Billed as “America’s Largest St. Paddy Day Festival,” Shamrockfest is coming to take over RFK Stadium Festival Grounds March 12. The yearly event features an Irish village, bagpipers, Irish dancers, carnival rides and live bands.
Taking the stage will be a collective of traditional international Irish bands and punk rockers including Flogging Molly, The Gobshites, Dropkick Murphys and Vanilla Ice. Yes, that Vanilla Ice. Need more? How about a “Hot Kilted Legs Contest” and a river of green beer?
In advance of the Saint Pat’s blowout, Gobshites leadman Peter Walsh discusses how his band’s music falls somewhere between folk, Irish and rock (think a modern version of The Pogues) and what you can expect at Shamrockfest.
Question: Tell us a little bit about Shamrockfest.
Answer: Shamrockfest is the biggest St. Patrick’s party on the planet. It’s hard to believe they get the biggest Celtic acts year after year at the time when they are all in highest demand! I think that’s because nobody wants to be the one that misses out. It’s the Woodstock of Celtic rock.
Q: How did you band get involved?
A: We got involved a bunch of years ago. It’s become an annual tradition for us. We come down to Washington, D.C., the center of our government and home to some of the greatest museums in the world, so we can play music and drink ourselves silly without seeing any of the things I just mentioned.
Q: That’s a cool lineup, but it also features Vanilla Ice?
A: How much cooler can you get than Vanilla Ice? Even his name is cool! Few people know this, but Vanilla Ice was originally known as Vanilla O’Ice. He was rapping over jigs before anyone. [laughs]
Shamrockfest also features DJs and hip-hop artists.
Q: Will there be beer?
A: There’ll be beer as far as the eye can see. Feel free to buy The Gobshites a few rounds! Guinness please, we only drink stout.
Q: How about green beer?
A: I’m pretty sure there will be green beer, green clothes and a few people green around the gills.
Q: How much beer will the band consume before you play?
A: Seeing as every song The Gobshites sing (except one) are about drinking, we like to drink as much as possible before we play. There is one festival in upstate New York that won’t book us anymore because we drank so much. I don’t know what they expected when they booked us for two days and said, “You won’t pay for a drink all weekend!”
Q: The fest features a mix of traditional Irish music and punk. Does that best describe The Gobshites?
A: The Gobshites are a mix of classic punk rock, folk and Celtic music. We like to call it “acousticelticore.” We take old punk rock songs by bands like The Ramones and Black Flag and play them as if they were traditional Celtic folk tunes, as well as taking Irish folk songs and playing them as if The Clash wrote them.
Throw in my original songs and it’s a beautiful mess.
Q: How did you guys come together?
A: The Gobshites came together as a premature birth. I had planned on doing a band like this someday, but the time frame moved up rapidly when Larry Kirwan from Black 47 booked us to open for them years ago. I had shown him a fax — see, I told you it was years ago — of the logo for the band that John Holmstrom from Punk Magazine had drawn for me. It’s a leprechaun with a middle finger almost as big as his head, like one of the caricatures on the back of The Ramones album “Rocket to Russia.”
I didn’t expect he would get it too me so quickly. I was excited when I got it and showed it to Larry at the Black 47 show that night. He assumed I had a band to go with the logo, so he booked us to open for him a few weeks later. There was no way I was turning that offer down. I asked Larry to name us. We just insulted each other back and forth until he came up with The Gobshites.
Q: Were The Pogues a big influence?
A: Yes. Hearing The Pogues for the first time felt like hearing punk for the first time. They took something that was so familiar to you, like Irish folk songs, but presented them to you like you’ve never heard them before.
Q: I heard you’re working on a new CD with former Ramones drummer Richie Ramone, yes?
A: We are putting the final touches on an album called “The Whistle Before the Snap.” We recorded with Richie Ramone in Dublin and are getting close to releasing it. It’s awesome working with Richie. He’s a fantastic drummer and a great friend. We played a show with him on St. Patrick’s Day in San Diego a few years ago, and it was legendary. I’m not sure we’re allowed back in that city.
Q: Do you have to wear green to get in?
A: You don’t have to wear green to get into Shamrockfest. You could wear orange and get your ass kicked.
Q: If I wear a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” shirt to Shamrockfest, will I get some action?
A: I’m sure if you wear a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” shirt to Shamrockfest, you’ll get some action. Unfortunately it’ll be from someone else wearing a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” shirt.
Q: If leprechauns were real, what would you do if you found one?
A: What do you mean If leprechauns are real? I’ve already found one. How else do you think I get to live this glamorous lifestyle?
For more info on Shamrockfest, visit Shamrockfest.com. For more info on Gobshites, visit Facebook.com/Gobshites.