Mother Grove finds niche in 'kilt rock' 

The Indianapolis band Mother Grove has become one of the area’s most distinguished groups over the past few years, but forming a Celtic rock band was the last thing on Brad Sprauer’s mind three years ago.

Mother Grove will perform Friday at the Irish Fest
The band, which headlines the eighth annual Indy Irish Fest on Friday night, came together by chance. Sprauer was at a company Christmas party in 2000 and happened to be sitting across from fellow musician Gary Booth. At that time, Sprauer was writing material for an EP and trying to put a band together. He started chatting with Booth.

“He said, ‘I play bagpipes,’ and I was thinking, ‘So? That’s nice. You play bagpipes.’ But he started telling me about these Celtic rock bands and the original rock with Celtic instruments in it,” Sprauer said. “I’d never even heard of it. He gave me a bunch of CDs and when I started listening, I was hooked. I started hearing all my songs in that style. It fit perfectly.” Matching guitar lines with bagpipes is difficult, given the bagpipes’ natural tuning in D flat or E flat. After that learning curve was mastered, the band started playing gigs.

They knew instantly that they were onto something. “Even early on, when everything was really rough, we still got an amazing reaction from people. We knew we were on to something at that point.”

But don’t just label the group an Irish band or a Celtic rock band — they’re too versatile for that. Having recently added a fiddle player, Laura Adams, and one of the city’s top bass players, Ryan “Sweaty B” Williams, the group has tried to transcend any stereotypes about their music. “I can bring anything to this band, it doesn’t matter,” Sprauer said. “We have no boundaries to what we do. It all doesn’t have to sound like Flogging Molly or the Pogues. Whether I bring the band a killer heavy tune, or a bluesy tune, it all sounds like Mother Grove. This is my dream project.”

Although the group is well-known in the city, Mother Grove now plays a majority of their gigs outside of Indianapolis.

“We happen to have a niche to what we do. We’re able to play Scottish festivals and Irish pubs across the country,” Sprauer said. “And every time we play, we just gain legions of fans. To be able to play in a band that has a niche and still has creative freedom — I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Playing Irish pubs has its unique challenges, Sprauer says. “When you go into a traditional Irish pub, you have the old guy at the end of the bar and a group of college kids at the other end. We whip out the bagpipes and start rocking, and the staunch traditionalist is loving it, even though he hates rock music. And the kids like it because we’re unique. We don’t have a lead guitarist, or Marshall stacks screaming at your face and we’re not playing ‘Brown Eyed Girl.’” Sprauer said, “We’ve been called everything from my least favorite description, ‘The Dave Matthews Band with bagpipes,’ to my favorite, ‘Riverdance on crystal meth.’ We just want everybody to hear us.”

Mother Grove will play at 9:30 p.m. Friday at the Indianapolis Irish Festival, which is being held at Military Park downtown. For more information on the band, visit www.mothergrove.com.

Indy Irish Fest
The eighth annual Indy Irish Fest will feature 19 authentic Irish musical groups and performers in addition to cultural exhibits, a children’s area and an Irish market. In addition, actors will represent the 35th Indiana Regiment, an all-Irish unit which fought in the American Civil War. The Irish market will feature vendors selling Irish clothing, books, art and memorabilia. Food and drink will be served by area Irish-American businesses, including Claddagh Irish Pub, Griffin’s County Kerry Pub and many others. Of course, a variety of Irish beers and ales will also be available. The Irish Fest will be held from 5-11:30 p.m. Friday, noon-11:30 p.m. Saturday and from noon-7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $7 in advance and $9 at the door per day. Complete weekend tickets are $12. Children under 5 are admitted free; tickets for children over 5 are $5 per day. For more information and for a complete schedule of events, visit www.indyirishfest.com.

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