One of the biggest bands playing at this year’s Irish Fest is The Fighting Jamesons. Frontman Mike Powers discusses the state of the Celtic punk scene, their performance with the legendary Dropkick Murphys and their ongoing Jameson-drinking competition.
NUVO: Do you feel that Celtic punk is stronger now than in the early days of The Pogues?
Powers: Tough to say; there are so many bands out there each with their own approach to Celtic punk which makes it an adventure. With that being said, Irish music as a whole has and always will be strong. It’s funny because when I’m asked to categorize Irish music, I can’t separate it into groups, it’s all just one incredible genre to me from The Dubliners to the Young Dubliners, from the Clancy Brothers to The Tossers. And I love it all.
NUVO: You’ve actually performed with The Dropkick Murphys before. What was that like?
Powers: We were so young as a band when we did, so there was a lot of nervous energy. But when you’re hanging out at soundcheck with the boys from Dropkick and talking about music and hockey, it really made us comfortable. We had an amazing experience. [They’re] great dudes.
NUVO: Both Ireland and America have long histories of protest songs. What are some of your favorite protest songs?
Powers: Let’s see my favorite Irish protest/rebel songs: “Foggy Dew,” of course and “Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six” by The Pogues. I also love to listen to Liam Clancy sing “The Croppy Boy.” As for the band, we are proud of our version of “Fields of Athenry,” a song about an Irishman being sent to Australia for stealing food for his family during the Great Potato Famine. What an amazing song!
NUVO: When you were a tribute band, you described your set list as “100 years of Irish music.” Do you still bring that history to your shows, or do you focus more on your original work now?
Powers: We are about 50 percent originals, 50 percent traditional and 10 percent surprises. We take a lot of pride in working hard for the audience and giving them a taste of all the different flavors of Irish rock ’n’ roll.
NUVO: You’ve said that one member per show takes the cake in drinking the most Jameson. Who holds the record for most wins?
Powers: Well I don’t wanna brag ... but ... [it’s me]. I guess we’ll see what happens in Indy. All I know is it’s gonna be a great couple o’ nights, and maybe a few rough mornings.