh?
Up in Galesville, the Old Main Community Arts Center is hosting a dinner of Irish-style cuisine (corned beef and cabbage, of course) with music by The Creek Chicks (Vickie Baer, Sarah Ashland, Alex Pehling and Sara Ecker) joined by the always-entertaining Doug Mahlum.
They might be playing some Irish favorites at the Old Towne Hootenanny family jam from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Old Towne Strings, and the fun thing about the Hoot is you can bring your instrument with and pitch in on the music making.
This St. Patrick’s Day offers a couple chances to see the Pigtown Fling String Band, an offshoot of The Amadans, a local band that specialized in Irish tunes (“amadan” means “idiot” in Gaelic). Pigtown Fling (Sherry and Barry Byrne, Casey Barth and Jessie McDonald) plays at The Brickhouse as part of a big St. Patrick’s Day shindig that runs from 1 to 5 p.m. after the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown La Crosse, and then the Fling plays at The Bodega from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Also Saturday, Andy Hughes from TUGG is performing an acoustic set at the Trempealeau Hotel with DJ Trichrome, Crooked Willow is performing at the Charmant Hotel, Last Call is at Features Sports Bar and Grill in West Salem, Pat Ferguson at the Popcorn Tavern (don’t be surprised if Todd Snider shows up late for a jam), and the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra has a fine program planned at Viterbo University’s Fine Arts Center.
See what I mean about tough decisions? And the options I’ve listed here just scratch the surface — there’s a ton of other bands playing out and about on St. Patrick’s Day, almost as many as on New Year’s Eve. This is definitely a good warmup for the tough choices we’ll have to make for Mid West Music Fest, which is April 13-14 in La Crosse.
Shamrock on ...