If the red in my beard and Catholic school upbringing wasn’t evidence enough, I really don’t need an excuse to eat corned beef and drink Guinness in July. So, even though we got a few strange looks when we let people know The Big League Boys were doing an ‘Irish Fest’ in Arlington Heights, I was pretty excited for this one. Who doesn’t love a summer afternoon outside with good Irish food and beer?
The Arlington Heights Historical Museum hosted this event, and I was struck by their facilities. At first glance when we arrived, our thoughts were, ‘Oh, it’s…at a house?’ But this didn’t tell the whole story. The museum is in downtown Arlington Heights and centered around the ‘Muller Home’, which is a Victorian estate built in 1882. Frederick Muller was a German immigrant who originally came to Chicago, then moved to what was then known as Dunton to form his own soda manufacturing company. Frederick, who was coincidentally referred to as ‘Pop’, became quite successful and a key figure in the beginnings of what became Arlington Heights. In addition to Muller’s family home, there is also the ‘Old Soda Pop Factory’, which is where the family business was run and where the machinery, garage, and two apartments were located. Additionally, the facility manages the ‘Banta House’, which was the first architecturally designed house in town and the current home of a vast dollhouse collection. It was one of the more unique venues we have performed at, in a good way!
Our ‘opener’ happened to be students from a local Irish dancing school. It was a great reminder for all of us of why we even began performing in the first place. Their enthusiasm and excitement radiated through the crowd, and their talent was not to be underestimated! It was obvious they were dedicated, driven, and eager to share their gifts and joy with anyone who cared to join them. It put us in a great place before taking the stage ourselves.
This was an exciting show, as the event called for a bit more of a ‘family friendly’ type of set. We left behind most of our hard rocking, turn-it-up-and-burn-it-down type of material in favor of more nuanced songs, tighter harmonies, and skillful execution. We led the afternoon with ‘Runaround Sue’ by Dion, a song I first heard and fell in love with in an obscure baseball movie called ‘Little Big League’ way back when. It’s the type of tune that most people don’t know off the top of their head, but as soon as the verse starts and the iconic backup vocalists ‘Hey! Hey!’ kicks in, everyone can’t help but dance and sing along.
While we would never necessarily describe ourselves as an ‘Irish band’, some highlights were when we pulled out some material that was a bit more pertinent to the festival. “Fields of Athenry” is a traditional Irish folk song that was reimagined by Celtic rock band Dropkick Murphys. “Drunken Lullabies” is a well-known song by another Celtic rock band, Flogging Molly. Both songs, in addition to a few selections from Irish bands like U2 and The Frames, made us a relevant performance without sacrificing what we do best. But, without a doubt, the highlight of the night was when we played Eric Carmen’s ‘Hungry Eyes’, popularized in the infamous 80s flick Dirty Dancing.
All in all, this was a great show and a great small town festival that had it all: good tunes, good food, quality vendors, and great beer. We’re looking forward to making a return!