Monday, 16 September 2013 12:43

Michigan Irish Music Festival Brings Out the Irish in Everyone

Written by  Barbara Jandernoa
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Damien Dempsey Damien Dempsey COURTESY PHOTO

Michigan Irish Music Festival
Heritage Landing, Muskegon
Sept. 13-15
$10-$40
michiganirish.org, (231) 739-2028

The Michigan Irish Festival is coming, so grab your kilts or your 'something green,' and come sing your feckin' heart out with fellow lovers of everything Celtic.

According to Laura Holmes, marketing director for the festival, one of the most "wildly popular" events is Tional (pronounced "Chen-ol"), the Irish word for "Gathering." Eamonn DeBarra from Slide is in charge of gathering up musicians for this year's Tional.

"He'll take an Irish vocalist from one band and a fiddle player from another," Holmes said. "It's kinda like our version of an Irish jam session."

Tional only includes performances by the bands performing at the festival, but festival-goers can participate in their own music gathering as well. The Sessions tent will be open the entire weekend to anyone with an instrument who wants to team up with others in their own impromptu jam session.

Damien "Damo" Dempsey will be one of the many musicians participating in Tional. This is also Dempsey's festival debut. While his style ranges drastically throughout his expansive discography, he revolves around the common working-class Celtic theme and the struggles that many Irish, himself included, go through. In much of his music, his lyrics are very straightforward about the dark times in Ireland, so much so that he inspired Maser, a well-known graffiti artist, to paint Dempsey's lyrics all over Dublin.

"I was very honored, ya know, it was nice to see the lyrics on the side of blocks ... to get the lyrics out there to the people instead of just the fans," Dempsey said.

While many of his older songs reflect on darker times, his more recent albums have a more positive outlook.

"I have more faith in my songs," Dempsey said.

While his latest album, Almighty Love, is lighter than his older works, it is also very personal.

"It's less historical and more about my experiences," Dempsey said. "I don't really care what people think of me anymore, ya know, I don't really give a sh**."

The Michigan Irish Music Festival is not just about Irish music, though.

"One of our missions is that we want to teach people about Irish culture, Irish music, Irish dance," Holmes said.

Even the money system has an Irish touch, Holmes said.

"Everything has to have an Irish theme, right? So we have Blarney bucks, yes."

Pictured: Damien Dempsey 

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