Last night I ventured out into the night to attend a concert at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center to see Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones. I was expecting a night of traditional Irish music, but was curious how it would play out in a theater setting. Being used to Sunday nights at Mulligans; with the Celtic Tigers, a dance floor and no shortage of spirits and ales within reach, I wondered how that kind of energy was going to translate into a formal concert hall.
The Chancers (careful, the link plays music right away, but you can skip the intro), a band based out of Portland, Oregon opened the show with reels, jigs, slides and polkas…everything you need to get some foot stomping and hand clapping from the audience. The band consisted of two fiddle players (one sang), a guitarist, a banjo-ess and the band’s leader playing a squeezebox (accordion to some). The music was great, the banter between songs was enjoyable and the crowd reacted very well to the frivolity. I will get another opportunity to see and hear The Chancers, as they will be playing at Mulligan’s on Sunday evening for the annual Robbie Burns night (including the legendary haggis brought out to bagpipes and served on a silver platter).
Picture a Normal Rockwell painting of Santa Clause, now shorten the beard, lose some hair off the top of his head and expose some skin, put him in a light green button down shirt and slacks…and of course, give him a Dublin accent, and you now have a vivid image of what Derek Warfield looks and sounds like.
To start the evening off he welcomed the audience and explained that if they were expecting a night of songs about rebellion and struggle…we came to the right place. Cheeky bastard. I loved it.
This man has been on stage for more than 40 odd years, he’s in his late 60’s and he put on a better show than some rock stars and performers I have watched one third of his age. He is not only a talented musician and singer, but the man is a living history teacher. He would take ten minutes to explain a four-minute song, covering things like its origins, its subject matter and its influence in Irish culture.
I have seen passion before in musicians, but usually they are younger, eager to be heard, but to see someone that passionate about music at such a late stage in his career was a treat. He covered a lot of Ireland’s history and spoke about Australia and the influence the Irish had down under, as well as all over the world. He spoke of the parallel history of Ireland and the United States and how the struggle for freedom was never easy, but the Irish kept their story alive through music and songwriting. Although he said this was his first time to Maui he definitely understood the similarities between the Hawaiian people and their cultural struggles and Ireland’s.
Whenever Derek gave the floor to one of his younger musicians (all three of them could not have been more than 30 years old) he would step towards the back of the stage and let them become the focus of the song. He showed respect for his music, his heritage, his audience and his fellow musicians. What a class act. He spoke to the audience about the fact that he is playing with a young band in order to pass down the heritage and the music so a younger generation can learn it and pass it along, the way it has been done in Ireland for centuries.
Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones were comprised of Derek on lead vocals, bodhran and mandolin, Demaris Woods on tenor banjo, Dan Lowery on flute and vocals, and Alan Murray on guitar and vocals. Please check their website and support a living treasure if they are coming to a venue near you.
A very big thank you goes out to Mike O’Dwyer for making last night happen. Mike was the person who managed to get The Young Wolfe Tones and The Chancers to play on Maui. Without his efforts I never would have been exposed to a living legend I had no idea existed. It was nice to be entertained, educated and maybe the night added some culture to my life…maybe. The audience filled the McCoy theater which looked to hold around 300 seats, so I hope they have the opportunity to come back to Maui again.