Last weekend, Milwaukee held their annual Irish Fest where dozens of talented musicians gathered to perform Celtic music and entertain festival patrons. Among these musicians was Milwaukee-based Celtic rock band Whiskey of the Damned, who played on Saturday, Aug. 17 and will be playing in Milwaukee again tonight at G-Daddy's BBC Bar & Grill. The band was started by Ireland native Eoin McCarthy, who took the time yesterday, Aug. 22, to talk about the band.
McCarthy has been performing since he was nine years old, when his father and fellow musician, Finbar McCarthy, would bring him onstage to sing a song or two. He's accustomed to touring, having grown up in that atmosphere and always knew he wanted to be a musician.
I would go with my dad to sessions in bars on the weekends in Ireland from the day I was born basically... Literally when I was in the crib he would push me out in my crib while they played.
He was living in Spain and touring with his father when they got green cards to come to Milwaukee, where McCarthy started Whiskey of the Damned. When asked why they chose Milwaukee, McCarthy said,
When you get a green card they give you a list of cities that you have to fly into and declare where you're going to be staying, but when they do they give you the city and the nickname of the cities. They give you New York, The Big Apple, and Chicago, The Windy City, and then my old man saw Milwaukee, Brew Town, and he said, 'That's exactly where we're going.'
Soon after moving to Milwaukee, McCarthy started Whiskey of the Damned with local Milwaukee musicians. The band lineup has changed somewhat, and now consists of McCarthy (vocals, bagpipes, guitar), drummer/vocalist Andrew David Weber, vocalist/bass player Matt Schuetz, vocalist/fiddle/melodica/mandolin player Gina Romantini, and accordion player Brian Link.
Whiskey of the Damned is frequently compared to Gaelic Storm and Dropkick Murphys, which McCarthy considers an honor since he finds musical inspiration in such groups. McCarthy added that they have toured with Dropkick Murphys in the past and that they're not only some of the talented musicians in the world, but also incredibly nice, humble guys.
While Celtic rock bands such as Gaelic Storm, The Pogues, and Flogging Molly are strong musical influences for the band, there's a wide range of music that influences McCarthy. He says that he could go on for hours about such bands, adding British hip hop lyrical structure and American punk rock to the list of musical inspirations.
This was Whiskey of the Damned's third time playing at Irish Fest and Finbar McCarthy's 20th anniversary at the festival. Eoin McCarthy tries to see as many bands as possible each year, adding,
I love it. It look forward to it all year, I really do. It's been great, over the last few years there have been some really great new acts that have come in, younger bands, that experience it for the first time. It's a fantastic environment, the music....it blows me away all the time.
Whiskey of the Damned will return to the Henry Maier grounds on Thursday, Aug. 29 for the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary Celebration alongside bands such as Dropkick Murphys, Lynyrd Sknyrd, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. McCarthy commented on the lineup and their participation in the celebration saying,
I don't know if they realize how not as famous as them we are. It's ridiculous, I swear I've looked at the poster for the past two months straight and I read through all the names and there's Whiskey of the Damned and I'm like, why are we on this thing?! How did they hear about us?
Clearly Whiskey of the Damned is doing something right to be added to such an incredible lineup and get the kind of response they do during live concerts. When asked what he hopes people get from a Whiskey of the Damned concert, McCarthy replied,
I just want people who come to the concerts to almost feel like they're part of a carnival. I want them to get up and dance and shout and have a great time and come away sweaty with raw hands from clapping to every song.
Based on the reaction at Irish Fest, they're off to a great start and are getting the desired response. Whiskey of the Damned recorded their current album, "Moonshiners and Shoplifters", in the back of a music shop and wrote about half the songs there over two days. They're recording their next, "proper album" in Atlanta this November.
Whiskey of the Damned is playing tonight, Aug. 23, beginning at 9 p.m. at G-Daddy's BBC Bar & Grill in Milwaukee. For more information on Whiskey of the Damned, visit https://www.facebook.com/WhiskeyoftheDamned. If you're a fan of Flogging Molly, Gaelic Storm, or incredible adrenaline-pumping live performances, Whiskey of the Damned is the band to watch.