Brightening the typically dreary month of March in Vancouver with Celtic spirit for the past nine years, this past Saturday’s event marked the festival’s tenth anniversary. With a solid eight days of free and ticketed live music shows, street performances, outdoor markets, workshops, and of course the well loved, colorful St. Patrick’s Day Parade, this festival has become extremely popular with people of all ages in Vancouver. It was therefore hardly a surprise to find myself in a very long and happy line outside the Rickshaw Theatre on Hastings Street for the festival’s opening night. Despite the cold and the fact that the rain was literally pounding off of the pavement around us, the festival’s opening event – the Irish Edge featuring Hermitage Green – promised to be more than worth the rainy wait.
Upon entering the intimate venue, I immediately could not help but keep myself from smiling broadly as I realized that at least 90% of my fellow show-goers were, like myself, Irish. Two ladies who were very definitely kitted out in Penneys’ (Irish clothing store) finest attire passed by just as one exclaimed, “Ah go ‘way outta that, he did not? What an absolute numpty!” A while later as I sat waiting for the show to begin, a twenty-something-year-old-man very seriously ordered his buddy to “throw the rest of that pint back. I;m finished mine, and it’s your round,” in the strongest Cork accent I had heard in an extremely long time.
Hailing from Limerick in the southwest of Ireland, Hermitage Green has enjoyed huge success over a short period of time, playing over 500 shows in five continents over the past two years, and selling out shows both at home and abroad through obvious mass appreciation for their consistent dedication to creating a unique and unforgettable sound. As the five tall, ruggedly handsome Limerick lads walked onstage and greeted their audience, high-pitched, girly wolf-whistles and cheers reverberated off of the four walls. Launching into their two-hour set, the crowd quickly grew thicker towards the front of the stage. My plus-one on the night, who had been unfamiliar with the group, commented on his surprise at how the band’s music fell into a more pop-rock genre rather than the folk-like sound he was expecting. It is not difficult to understand why anyone would think that, or why the band has often been compared to popular British folk singers Mumford and Sons: The instruments used by this group include a banjo, djembe drums and a bodhrán – an instrument usually associated with traditional Irish bands playing in little corner country bars.
During their two-hour set, Hermitage Green played original catchy songs such as “Aisling” and “Gibson”, as well a cover of Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love” and probably the most haunting version of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” I had ever heard.
If I was to draw just one negative from the night, it would be that the acoustics in the show’s venue were not great. Having been a fan of the group for quite some time, I had to explain to my friend that the venue did not do their set justice. Despite this, the boys were fantastic, and I can honestly conclude that the night was a huge success for the band’s first ever Canadian performance.
Whether you missed out on seeing Hermitage Green perform at the Rickshaw on Saturday night or just want to relive an amazing performance, the wonderful Limerick lads will be playing at the CelticFest 10th Anniversary Gala at the Vogue Theatre on Friday, March 14.
For details on more exciting shows and events happening around the city during CelticFest Vancouver 2014, which runs until March 16, visit the festival’s website.