Beer enthusiasts, men in kilts and uninhibited dancers were among the thousands of revelers at Kansas City Irish Fest on Friday. Over half of the attendees left early on the opening night of the three-day festival when a storm temporarily shut down all of the stages around 8:30 p.m.
Hardy music lovers were rewarded with powerful performances by Gaelic Storm and FullSet following a 70-minute delay.
“This might be the best concert we’ve ever had… because all the amateurs have gone home,” a member of Gaelic Storm exclaimed.
The California-based ensemble rose to prominence after it was featured in the blockbuster film “Titanic.” The band’s cheerful Irish rock songs like “Raised on Black and Tans” and “Green Eyes, Red Hair” provided an ideal soundtrack for drinking and dancing.
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Although the music of FullSet is free of rock elements, the performance by the sextet was no less raucous. The up-and-coming band from Ireland invests traditional music with youthful energy. An outing by Socks in the Frying Pan was even better. The fun-loving Irish trio told jokes and tossed souvenir socks into the audience.
Qristina and Quinn Bachand, another tradition-minded act, were also impressive. The endearing Canadian siblings were among the performers who were plagued with sound problems. After a series of disturbingly loud pops, Qristina admitted that “I’m afraid to walk around on the stage.” She and her brother overcame the sonic challenges, but Byrne and Kelly were less fortunate.
Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly are members of the popular performance troupe Celtic Thunder. Relegated to a small stage in Washington Square Park with a stunning backdrop of the downtown skyline, Byrne and Kelly’s delicate music was overwhelmed by sound emanating from another stage. Readings of sentimental material like “Back Home in Derry” could barely be heard.
Flannigan’s Right Hook, the band that unknowingly spoiled Byrne and Kelly’s effort, was a revelation. The locally based group’s rousing showmanship, strong original material and well-selected covers including Pink Floyd’s “Time” suggest that Flannigan’s Right Hook may someday supplant the Elders as Kansas City’s favorite Irish rock band.
Moxie also takes liberties with the music of the Emerald Isle. The young Irish quintet captured the essence of electronic dance music with two banjos, an accordion, keyboards and drums on a joyous rendition of the title track of their new album “Planted.”
Many listeners didn’t know what to make of the adventurous band, but a recital by students of the Driscoll School of Irish Dance was greeted rapturously. The audience may have been stacked with friends and family members of the dancers, but their effort was utterly charming.