Lunasa warmed up in the Burren before their concert
across the street at the Sommerville Theatre last week.
By Colleen Taylor
Lunasa warmed up in the Burren before their concert across the street at the Sommerville Theatre last week.
Davis Square in Sommerville, Boston, is becoming the spot for Irish music north of New York City. From the Burren to the Sommerville Theatre, this small square is alive with Irish tunes. Once upon a time, Irish bands played the backroom of the trad pub, the Burren, established by Irish musicians Tom McCarthy and Louise Costello in 1996, but nowadays, it has more often converted to the before-and-after-the-gig space.
The demand for Irish music in Davis has so grown that bands have had to move across the street to the Sommerville Theatre to accommodate their bigger audiences. The lineup in Davis this Spring is phenomenal, from Dervish to We Banjo 3, and, of course, Lunasa, who I saw play the Sommerville Theatre just last week.
Like all Irish bands that come to Sommerville and play the Theatre, Lunasa spent their pre-show warm-up in the Burren, then popped across the street to play to a nearly sold out two-tier theatre on a Thursday night. The band chose Boston to launch their album promotion tour—their first new, original record in nearly eight years. Lunasa is celebrating this tour as part of their 20-year anniversary, and they played many tunes off the new album, “Cas,” as well as their traditional megahits, like “Morning Nightcap.”
Flutist Kevin Crawford reflected on how, 20 years ago, everyone told them they’d never make it. “People don’t want to be looking at five ugly lads playing instruments, and with no singers,” he joked. But of course, Lunasa has been a massive success, winning several awards for their seven studio albums. They reinvented the sound of traditional Irish music with bass-driven arrangements and cultural crossovers from Breton and Galician music. They have even, it seems, caught the attention of the Boss, Bruce Springsteen. Uileann piper Cillian Vallely played on Springsteen’s recent track “This Is Your Sword.” But rather than join the Boss on tour, Vallely stayed with Lunasa, choosing the music over the money.
The band—Kevin Crawford, Cillian Vallely, Ed Boyd, Trevor Hutchinson and Colin Farrell (standing in for Sean Smyth)—played new original sets to the audience’s delight. “Bob’s Hole in One” set was a particular favorite—jubilant yet easy at the same time. Another cheerful set was “Tatty Ball,” a series of reels that got the audience clapping. And like every Lunasa gig, the band closed off with solos from each musician—the extremely talented fiddler Farrell, Vallely, Boyd and Hutchinson, and of course, leading man Crawford. When the band concluded their show, there was an almost instantaneous standing ovation. Not even the High Kings got their audience in Sommerville on their feet so quickly. If the show was any indication, Lunasa has a very successful tour and album launch ahead.
Lunasa now heads out West for the next leg of their tour, but you can catch them in New York at the City Winery just in time for St. Patrick’s Day on March 13. Up next in Sommerville are We Banjo 3 on March 3rd, Karan Casey on March 11, and Dervish in Cambridge on March 2.