Lots of folks know that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, pushing them into the sea – and leaving the Emerald Isle "snakeless" to this day.
Apparently, a few slithered to our own shores and gave rise to the latest Irish folk/rock band, the Snakes, aimed at spreadin’ a little good cheer. The band is performing today at The Crab's Claw in Lavallette.
While that may be a bit o’ blarney, ‘tis true that on one recent Saturday night, the Snakes slithered in to their frequent haunt, St. Stephen’s Green Publick House in Spring Lake Heights, and proved why they may be the perfect antidote for the late winter blahs.
Like a blustery gust of fresh air, the Snakes have managed to breathe fresh life into a genre that can be as musty as a damp Irish wool sweater and as ubiquitous as corned beef and cabbage this time of year.
Combining traditional Irish tunes such as “The Irish Rover” and “Whiskey in the Jar” with rock standards such as “Folsom Prisom Blues,” the Snakes make their sound a rollicking, boisterous combo somewhere between rock and roll and Irish music.
“We’ve had a long-time love of traditional Irish music,” said bass player Gary.
He, like the rest of the band members – Scott the drummer, Vinny on guitar, T-Bone playing the accordion and keyboards, and on tin whistle, mandolin, banjo and guitar, Jan – steadfastly refused to furnish last names.
But if some air of mystery surrounds their true identities, much of the spirit around the band is aided by the fact that not only can these guys really play, they’ve all known and worked with each other for years.
“We all used to be in rock bands,” Jan said.
Gravitating to something new and different while simultaneously old and familiar had its own appeal. “We didn’t want to just regurgitate '80s music.”
“We could take some good songs, add some Irish instrumentation. We still do traditional songs.”
By giving the more traditional songs a bolt of energy, or perhaps a few pints of inspiration, the band has found common ground between folk and rock.
“The folk songs are not that far removed from country and western and early rock and roll,” Gary noted. “That’s why it works.”
Back at St. Stephen’s Green, the audience would seem to agree. Low wooden-beamed ceilings and fireplaces roaring in the corner of the pub did much to warm the patrons on a drizzly Saturday night, but not as much as the band, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.
While work has often called for them to perform across the Garden State, playing parties and parades from Hoboken to Cape May, the band has tried to stay true to its local roots. Gary and Jan both were raised in Brick; Jan and Scott both live in town today and the band loves to play in Ocean and Monmouth counties when it can.
The video for the band’s original song, “I Love St. Patrick’s Day on the Jersey Shore,” recently notched its 25,000th hit on YouTube. A link to the video can be found under the photographs near the top of this story.
As the song says, “Like the Wild Rover, I’ve wandered all over, I’m not gonna stray any more, ‘cause I love St. Patrick’s Day on the Jersey Shore.”
“They’re a perfect mix of Irish music and rock,” said St. Stephen's Green bartender Kelsi Galya, explaining the band’s popularity. “People love ‘em.”
Interesting in seeing The Snakes live? See and hear for yourself after the 28th annual Ocean County St. Patrick’s in Seaside Heights on Saturday March 10 as the Snakes will be playing up the road a piece at the Crab’s Claw Inn in Lavallette from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. or at St. Stephen’s Green in Spring Lake on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.
For more details and additional dates and venues, see the band’s website thesnakesband.com.