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Bowen Boys make it local

Bowen Boys carry on at the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub



By Nicole Fitzgerald

Who: The Bowen Boys

When: Saturday, March 17

Where: Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub

If there is an expert on St. Patrick’s Day in Whistler, Rob Thompson of the infamous Bowen Boys would be at the top of that list, with more than six years of St. Paddy’s Days under his guitar strings. The man, whose voice is as rich as Guinness, was sought after by a number of bars and pubs wanting to stage Thompson’s electric, can’t-stop-tapping-your-feet music this St. Patrick’s Day.

And what is his advice for green celebrations this Saturday, March 17?

“Come in really early and stay really late,” he advised. “It’s the usual yee haw of drunken debauchery with great music, with crowds dancing. The only way to describe it is a fun zoo.”

Seasons may change, people come and go, but one thing music lovers can count on is finding Thompson and company every March at St. Patrick’s Day headquarters, the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub.

For many the spirit of the Irish runs as murky as the green-food-colouring-infused lager jugs slugged out over canned music of The Proclaimers. But at the old Irish Pub it’s the real deal, with Kilkenny, Guinness and even the wood of the bar imported directly from Ireland.

And while Thompson and friends might not be born from Irish soil, their hearts are true to the leprechaun core with Irish, Celtic and Maritime ditties, both sorrowful and sunshiny, filling their Irish wake.

Of course Thompson, along with Mortiz Behm on fiddle and mandolin, and Cam Salay on banjo and bass, will satisfy all those sing-along traditional favourites with Whiskey in the Jar, Dirty Old Town and Seven Drunken Nights cajoling listeners onto the Gate’s shoe-box-sized dance floor. What is lacking in square footage is definitely made up for in Irish spirit with music exhausting both dancers and musicians.

The repertoire of the Bowen Boy trio digs deeper into those jigs and reels that you can never get enough of with lesser-known musical shenanigans such as Spancil Hill and Ordinary Man.

“Spancil Hill is a traditional tune about someone who has come to America and gone back and visited their hometown in Ireland and how they have seen how much has changed,” Thompson explained. “Christie Moore’s Ordinary Man is a really working class tune à la Bob Dylan. (Celtic music) is like any genre. There are some songs I like more than others. I had no idea there was so many though. It’s endless.”

Only a half a dozen years ago, Thompson didn’t have one Irish song to his name. The rock and roller was more about the folk and rock cover circuit. Now with Thompson playing more than five different Irish pubs around the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island — including the Irish Times Pub, Ceili’s Pub, Dubhlin Crossing and St. James Gate Pub — you’d swear he was from the land of the emerald Isle, rather than Ontario.

But where there is a will, there is a way, even in his hometown of Hamilton.

“I used to listen to Stan Rogers in a coffee house in Hamilton as a kid,” Thompson recounts. “He is one of the greatest songwriters of East Coast maritime music.”

Whether music transported from overseas or over the prairies from the Maritimes, the acoustic reeling sound captures the heart and dancing feet of all Paddy party revelers.

“(Celtic) music is very heartfelt, but at the same time fun,” Thompson said.

The same could be said for the musicians who play it.

The Dubh Linn Gate sports the luck of live music from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. with organizers readying for crowds with a covered, heated patio. Just look for the lineup across from the Blackcomb Gondola.