Ten years on, Pubcrawlers keep the Celtic punk energy high

In the ten years that the Portland based Celtic punk band the Pubcrawlers have been around, they’ve witnessed a lot of very rock n’ roll things. Wild crowds almost as loud as the band itself. Fistfights. Wanton destruction. Opening for bands like the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. Most years, they play Shamrock Fest at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, and one year they had a run-in with a particularly friendly, enthusiastic, heavily-bearded fan.

“I didn’t recognize him and just assumed he was part of the staff. He gave me a thumbs-up and a big, hairy grin. Right after the set it turned out that the guy had been hitting on Emily, our fiddle player, pretty hard,” said Andy Hercock, a founding member of the band. “Right after that, the last band, Great Big Sea, from Canada, played their set, and halfway through it announced that they were bringing out a special guest, their good friend Russell Crowe, to do a tune or two with them. Russell Crowe comes out, and sure enough, he was Hairy Guy all along.”

The road stories and drunken singalongs the Pubcrawlers have accumulated are best told, however, through the brash, irresistible songs on their brand new album, “Rogues, Outlaws and Drunks,” out just two weeks ago. Hercock states that unlike their previous albums, “Rogues” is their most well thought out, most professional, and the one they are overall most happy with.

“We took the most time and care with this one, and honestly feel that it’s our strongest record to date,” said Hercock. “We worked very closely with Jim Begley of The Studio here in Portland to make sure that everything was as perfect as we could get it… Of course, what ultimately matters is the music and we honestly feel that this record shows our range of music, thanks in large part to Dana, our guitarist, who is responsible for writing the vast majority of the material on this one.”

The commitment to playing hard, fast Celtic punk is something that hasn’t wavered for the band, which can feature up to ten people onstage for live performances. Don’t expect a big stylistic change anytime… well, ever. The Pubcrawlers are not a band trying to make a subtle statement. They’re a band trying – and usually succeeding – in making you let loose and have fun.

“There’s a confidence and a maturity to the music that’s more prevalent than it has been in the past. We still write, and cover, what are essentially fun drinking songs, but we all feel that we’re doing better at that task than we have before,” said Hercock. “In some ways, you could say we haven’t evolved, and in those instances, it was a very deliberate choice on our part; our mission from the beginning has been to take a very apolitical stance and focus on offering an energetic, fun show without preaching to people, and I believe we’ve managed to keep that aspect of what we do very much intact since 2002.”

Other things have changed, though. On one side, the Pubcrawlers are a traditional American-style Celtic rock band, complete with bagpipes, fiddle and their own custom-designed kilt. On the other, they come right out of the punk scene – the album is as much full-throttle punk as it is pint-swinging Celtic folk, and live, the Pubcrawlers have all the manic energy you’d expect out of any be-mohawked band. But while there are still bands and shows at places like Geno’s in Portland and the Kave in Bucksport – the latter being one of the only all-ages venues left in the state – things just aren’t the same these days.

“It might sound strange that a band so heavily focused on alcohol and other such adult shenanigans would pine for the good old days of being able to play for younger kids at Grange halls on any given weekend, but there it is,” said Hercock. “You’ll still find the occasional whatever-hall show happening in the area, but they’re rare.”

But the scene lives on, in bands like the Pubcrawlers, and their friends in bands like the Outsiders and the Murder Weapon, and old school standard-bearers like Big Meat Hammer and the Pinkerton Thugs.

“Our Maine shows are always packed to the gills so the audience is definitely still there,” he said. “We’re just doing our small part to keep the scene alive and kicking.”

The Pubcrawlers will play this Friday at Geno’s in Portland, on Oct. 27 at the Beachcomber in Quincy, MA, and on Dec. 8 at Flask Lounge in Portland. Like them on Facebook for more information on upcoming shows. “Rogues, Outlaws and Drunks” is available online at iTunes.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a UMaine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.