So we were on our travels once more, and this time to see the Italian Celtic punk/rock band UNCLE BARD & THE DIRTY BASTARDS playing in the small town of Lenzburg (pop of 8,000+) in the canton of Aargau, central Switzerland. This town has a history with recorded settlements here dating back 4300 – 3500 BC, including a small Roman settlement, and today you can see a stunning castle towering over the town which has been around since the 11th century. So yeah a lot of history!
UNCLE BARD & THE DIRTY BASTARDS
Uncle Bard & The Dirty Bastards are an Italian band hailing from the North of Italy. Their love of Irish music was inspired not from growing up listening to the Pogues or the Dubliners as per normal for a Celtic band, but from the fact that they spent a lot of time living, working, and visiting the Emerald Isle. At that time Ireland was no longer the sick man of Western Europe, there was some kind of Celtic Tiger going on, the economy was booming, there were jobs a plenty, and many flocked to the country in search of opportunity, some money and a bit of craic along the way. Quite a lot of Italians dropped anchor in Ireland at that time.
Coming and going, visiting friends, hanging around, listening to Irish music in the bars, having the good times, learning about the culture and the ways of the people. Well we all know the charms of Irish music, and it was this that the lads fell in love with. So of course in 2007, they then started to set up their own band, at first a bit of fun, no expectations, no big plans, a few songs here and there….and with the grace of god……and all that. But the funny thing was people actually liked what they were doing. It was working. These Italians had mastered good old Celtic folk punk, and the feedback was positive. In a few years they had played all over, from decent sized rock venues, loads of Celtic and punk festivals, pubs, clubs…everywhere, and sharing the stage with the kings of Celtic punk, Dropkick Murphy’s, trad legends De Danann, amongst a lengthy list of other bands along the way. But one thing was constant, people clearly liked their brand of Italian Celtic punk.
In 2009 they released their first album ‘Drinking Not Thinking’ and in 2012 they set out for a very adventurous busking tour through Ireland, Wales and England. Meeting and playing with musicians on the streets or in the local pubs. This added a lot to their style and development. In 2013 they were joined by Luca Crespi, a renowned Irish folk musician and player of the Uilleann Pipes, tin whistle, and Irish flute, further enhancing the bands progress. This step forward resulted in their first full-length album “Get The Folk Out!”(2014).
Guido Domingo: vocals, acoustic guitars
Lorenzo Testa: tenor banjo, mandolin, vocals, spoons
Luca Crespi: tin whistle, Irish flute, uilleann pipes
Rob ‘Uncle Bard’ Orlando: bass guitar and lamentating vocals
Silvano Ancellotti: electric and acoustic guitar, lamenting vocals
Luca Terlizzi: drums, bodhran
Wisa-Gloria-terrain Sägestrasse 44
The gig was to be in the Baronessa, a “Culture bar” (whatever the fuck that is?), a music venue that has been going strong for the last 20 years or so…. The bar located within an old factory, is run by a large group of volunteers (230+ members) and is funded entirely by membership fees, the proceeds from the bar service and other events that the venue organises. The venue hosts a wide range of events but particularly focuses on live music.
The staff and manager were very friendly, chatty and great fun all through the night. Small venue packed to the rafters, a good crowd on the night, a well set up stage, and fun all around. Hopefully I can get back for another gig here in the not so long distance future.
The concert was pretty good I have to say. Actually it was more than pretty good, it was great infact! Foot thumping throughout, got the whole place rocking, great interaction with the crowd, all the guys brilliant.
Luca Crespi brings a lot to the band, his tin whistle solos were really soul stirring stuff, but it wasn’t just Luca the whole band played expertly, all working great as a band, really complementing each other’s skills.
Guido can carry an Irish Celtic punk accent pretty well, you would never guess he was from Italy!
Uncle Bard & The Dirty Bastards definitely look like they could shake up the European Celtic punk/rock/folk circuit. This band are quickly making a name for themselves, watch this space!
With Paolo (manager) and Lorenzo (banjo)
So Uncle bard and the Bastards explain the name
Paolo Well the very evening when the band started out they just played one short gig, it was with our friend Roberto the bard, Robert the bard
Real Irish name!
Paolo And at first they didn’t know how to call themselves and they just made this name up, I mean, the dirty bastards but it was meant to be just one short gig
Actually the gig went very well, and they decided to go on and they kept the name actually
And where was the first gig, somewhere in Ireland?
Paolo No, in Italy
Lorenzo Close to where we live, close to Milan
But you all met in Dublin and brought it back, did you?
Lorenzo The bass player in Dublin spent a lot of time in Ireland (Rob ‘Uncle Bard’ Orlando)
Paolo But they met in Italy
Lorenzo But we were friends before
The first gig, so you said it went well?
Paolo They enjoyed themselves and they decided to go on because it was worth it,
Did you play Irish traditional songs or was it more you own kind of stuff or was it just let’s see what we can do. See how it works so
Lorenzo It was traditional songs. Some Flogging molly, some Dropkick Murphy’s, some Dubliners stuff
I mean there are a few bands that do Celtic music in Italy, isn’t there?
Paolo We like drawing a line between the bands that play Irish music because they love Irish music and they also love Ireland, and the bands that play Irish music just because its fashion
Lorenzo yeah, it’s a sort of fashion nowadays in Italy
Paolo Celtic stuff
Lorenzo but there are really good bands, good bands but it was different when we started no one playing Irish music expect for traditional Irish music
It was hard to find venues to play in…
So how did you build up your fan base, was just word of mouth, or it was something new?
Lorenzo It was something new and we are playing every weekend so people learn the songs….
Got used to you! I know this song, I know this song!
What’s your favourite song, of the guys? (to the manager)
Paolo The guys, I think its….
He is trying to remember a song now, look!
He is playing for time now….
Lorenzo do you want to check the check list
Paolo “I did not belong to this world”, I have to admit that’s my favourite song
Lorenzo Only because I am the song writer!
A request tonight, yeah!
So Paolo what about 2016 for the band, what are you hoping for?
Paolo 2016, ok it is going to be a great year for the Bastards, as we have a lot of requests at the moment and
People are really happy with them, I don’t why because you can see Silvano here, you can look at him
Paolo He doesn’t deserve it the bastard (tag) especially, ha ha
We are doing well
They are doing well and
So we are full of requests from all over the world
From all over Europe
And we are hoping to go to Ireland, to play in Ireland
National stadium in Dublin
We have very good reports from places where they have played
In August they have played in the Netherlands in front of 10,000 people
We got a large number of messages on Facebook, Facebook messages just to congratulate us
And actually so things are getting better and better
So what’s your part in the band anyway? (to Lorenzo)
Lorenzo I play the banjo, the banjo and the mandolin
But tonight I will only play the banjo
So what can we expect from the band tonight, what kind of music are you going to play,
How would you describe your sounds?
Lorenzo Bullshit, ha
Very good manager, here, very good manager!
Lorenzo We are going to play sounds of our album, a few traditional ones, Irish traditional, but even a couple of songs written by English song writers
I have a question like, what is the Italian part of your band, I mean there must have some kind of Italian kick to the band, there must be something that you can bring from Italy to a Celtic punk band?
Lorenzo H’mmm. I really don’t know! Except the looks maybe
Yeah ok you are good looking guys
Don’t look like Shane MacGowan or anything that’s for sure
Lorenzo I really don’t know
When you are up playing the banjo, do you instantly click into an Irish or is it just….
Lorenzo Yeah because banjo is not a musical instrument that we play in Italy, so the only way to play it is in an Irish way or a bluegrass way
And I learnt to play the banjo in Ireland
Is this when you were Busking around Dublin, and….how did that go for you busking around England and Ireland and Wales…?
Lorenzo It was a great experience
Was it a bit daunting at the start, was it a bit nervous?
Lorenzo Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was really a great experience
Do you have any crazy stories from your time busking on the streets
Grafton street, must have been difficult, because there are so many people that be playing on Grafton street
Lorenzo Yeah but there are rules between the buskers, and you just have to keep distance and then at the end of the day you are playing with other musicians. It’s really great because there is friendship between musicians. And we started playing with three guys and then we ended up in 20 maybe, with a Russian guy playing guitar and a few Irish musicians
It was really, really beautiful
Ok, and did you play in Galway as well? Galway is always pretty good for busking, isn’t it?
Lorenzo It is. It is. And the level of the musicians are really high
So what about 2016 then, what are your plans, what are your hopes?
Lorenzo We are writing the songs for the new album
We will do a summer tour
Will that include any gigs in London or Ireland?
Lorenzo Maybe London we are talking about it, don’t know yet when and where?
What does the manager say?
Paolo with a couple of venues, but for the moment it is really hard to get there but we are in talks with them, we are trying to get there
Lorenzo I don’t know if we are going to play in Ireland because
Italians play Irish music in Ireland
Paolo It sounds strange!
But I think Irish people like to see their culture appreciated and they like to see, you know, it’s cool for us to see that we are not just crazy Irish people playing this music, someone else appreciates it, you know
Lorenzo I hope so!
So what got you into the scene anyway, I mean how did you start? How did you get into this music?
Lorenzo Well every one of us has a different story about it
I stared playing the banjo
I started visiting, living for a few months in Ireland
And then I started learning Irish music.
What made you pick up the Banjo, why particularly the banjo?
Lorenzo Because I used to play the guitar, so I try
It was fun, so
What’s your kind of favourite song on the banjo, what’s your favourite tune?
Lorenzo My favourite tune
I prefer to play jigs more than reels
Whereas ballads probably Raglan Road or the Town I love So Well, we will play tonight.
The Town I love so Well is one of my favourite songs ever
We will be looking at you tonight then!
You played with the Dropkick Murphy’s, what was that like?
Lorenzo Twice, a really great experience
Did you get to meet them, hang out with them?
Lorenzo Yeah, yeah, Kenny is one of the best and better musicians I have ever met, really, we were sound checking, and he went on stage, stopped just to shake hands to every one of us, thanking us for been there, was incredible
So where abouts was it again, England or Ireland, no it was Italy where you played with the Dropkick Murphy’s?
Lorenzo Turin and Milan, it was a sold out show so
Did you learn anything from looking at the….., I don’t know, looking at the stars of Celtic (rock) music at the moment or whatever?
Lorenzo Really nice guys, they are really professional
REVIEW – UNCLE BARD & THE DIRTY BASTARDS “Get the Folk Out!” (2014)
First thing to note is that the album comes in a very nice 16 page digipak which includes the lyrics to all the songs with some interesting notes about the stories behind each number, mugshots of all the band members, and some excellent shots of the guys working out on the farm!
At just under an hour, there is plenty crammed into this album of fifteen tunes, an album packed with a lot of their own material, and not just the usual trad tunes. Lorenzo is the band’s main songwriter but most of the group have written a song or two.
The songs always include an Irish traditional tune or jig, and the lyrics to their songs are intimate and about their experiences that the band members have lived through.
We start off with The Road, an autobiographical song about their time busking around Ireland.
Some smashing lyrics “Been out there is where I have found an offbeat happiness/in the smile of a child or in a wise man’s clap” the appreciation from the Irish to what they were doing, “from country Clare to Sligo bay we played almost everywhere with singers, pipers, fiddlers we met along the way”, a touching heart felt indebtedness of their time in Ireland.
The song starts off slow enough, but builds up to where the whole band can be heard, with Luca making good use of the bodhran. A good way to introduce the band, and their story.
The Green Shamrock Shore is another tune about their time in Ireland, a lament about Rob and his bad luck with the Irish economy which was starting to unravel, and his lack of job opportunities. “for the following months I walked night and day………..I searched almost everywhere but the answer was a NAY”
But it isn’t all about their time in Ireland, We ruled the seaside is a song by Silvano about his time growing up in a seaside town, “we ruled the seaside, and we had nothing to lose, riding high we ruled this town” reminiscing how life changes….. Can hear all the band on this track………….full compliments.
On the meaning of life in the song The Dark Side of the Leaf ……. Guido questions how nature can supersede religion and god, “if you could find the rhythm between the spruces and the pines you’d discover a sound of fiddles makes us all divine”. An Interesting, soulful number that shows the full range of Guido’s talents.
Off in the Jacks and the last song of the album Be also ask questions about the meaning of life, and the disconnect some have with our surroundings. Off in the Jacks focuses on the dangers of the social network, “Ring-diddle-daddle-oh, Ring-diddle-daddle-oh, When did we unlearn to listen. When did we unlearn to talk? I guess the time it happened I was off in the jacks”, while Be begins with just vocals and mandolin before the band kick in and fill the air with the swirling sound of brilliantly played slow tempo Irish folk. A positive song on what the essence of life really is.
Of course as we here know full too well. Usually the answer to that is a pint of beer. And of course as with any Celtic folk punk album we have a few songs about that best of all topics, drink!
The Rambling Bhoys a nice old fashioned ballad that builds, about surviving with or without shitty jobs…..making decisions in life… but can always have a pint and good company in a pub “the craic, the drink, the leisure and I forget the troubles with a pint of plain in the hand”. A good nice jig near the end, perhaps emphasising that in the end life is good………..”We are rambling boys of pleasures, drinking without measure, and we take delight in good company”
I Only Got One Pint, a catchy number that has a comparable sound to the Chicago band, the Tossers. A good old drinking song, no Irish Celtic album could be without one, “now we know the meaning of life, and we buy another pint” a chant that echo’s out in the end.
Other foot thumping songs are Black Sheep, probably my favourite song in the album, Skedaddle and Raggle Taggle Gypsy. These songs would be up there with the best of any Celtic punk that you are likely to hear, and the type of songs that get people on the dance floor, pints a flying, damn good fight music! Skeaddle reminds me of the Pogues number Streams of Whiskey, with the same intensity and craftsmanship. Raggle Taggle Gypsy is a traditional number that the band have developed to suit the bans high tempo style.
Other covers they have done is an old Tommy Sands number, When the Boys Come Rolling Home, a nice ballad, and the iconic The Ring Of Fire, made famous by a one Johnny Cash. The Ring of Fire version is excellent, a standout highlight for me, this Celtic folk/punk version of the song sounds fantastic.
Blue Velvet Glove is an instrumental showing the skills of Luca Crespi on the Uileann pipes. This is Davy Spillane eat your heart out material here. Excellent, another highlight for me in the album. It is soulful, and you can just imagine the waves from the Atlantic hitting the Cliff of Moher on a wet misty late Autumns evening, evocative and expertly played.
Another nice instrumental showcase is 1,21 Jig-O-Reel Set, a collection of traditional reels with some Chieftain influences going on.
Overall I really enjoyed this album, very easy to listen to it on repeat all day… a bit of celtic punk, a nod to traditional jigs and reels. I like the fact that they made a Celtic rock/folk album centred on their own experiences from Ireland.
Drinking Not Thinking – 2011
Get The Folk Out! – 2014
Contact The Band