IF YOU GO
• What: Enda Scahill & We Banjo 3
• When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3
• Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
• Admission: $17 in advance, $20 at door
• Phone: 423-624-5347
• Website: www.barkinglegs.org
In the field of instrument humor, the banjo tends to get about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield. One can only imagine, then, the field day a comedian could have with a band that had the audacity to field three at once.
Yet in the two years since its inception, Ireland-based We Banjo 3 is about as far from a laughingstock as musicians can get. The group's novel exploration and blending of traditional Irish music with roots American styles such as bluegrass and old-time has the international folk music community firmly by the ears.
As a result of the attention the musicians have received, says founder Enda Scahill, We Banjo 3 has grown in just one year from a novel sidestage addition to Milwaukee's massive Irish Fest in 2012 to a bonafide headliner at this year's festival.
For all the lineup's virtuosic potential, Scahill still seems slightly baffled by We Banjo 3's success.
"At the start, I had left a very successful band ... to start a banjo band, which had me waking up every morning at 4 a.m. in a sweat thinking, 'What have I done?'" Scahill says with a laugh, recalling his departure from the acclaimed Brock McGuire Band in 2010. "Since [We Banjo 3] has taken off, I've been waking up trying to figure out which of the gigs to take that we've been offered."
The band is on a lengthy American tour that is the direct result, Scahill says, of the hugely successful show in Milwaukee last year that made them "the talk of the festival." On Tuesday, Sept. 3, they'll perform at Barking Legs Theater, which Scahill last visited with Brock McGuire two years ago.
Partly, the group's success can be traced to good genes. Collectively, there are about 10 All-Ireland titles between Scahill and former-banjo-students-turned-bandmates David and Martin Howley. With the addition last year of Scahill's brother, fiddler/drummer/guitarist Fergal Scahill, the band's name no longer makes much sense, Scahill admits, but he gave the group a booster shot of instrumental versatility (not to mention three more All-Ireland titles).
Last year, the band released its debut, "Roots of the Banjo Tree," a 13-track exploration of the transatlantic ties linking traditional American and Irish music. The album was a critical smash, earning Album of the Year status in the Irish Times and a Songlines' Top of the World Award.
At the conclusion of their tour, the members of We Banjo 3 will return home briefly before traveling to Wales in October to perform at the World Music Expo, a singular honor shared with only three other bands from the British Isles out of thousands of applicants.
With the newfound respect of the music community and a second album planned for next year, Scahill says he and his bandmates are turning their attention to keeping the ball rolling.
"The show has started to change and develop," he says. "If we constantly keep it fresh and constantly are enjoying it, the momentum will be maintained. We believe; we hope so."
That being said, he adds, "It's nice to wake up at 4 a.m. with a new problem."
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...