In the Urban Dictionary listing for Irish bands, you might find an entry similar to this one: “A band formed with the intention of receiving free drinks.”
That’s at least how Kilmaine Saints got their start, lead singer Brendan Power said.
“A few of the guys in the band were in a pipe-and-drum band. They kind of had an idea, like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do this for free beer one time?’
“That’s honestly how it started. Beer is always the driving force for most things in our lives,” he said with a laugh.
The Harrisburg-based Celtic rock outfit is one of nine bands that will fill the Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain with sounds derived from mother Ireland for the second annual Scranton Celtic Festival.
Power credits Mike McNaughton (drums) and Jon Heller (bass, bagpipes and lip-synching, according to Power) with first bringing the act together in 2009. The current line-up also includes Barry Mills (guitars), Liz Mallin (fiddle, bass) and Bill Brown (bass, bagpipes, tin whistle, bouzouki, guitar, banjo, vocals). Things escalated quickly, Power recalled.
“After the first practice, we knew we were on to something, and within about a month and a half, we had already started booking shows, and we only knew 10 songs,” Power said.
Since then, the Saints have recorded 2010’s “The Good, the Plaid and the Ugly” and 2012’s “Drunken Redemption” and enjoyed tours along the East Coast and spots at prominent music festivals such as ShamrockFest in Washington, D.C.
They will be joined this weekend, which marks their first appearance at the Scranton Celtic Festival, by guitarist Dave Nields, who is standing in for Mills. They know NEPA well, however, having performed at Kildare’s for a festival preview in October and previous performances at the now-closed Banshee bar and restaurant.
Keeping audiences engaged during the past several years comes with their novel mixture of Irish standards and other hits.
“We knew with doing this genre of music, we wanted to appeal to several people. We aren’t traditional by any stretch of the imagination, but if we took traditional songs like ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ and put our own spin on them, we would be able to keep people entertained,” Power said.
Putting all of those songs together doesn’t come easily. Power said band members flow between 15 different instruments during any given performance and their set concludes with an unusual but always well-received finale.
Kilmaine Saints offers plenty of remixed favorites — hits from the likes of Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Johnny Cash and Social Distortion — and nearly two dozen original tunes, including “Casey’s Swagger,” “Ten Fathoms Deep” and “When We Come to Town.”
When they do, in fact, come to town, expect a lot of fun woven into their high-energy set.
“It’s a very action-packed show. It’s fast-paced with a lot of energy. I think we sweat more than marathon runners do by the end of the show,” Power joked.
“There’s a true love for doing what we do.”
Along with live music, the Scranton Celtic Festival will offer authentic cuisine, a whiskey tasting and traditional dance. Get a full schedule of events and more information at www.scrantoncelticfest.com.