By Ken Morrison
Celtica - Pipes Rock! Are best described as Infectious vitality, unstoppable energy and fascinating virtuosity. The bright sound of the Great Highland Bagpipes rise above powerful guitar riffs, passionate violin runs add elegance to the pulsing drums, and all that becomes a unique, symphonic sound that invites people beyond any age limits to listen and to watch, to daydream and to dance. They have been rocking the kilts off of audiences all over the world since their humble beginnings in 2009 and as they quickly approach their 400th show, there are no signs of slowing down. They bring their live show back to McGirk's Irish Pub this Thursday and Friday.
Megawatt (Official Video)
Having a world renown band such as Celtica play not for one, but two nights here in Binghamton is a pretty big deal. When I asked McGirk's owner Tim Ward what he thought about them, he said - "They are a fabulous group of people, musically soothing, danceable, leave you awestruck and enjoyable no matter who you are, or what genre you favor. The Pyro parts are fabulous. They have in the past put on an incredibly high quality show. I can't wait!!"
The Last Voyage of the Great Michael, Live at Wacken Open Air
I also had a chance to have an exclusive chat with Guitarist and Founder Gajus Stappen who is currently at home furiously editing their first long form live DVD. More about that later though.
Thank you for sitting down with me Gajus, I know you have a lot on your plate, so let's get right into it.
KM: For readers that don't know, Celtica plays all over the world and they do a lot of back and forth between Europe and North America. Sometimes that back and forth is in the matter of just a few weeks. How do you handle all that traveling and jet lag?
GS: There is a very helpful rule: Coffee in the morning, beer in the evening! Yes, indeed, jet lag can be really nasty, but we are professionals – on stage we are always fully awake – the music gives us the energy!
KM: I can attest to you being full of energy onstage. Speaking of playing onstage, Celtica added a new band member this year. Please tell us a little bit about your new drummer Tom?
GS: Tom brings so much power to the band, it is really incredible! He is a double bass drum-monster, but off stage a very nice, relaxed person. He is father of 3 daughters – I guess for him touring with Celtica is nearly like a holiday from home!
KM: I'm sure it is! Now, Celtica plays a very diverse set of Classic Celtic Songs as well as Rock Hits in concert. What Rock Songs would you like to incorporate into Celtica's future tours?
GS: Steamphonia (their newest album released in 2016 - KM) was our 1st album without any cover songs – it was an experiment as we wanted to see how the audience would accept our original material. I was very, very nervous before the first Steamphonia shows, and I didn't dare to believe till we had played at least 10 shows that our fans love the new sound. We are very happy, that our new style is a big success, even at more traditional festivals – so at least at the moment we have no particular plans for new cover tunes. But we still play some Rock covers, especially in the USA.
KM: As you just mentioned, Celtica are currently out supporting 2016's Steamphonia. Celtica's music has gone in a new direction on this album. What prompted this change, and how has it been received by fans around the world?
GS: After 3 albums we thought it is time for a change to keep it interesting for our fans to listen to another album and give them a reason to buy another CD with bagpipe music. Each of our previous albums was #1 of the CD-Baby Celtic Charts, and for several weeks all 3 Celtica CDs were among the top 4; Steamphonia sells even better and at our live shows we get an awesome response
.Photo by John Rech
KM: Celtica is playing for 2 nights this time here at McGirk's. (Editors note - that's AWESOME). For anyone reading this who hasn't yet experienced Celtica live before, what are the audiences in for and what can they expect?
GS: High energy music with the spirit of the Highlands, that makes you smile and dance –well: and maybe also drink a bit!
KM: LOL, yes indeed! Ok, last one. Is there anything else you would like to add, any more surprises coming from Celtica in the near future?
GS: At the moment I´m editing our 1st live DVD, which we have filmed at the Montelago Celtic Festival in Italy in August. Besides the great stage, the wonderful audience and the awesome landscape, we performed the very first time with a classical orchestra and a choir. The preparations started already in February, it was really a lot of work –the score had nearly 1000 pages of arranged music!- but the performance and the sound was incredible. Now I edit all the video footage to capture this outstanding show so everybody can feel the amazing energy when watching the DVD.
KM: That is a monumental task. Thank you for sitting down with me Gajus. We look forward to seeing Celtica this week at McGirk's!
GS: Thank you for your interest in Celtica and the inspiring questions; Unfortunately I have to skip this US-tour as I work on the DVD – I´m really sad that I will not perform with the others at Binghamton. Over the years my job changed from “mere guitar player” to the creative mind behind Celtica, which adds a lot of work behind the scenes to keep Celtica going... Next Friday and Saturday I will have a Whisky or 2 on McGirk's – please have one on me, too...
KM: You can count on it Gajus! Thank you again for your time.
Well, there you have it folks. A World Class band, with an outstanding live show is coming to Binghamton, and you have two chances to see them.
If you would like to go (AND WHY WOULDN'T YOU?), tickets are just $10 at the door.
McGirk's Irish Pub
1 Kattelville Rd
Binghamton, NY 13901
Both shows start at 8:30pm. Get there early and make sure to bring your energy!