The perennially peripatetic pub band Gobs O'Phun will entertain the crowds once more at Swallow Hill Music Association, 71 E. Yale in Denver at 8 pm Saturday, March 8. This concert is intended to celebrate their twentieth anniversary performing together, and it promises to be an enjoyable occasion as always.
Why is Gobs O'Phun still around after 20 years? Here's their answer.
The members of the Irish/Scottish folk band, Gobs O'Phun, never imagined they would still be spreading their special brand of song, stories and silliness after twenty years. What started out as a one-night stand for St. Patrick's Day turned into two decades of performing at pubs, festivals, concerts, libraries, schools and private functions, along with radio and tv appearances. What is it about Gobs O'Phun that they reached this milestone? What's the secret formula?
They admit they aren't world-class musicians. But vocally they have a good sound with a unique harmony. The gentleman that hired them for that first St. Patrick's Day, at Finnegan's Restaurant & Pub in the now defunct Adams Mark Hotel in downtown Denver, probably nailed it best, saying, "you guys are more entertainers than musicians".
That night created the opportunity for the Gobs to become the house band. Finnegan's was the perfect venue for the band for the next year and a half – a pub setting, an intimate stage with no electronics and with the hotel as an anchor providing a revolving audience each weekend. The Gobs fondly recall folks from all over the country telling them to come play at a pub in their city.
Gobs O'Phun has an energy and a charm that's spiced up with a wacky, impromptu humor. Those qualities helped land them another eighteen month engagement on the heels of Finnegan's at The Kilt and Candle in Littleton, followed by a three year stint at Clancy's Pub in Wheat Ridge. But to survive this long when so many other bands come and go there must be more to it than that.
Their songs tell stories. Stories about love, romance, valor, virtue, oppression, triumph, travels, history, humor and of course, drinking. These are the universal themes which can relate to any cultural background. As an example there was the couple who came for dinner every weekend at Clancy's Pub. They brought the wife's elderly father, Freddy, who was from Germany. He may not have understood every word said or sung, but he always enjoyed the show. When Gobs O'Phun played at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah for a SLOC-sponsored event, there were people from all over the world that filled the tent for each performance. Maybe it was the awe of seeing men in kilts, but the Gobs like to think it was for the music. Although athletes train to come to the Olympics, the Gobs come to the Olympics to train for St. Patrick's Day.
After that first year, St. Patrick's hasn't been a one-day gig for the Gobs, it's more like a one to two week "season". And that particular day doesn't mean a single performance, either. They have had up to six appearances on a single March 17th prompting Norm Clarke, a former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News to describe them as "ubiquitous". The band admits they had to look that word up to confirm it wasn't an insult.
The band has eight cds to their credit with wonderful guest musicians the likes of Chris Daniels, Rich Moore, Peggy Fasing, and more.
Besides the story-telling songs, Gobs O'Phun has an authenticity and a passion about them. At one Finnegan's show the Gobs recall a gentleman coming up to the stage afterwards emphatically stating, "welcome to our country!". That’s when they had to explain they were the band from County Denver. Their enthusiasm for the songs and the stories behind the songs has not faded. Patrons at Finnegan's were so enamored they would claim, "I wish I was Irish!". And the band likes to point out those kind of comments were sincere, not the alcohol speaking.
But there's another aspect that is probably most significant. The band members are family – brothers, Denis and Tim Sullivan, along with their brother-in-law, Martin Lambuth. On special occasions they were joined by an older brother, Jim Sullivan. But being family alone doesn't draw in and maintain an audience. It's the way the band makes members of the audience feel like part of the family, like an evening sitting around the family living room enjoying the music, sharing stories and each others company.
And there you have it, the secret formula.
Tim has retired and Jimmy has passed away, but the formula has proven it still works as Denis and Martin have performed as a duet for the past two years. They still have the unique sound, and the entertainment factor is just as fun. As excited and dazed as they are about reaching twenty years, the band can't wait for twenty-one when they will be considered legal.
Gobs O'Phun invites you and your family to join them for this momentous occasion as they celebrate the past twenty years through story and song. And someone should buy them a dictionary to help translate the opening sentence of this story.