(Photo courtesy Invisible Mass)
If you’re idea of Celtic music is akin to old standards, such as “Danny Boy,” or even more contemporary bands such as Big Country, Flogging Molly and U2, you’ll have to forget all that next weekend when Celtic Ska pioneers the California Celts grace the stage of the famous Historic Mono Inn in Lee Vining, on Saturday Aug. 25, at 6 p.m.
Yes, you read that right: Celtic SKA! Chris Poland (aka Chris Armitage), the front man and architect of the Cali Celts, said he’s proud of the band’s “distinct fusion,” having grown up in the ways and traditions of Celtic music, but also going on to master Ska, Reggae and even Punk. Poland, along with his bother, Aaron, cofounded the popular Warsaw Poland Brothers, the predecessor to the Celts. The WPB still continues touring with Aaron at the helm.
Poland’s musical “peas and carrots” mish-mash might seem a bit odd, but to Poland the inspiration is perfectly natural. “My mother’s Welsh and English, and I grew up on Scottish folk songs. My dad’s German, so I got into polka. In the LA world, I loved its ethnicity and wanted to play anything besides rock and roll … I got into the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, the Pogues, and played Irish drinking songs on St. Patrick’s Day.”
Poland met up with fellow musician Chris McEvoy, who liked his sound, but said it needed to zero in, be more specific. “He asked how many bands I thought played ska, and I said about 3,000,” Poland recalled. “Then he asked how many bands played Celtic music, and I said maybe 5!” From there, McEvoy helped establish the direction of the Cali Celts.
“Celtic was a way to be inclusive, but not a strictly Irish band,” Poland said. “We approach music differently than most American Irish bands,” he said. “We incorporated the styles of Desmond Dekker, the first Jamaican ska, rock-steady and reggae singer-songwriter and musician, to land a UK hit single, and Toots & The Maytalls, probably rock-steady (a slower form of ska) and the genre’s best known band. We’re not your average bar band singing over distorted guitars.”
As a bonus, Mono Inn co-owner and noted pianist Jim O’Meally, who coincidentally was Poland’s music professor at N. Arizona University, will sit in on keyboards.
“He’s really smart, but also loves lots of different kinds of music,” Poland commented. “Jim also knows a lot about good wine, too … he usually has a glass of something on the piano!”
Signed to indie record label Invisible Mass, Poland, who hails from Yucca Valley in the Mojave Desert, Calif., is on vocals, woodwinds and bagpipes, naturally. From Riverside on guitar, melodica and vocals is Miguelangelo “Pirate Mike” La Marque Casares. “Navy Davy” Macias, an actual Navy corpsman, plays guitar. On Celtic harp and xylophone is “Peppermint” Patty Hood, a member of the ‘80s pop band from Australia, The Church. The rhythm section features Erik Moures on drums and David Shirley on bass.
The show is free; first set starts at 6 p.m. Visit www.californiacelts.com and like them on Facebook at California Celts.