Following our recent interview with The Steel City Rovers (SCR), we had been eagerly counting down the days until this Hamilton based band visited our neighboring state for their inaugural Maryland performance.  Team GDW made our ‘short’ one hour drive to Emmitsburg, MD on a recent Thursday evening to once again enjoy the Celtibilly music that we first encountered last summer.  Upon our arrival at Mount St. Mary’s University, we were delighted to see a huge line of music fans waiting to be admitted to the auditorium, and quickly learned that this ‘annual’ event was sold out.  Celtic music fans in Northern MD would certainly find out that they were in for an unforgettable night of amazing music and entertainment from SCR.

After some announcements were made to thank the sponsors of this event, SCR were introduced to the stage and received a very warm welcome.  Lead vocalist Ryan McKenna would quickly address the audience and inform that the band would play two sets with a short intermission. Launching immediately into “Magic Cabinet,” all was going well except for guitarist Joel McKenna, who experienced a broken string before the first song was done.  Needing time to quickly repair the string, both fiddle player Dave Neigh and multi-instrumentalist Mark Fletcher collaborated on a short improvised jig to keep the music flowing and audience engaged.  Percussionist Dave Gould would quickly follow suit, and the three musicians earned a generous round of applause for their impromptu piece.

The first set contained a perfect mix of both lyrically charged tracks and traditional style instrumentals.  For the former, Ryan would precede the tracks with tales behind the music, especially before “Sudden Sun Showers” and the all-new track (and tribute to Irish heritage) “Drop of the Pure.”  As for the latter, tracks such as “Burning of the Piper’s Heart” and “Fervid Feast” allowed all five musicians to showcase their impeccable skills through their interpretation of the traditional Celtic sound.  One particular highlight during this set was in learning that Joel’s guitar was named “Niki,” as in (hope I am correct here – help me out if necessary Joel) the famous nineties supermodel.  I am guessing that very few members of the crowd could relate to the reference, prompting Ryan to earn some laughs by joking that if Mark had to find an influence for naming one of his instruments, it would have to be “Mae West.”  Poor Mark – the butt of the humor – but all taken in good stride.

Following the brief intermission, SCR returned to the stage for a second set that really hit a home run with the crowd.  We had overheard a few conversations from people in the crowd about how enjoyable the artists and music had been thus far, and one even stated that this was the best show in all the years he had been coming to this annual event at the university.  The crowd were incredibly lively and completely engaged, and during one lengthy instrumental piece, Ryan would work his way through the audience with his cell phone in hand to capture the moment.  The band were on fire, and Ryan’s unexpected antics really had the crowd joining in with the revelry.  Three tracks from SCR’s debut EP would be performed during this set, much to our delight, as we once again got to experience the joys that are “Aibhlinn’s Dance,” “Single Malt of Knowledge,” and “Summer Dance at Montmagny.”  Having earned the undivided attention from the packed out auditorium, the band held nothing back for “Oh My Lord,” their finale that would result in a well-deserved standing ovation from many new fans in Maryland.

Entering the lobby after the show, SCR had quite a significant line of new fans awaiting their arrival for a meet and greet, and we were delighted to see that many were picking up merchandise and wanting to take some of the music home with them to be enjoyed time and time again.  And as the crowds dispersed, we had our opportunity to meet with the band once more, to share tales, to thank them for their support of our blog, and to wish them the best as they continue to take their music to the road and share such experiences across the US.  I really should not have to make this closing statement, but if SCR are performing in a town near you, miss it at your own peril.  These five gentleman are incredibly gifted with their musical talents, and will whisk you away temporarily to a better place with great tales, great music, great times, and maybe even a single malt or two.  A big thank you to SCR for visiting our neck of the woods, and we look forward to crossing paths again later this year.

Set List:

  1. Magic Cabinet
  2. Bouncing McKenna
  3. Sudden Sun Showers
  4. Lonely City
  5. Burning of the Piper’s Heart
  6. Lay Me Down
  7. Fingal’s Tale
  8. Guinness For Two
  9. Moment of Time
  10. Fervid Feast
  11. Drop of the Pure

Intermission:

  1. Loch Leven
  2. Brand the Night Restful
  3. Welcome to the Market
  4. Old Caledonia
  5. Quebequois
  6. Aibhlinn’s Dance
  7. Not the Devil
  8. Single Malt of Knowledge
  9. Summer Dance at Montmagny
  10. Oh My Lord

~ M

Visit the Steel City Rovers’ website.

See the list of upcoming concerts.