The Kansas City Irish Fest turns 12 this year, and as they have the past 11 years, organizers are offering a few new features, including a photo contest and a bigger recycling program.
For beer lovers, five beers have been added to the Boulevard Beer Tastings on Saturday and Sunday, and Guinness has been added to the beer menu, replacing Boulevard’s Dry Stout, which is no longer available.
The music lineup also includes six bands or performers who will be making their first appearances at the festival, including the daughter of Van Morrison.
“Each year we try to push the envelope, musically, a little further,” said Pat O’Neill, one of the festival’s organizers. “And that’s actually easy to do, as the Celtic music world is growing bigger, more diverse and more interesting all the time.
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“Irish and Irish-influenced groups and bands around the world are constantly experimenting with genres and tempos, from Irish trad to European punk to American jazz. They are creating whole new sounds on underpinnings of the old Celtic soul.
“We figure we’re not doing our job if we don’t bring in something new to surprise and, hopefully, please folks every year. We are all about celebrating the rich musical history of Ireland, but discovering what’s new, what’s emerging today, is what makes it fun for us, the festival organizers, and for our audiences.”
Here’s a look at those making their inaugural Kansas City Irish Fest performance.
Mundy is Edmond Enright, a singer-songwriter from the town of Birr in County Offaly in Ireland. When he was 18 he started busking and attending open-mic nights in Dublin. Within two years he signed with Epic Records. In 1996 he released “Jelly Legs,” his debut, produced by Youth, formerly of Killing Joke. The album included the song “To You I Bestow,” which was included in the soundtrack to “Romeo + Juliet,” Baz Lurhmann’s version of William Shakespeare’s play. The style was influenced by grunge: Several songs blend acoustic folk-rock verses and heavier, electric-guitar choruses.
He was dropped by Epic in 1999 and released the follow-up, “24 Star Hotel,” in 2002. It’s poppier and folkier than his debut and featured two of his earliest hits in Ireland: “Mexico,” a bright pop tune, and “July,” which sounds influenced by David Gray.
He has since released three studio and two live albums. “Live & Confusion,” released in 2006, includes his cover of Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl,” which has become one of Mundy’s most popular YouTube videos.
Mundy performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday at the Miller Lite Stage.
Carbon Leaf is a five-man band from Richmond, Va., that blends electric folk and roots rock with country and Celtic accents. Beyond the standard guitar/bass/drums, arrangements include penny whistle, bagpipes, mandolin, lap steel, fiddle and bodhran. On songs like “Donnybrook Affair” and “She’s Gone,” they go full-out Celtic, arousing a sound akin to Flogging Molly or the Pogues.
The band has released nine studio albums, the most recent of which is “Constellation Prize,” issued on its own label in October. In 2002, Carbon Leaf won a New Music Award at the American Music Awards for the song “The Boxer.” In 2004, “Life’s Less Ordinary” reached No. 5 on the Adult Album Alternative chart, the group’s highest-charting song.
Carbon Leaf performs at 7 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Boulevard Stage.
FullSet comprises six 20-something musicians from Dublin and rural Ireland who apply contemporary spins to traditional Celtic music. The group released its debut album, “Notes at Liberty,” in 2011. It includes instrumentals like “Tree Reels,” “The Lost and Found” and “Horse Keane’s” plus traditional ballads and laments like “Boys of Bedlam” and “Half-Hanged MacNaghten.” The band has won several awards in Ireland. In 2012 it was named best new group by the Irish American News.
FullSet performs at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Miller Lite Stage.
The Hot Sprockets
The band’s sound has nothing to do with traditional Irish music and everything to do with rock ’n’ roll. The Hot Sprockets are a five-piece from Ireland with a passion for raw, soul-infused garage/psychedelic rock. Songs like “Soul Brother,” “Cruizin’” and “Boogie Woogie” evoke several classic Nuggets-style bands. They change gears, though. “Sleep Shake” has a strong country vibe, and they toss in ballads like “Homeslice” every now and then. In June the band released its second full-length disc, “Brother Nature” on Cherrypopper Records.
The Hot Sprockets perform at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Miller Lite Stage and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Boulevard Stage.
This four-piece from Dublin fuses rock, blues, folk and country with a few Celtic accents. The lineup features two former members of the Irish rock band Whipping Boy, which was active from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s: drummer Colm Hassett and bassist Joey McGowan. In October the band will release its debut full-length, “Tainted Winds.”
Cold Comfort performs at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Magners McEntee Park Stage and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Miller Lite Stage.
Morrison is the daughter of Van Morrison, but her sound bears little resemblance to her father’s music. Born in New York and raised in Northern California, Morrison sings a mix of pop, rock and blues in a style that has drawn comparisons to Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow and Joan Osborne. She has released five albums since 1999, the most recent of which was “Joyride,” issued in 2010. It includes a duet with Jim Lauderdale on “He Won’t Send Roses.”
Shana Morrison performs 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Miller Lite Stage.
The 12th annual Kansas City Irish Fest runs from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Crown Center. Single-day tickets are $10. A $5 ticket is available for Friday only. A weekend pass is available until Friday for $25. Tickets are also available for admission to the Snug (a VIP area) and for whiskey and beer tastings. The festival will feature 30 bands on seven stages, dozens of workshops and exhibits, 20 shop vendors and 19 food vendors. Tickets are available at KCIrishFest.com.