Just one short month after catching up with the Steel City Rovers (SCR) in VA, our favorite Celtibilly quintet were back in the USA to perform at their third consecutive PA Celtic Classic. Following their impressive debut at this event in 2017, the Hamilton, ON, band earned an exclusive second invite for 2018. Delighting the huge crowds with their energetic performances across several stages last summer, SCR received the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket: an incredibly rare third consecutive invite to this prestigious event once again.
Having caught the latter part of their early Saturday afternoon set on the ‘Tavern in the Glen’ stage, it would be SCR’s evening performance on the main Grand Pavilion stage that was a must-see for us. Led by the three original founding members, Ryan McKenna (vocals/bodhran/accordion/washboard), Joel McKenna (guitar/vocals), and Mark Fletcher (accordion/small pipes/bouzouki/tin whistle), the weekend saw their fellow bandmates Devon Martene (violin) and Nathaniel Rustenburg (percussion) make their Celtic Classic debut with the band. And hanging out in the wings once again was good friend Scooter Muse, who never resists the opportunity to add his amazing banjo skills to a handful of tracks.
Opening their set with the loud and proud tribute to Ireland that is “Drop of the Pure,” SCR came out firing on all cylinders, demonstrating their passion, their intensity, and their ability to instantly connect and build rapport with their audience. “We’re trying to cram so much into our busy lives, yet part of the allure of this Celtic music is that it harkens back to another time,” Ryan shared, prior to a performance of “Moment of Time.” “[This] is about slowing down and squeezing all you can out of every blessed moment.” Mixing both vocal and instrumental pieces, SCR delighted all with popular tracks “Guinness for Two” and “Aibhlinn’s Dance” from their debut EP, along with newer compositions such as “Brand the Night Restful” and “Old Caledonia;” the latter being a Gaelic waltz about taking a loved one back to your home town.
Other highlights included a recent composition, “Welcome to the Market,” which not only saw Ryan dabble a little with some Celtibilly-Rap, but also added a washboard to the mix. “Mom said I gotta bring it back or she can’t do the laundry,” he would joke as he retrieved the instrument from the rear of the stage. And with the powerful combination of “Single Malt of Knowledge” and “Oh My Lord,” SCR closed the show with raw energy and incredible intensity. Another successful Celtic Classic for these fine gentlemen from Hamilton, and judging from their well-deserved standing ovation and legions of new fans, hopefully another invitation is being drafted to have them return once more.
- Drop of the Pure
- Aibhlinn’s Dance
- Moment of Time
- Welcome to the Market
- Brand the Night Restful
- Old Caledonia
- Guinness for Two
- Summer Dance at Montmagny
- Single Malt of Knowledge
- Oh My Lord
The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.