In the summers around 1855, workmen wanted to prove that they could holiday as well as the wealthy, who would vacation on the River Dargle near Bray, a seaport near Dublin. A dargle became slang for a holiday among Dubliners.
The workman could only get as far as the shores of the Rivers Dodder and Liffey south of Dublin in a district called Irishtown. As most of these men worked as cobblers, these summer parties came to be called the Waxies’ Dargle. Cobblers waxed their thread to make it waterproof, hence the name. Luckily, Irishtown had a park on the sea. Buskers entertained. On banking holidays, boxers faced off. Wagers were collected, wages lost.
If the traditional song Waxies’ Dargle is to be believed, women would go to some length to come up with tuppence for fare to these parties. Free drinks and maybe a marriage proposal awaited. The Pogues covered this traditional tune in 1984. An archetypal “up yours” Irish punk band, the Pogues is an anglicisation of the Gaelic phrase, póg mo thóin. That’s “kiss my arse” in English. This defiance can be found in all four bands performing Saturday, January 21 at Unruly Brewing.
All of the bands tell the work day reality to bugger off while the dargle is celebrated. However, if the Waxies, the Tosspints and the Hex Bombs were to throw a dargle, it probably would look something like Jobbie Nooner, the world’s biggest boat party held on Gull Island on Lake St. Clair. It’s akin to the Mardi Gras on water. Expect madness this Saturday.
Three of the four bands are riding serious miles for the dargle at Unruly. Hex Bombs from Kalamazoo, Stone Clover from Detroit’s Greektown and the Tosspints straight west from Saginaw. You can be sure the angst of the road will be brought to the stage. Based in Grand Rapids, the Waxies are commuters.
The Waxies and the Tosspints are after hours favorites of the Michigan Irish Music Festival audience, keeping us dancing after Heritage Landing closes. Each band began with inspiration from the Pogues and then had to work to be perceived as originals in their own right. The Tosspints really can’t care less if they get called a Pogues cover band. The group from Saginaw took poetic license to write their own tunes with their last album, The Privateer. One track, The Hollow Men explores the famous poem of British-American poet, Thomas Stearns Eliot. The group is still mourning the recent passing of Leonard Cohen, lyrical master.
The Waxies might give The Tossers, the world’s loudest folk band, more credit than the Pogues. However, watch the mates from Grand Rapids cover If I Should Fall from Grace with God, a Pogues anthem. Judge for yourself how the Waxies make a spiritual connection to their masters. The Waxies keep digging back into the Irish tradition, guided by Branden Garner’s grandmother, who played records for him. Their latest album, Down with the Ship, explores the archetypes inherited from grandmother’s imagination, soldiers, sailors, compromised women, alienated immigrants and suppressed working men.
The Hex Bombs are fellow travelers with the Waxies and the Tosspints. They are not an Irish-American band although they’ve done plenty of drinking and playing at Mulligan’s, an Irish-ish pub in Grand Rapids where patrons like to drink and fight. The student ghettos of Kalamazoo and dead end jobs hurt them into punk rock in 2006. After almost a decade of touring, the band took a hiatus. Watch them get Back to Work at Unruly. A Hex Bomb is a deadly weapon from the Star Wars arsenal.
Stone Clover began quite literally in the Old Shillelagh, a new Irish bar by Detroit standards added onto Greektown in 1975. Paul Brady got pushed on stage by family when the entertainment flaked and then kept him playing “Whiskey in the Jar” and standards regularly. Brady and his band are rooted in Detroit, playing a role in the downtown’s resurgence. The group recently performed on WDIV news and will perform at the Meridian Winter Blast, a big Detroit street party at Campus Martius the night before Unruly. The band has all the energy of the Irish punks; however, the cheerful drinking song Awesome from Proper Villians won’t make anyone blush.
We sometimes worry that Unruly puts too much entertainment on its stage and worry about their budget. Unruly team member Jeff Jacobson put this concern to rest. Jason Bowler has promoted all four bands with his graphic arts talent and the bands are gathering to wish him a Happy Birthday. On the staff of Longer Days, a virtual assistant company run by LeeAnn and Chad Lawlie, Bowler even has a role in promoting the Michigan Irish Music Festival. Hats off to Bowler for sharing his birthday gift with all of us.