WARRNAM-BOOL’S Likely Celts will return to the scene of their first gig when they play at the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington this weekend.
Exactly a year ago, the trio made their debut at the festival, playing a not-ideal timeslot to a small crowd, singer-guitarist Glenn Hudson explained.
“But one of the people at that first gig was on the committee for the Australian Celtic Festival in Glen Innes,” he said.
Likely Celts were flown up to play at the Glen Innes event in northern NSW in May, which Hudson said goes to show that “every gig is worth it”.
“When we go back to Portarlington this weekend we’ve got the timeslots of 9pm on Friday and 7.30pm on Saturday so we’ll be playing to a bigger audience which is great,” he said.
The band has just finished its first year of festivals and already has the Port Fairy Folk Festival, the Beechworth Celtic Festival, and Camperdown’s Robert Burns Festival under its collective belt.
“We did this band for fun and just to do festivals,” Hudson explained.
Raised in Dublin, the singer-guitarist moved to Australia 13 years ago and has been a regular at Irish music sessions around the south-west since. It was during such a session at the beloved Warrnambool gathering known as Lex’s Shed that Hudson began teaming with multi-instrumentalist Merran Moir.
“We like messing around with the traditional stuff and giving it a bit more swing or playing it a bit more percussive,” he said.
“Merran’s well known in the Celtic music community because the type of instruments she plays are not widely played — she’s quite the specialist.”
Indeed on the band’s debut self-titled release, which was recorded at Smith Sound in Naringal earlier this year, Moir plays the not-often heard small pipes and border pipes, as well as the accordion and traditional Celtic whistles.
Completing the line-up of Likely Celts is bassist Tim Conlan, whose diverse musical background — he plays in rockabilly, jazz, blues and even punk line-ups locally — furthered Hudson and Moir’s ambitions of “messing around with the traditional stuff”.
“Myself and Tim are from contemporary backgrounds,” Hudson explained.
“He’s changed the direction slightly just through jamming with him — he’s taking us down different paths that we wouldn’t have done.”
Their self-titled album is a fine example of this, twisting little known traditional folk pieces into new shapes and making them sit neatly alongside Hudson’s own originals by employing tricks and ideas more common with jazz, acoustic pop or even reggae.
“There’s a big gap between the very well-done traditional stuff and (band’s like) Claymore and that rocked-up or Celt-punk stuff,” he said.
“Our goal is never to be traditional but use traditional flavours and so there’s no limitations.
“We just want to enjoy ourselves.”
Likely Celts will play at the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington this weekend alongside Barrule from Isle Of Man, Scottish group Feis Rois, The Heartstring Quartet, Shane Howard, and many more.
The Warrnambool trio will also be playing in Camperdown and Skipton later this month as part of the Robert Burns Festival.
Their self-titled debut album is available to stream or download through likelycelts.bandcamp.com or at Capricorn Records.