St. Patrick's Day is at hand. And since this annual bacchanalia of Celtic inspiration falls on Sunday, we have the entire weekend to celebrate.
Usually, St. Paddy's is an instance in which the traditional music of Ireland, executed on whistles, fiddles, bodhrans and more, fuels the fun. But here is a checklist of four performances that steer away from the familiar.
Some suggest an Irish influence or attitude. Others avoid them. But the full weekend is a celebration, right? Here are four very different ways to bring it to life, be it with or without the green.
The folks at Willie's Locally Known, 805 North Broadway, will bypass the usual jigs, airs and reels and head straight to Ireland's prime rock 'n' roll inspirations Saturday.
First, Bluegrass Collective, Warren Byrom, Relic Delic and more will take on the music of U2, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues and other Irish upstarts.
The evening will conclude with a hootenanny tribute to the great Van Morrison. Confirmed for the Van Hoot will be Ray Smith, Tim Welch, Lee Carroll, Karly Dawn Higgins and the Baja Yetis horn section. Other acts probably will be added by showtime. (6 p.m. $10. (859) 281-1116. Willieslex.com.)
You're not likely to hear a finer platter of locally produced — and recorded — pop and soul these days than Matt Duncan's Soft Times. From the sleek boardwalk-style stride of The Horn of Plenty to the brassy, finger-popping lyricism of Summer Song to the more plaintive piano pop of Lone Ranger, Soft Times is a bag full of retro-fueled charm that holds its own against the work of any indie-pop contemporary.
On Saturday, Duncan and his band will offer a free, live glimpse of the music from Soft Times by way of on in-store performance at CD Central, 377 South Limestone. (3 p.m. Free. (859) 233-3472. Cdcentralmusic.com.)
As we get our Irish up this weekend, let's not forget the impact string music from another shore has had on that great Kentucky-bred sound known as bluegrass. Thematically — as shown by the mutual obsession with misery, heartbreak, murder and death — and musically, the links between traditional Irish music and bluegrass are a mere stone's throw apart. Granted, that stone has to skip across the Atlantic, but the ties are very real. So celebrate St. Paddy's weekend with one of the final shows in the annual fall-to-spring concert series at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall, 303 Bluegrass Lane in Clay City. Saturday brings the return of The Lost and Found, the Virginia quartet that is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Driving Rain will open. (7 p.m. $12. (606) 663-9008. Kyfriends.com.)
OK, so an evening with the genre-defining prog rock troupe Yes might not seem the most expected way to close out St. Patrick's Day. But if you're at all a fan of the band, this show is for you. Sunday's performance at the Louisville Palace, 625 South Fourth Street, Louisville, will be devoted to complete performances of three of the band's finest recordings: 1971's The Yes Album, 1972's Close to the Edge and 1977's comparatively overlooked Going for the One.
Today's Yes includes three mainstay members — bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White. Keyboardist Geoff Downes, whose Yes connections go back to the 1980 album Drama, and vocalist Jon Davison, who joined the band in 2011, complete the lineup. (7:30 p.m. $25-$75. Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com. Louisvillepalace.com.)
Mike Scott at WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center: There was more than a suggestion of irony in the air Monday night at the Lyric Theatre. How else do you explain a taping of WoodSongs Old-Time Hour that set the works of one of Ireland's greatest literary figures to music by a Scotsman, all with St. Patrick's Day less than a week away?
But the merging of William Butler Yeats' poetry with the melodies and pop turns of Mike Scott, chieftain of post-punk folk revisionists The Waterboys, was an astonishingly flattering fit. Perhaps it was because Scott has lived so much of his life in and out of The Waterboys in Ireland that borders have ceased to matter. Maybe it was his discovery of a genuine musicality within Yeats' poetry — an epiphany emphasized during this WoodSongs set by the unlikely blues feel brought to The Lake Isle of Innisfree, the churchy ambience that underscored White Birds and, best of all, the near psychedelic delicacy draped around Song of Wandering Aengus. Or it could have been the accompaniment of the schooled Dublin fiddler and longtime Waterboys ally Steve Wickham, who injected Yeats' Mad as the Mist and Snow with serene Celtic flair that was spry, lyrical and, yes, a touch mad.
The bulk of the program was pulled from the recent Waterboys album An Appointment With Mr. Yeats, a recorded variation of the tribute show Scott has been touring with for years (it has its North American premiere next week in New York). But there were other delights as well, including a two-song encore of Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Passin' Thru that tossed the Waterboys' Scots/Irish spiritualism straight into Americana pastures. The piece de resistance, however, was a true St. Patrick's treat: a version of the classic Waterboys hit Fisherman's Blues that emphasized the effortless Celtic soul in Wickham's playing and the sleek Hammond organ support of Nashvillian Paul Brown.
A footnote: The WoodSongs broadcast also included a few readings of Yeats' poetry sans music. Among them was the jocular A Drunken Man's Praise of Sobriety, read with relish by Alltech founder, president and brewmaster Pearse Lyons. Talk about irony.