Truth in advertising isn’t something you usually want out of a band name. A concert by the Rolling Stones or Black Crowes would be a lot less fun if you had to worry about literal boulders or birds, for example, and that’s without even touching on the likes of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Garbage, or Iron Maiden. But when a band titles itself something as definitive and iconic as The Celtic Kitchen Party, the feeling that you’re looking for is right there in the name, and it’s a testament to this crew that this is exactly what they deliver: a rousing good time that’s as infectious as it is endlessly fun, which is what they brought to CC’s on the Rideau on Saturday, Sept. 21.
Boasting a diversity of flexible multi-instrumental talent, this Kingston, Ontario-based crew came to town on the heels of the recent release of Sociable!, a spirited collection of original tunes and reimaginings of traditional Celtic and East Coast favourites. If you have a taste for Celtic music with hints of pop, rock, and country, it’s impossible not to love The Celtic Kitchen Party, whose new songs are every bit as memorable as their back catalogue.
This boisterously good-time band began coalescing nearly nine years ago through networks built around the Kingston Irish Folk Club and Renaissance Music (now Long & McQuade Kingston), and includes Andrew Vanhorn (guitar, vocals), Colin Skinner (tin whistle, bagpipes, background vocals, bvox), Ted Chew (fiddle, bvox), Scott Jackson (bass, bvox), and Nathan Crockett (drums, percussion).
Combined, the group delivers a wide range of emotions, with Sociable! running the gamut from straight-up party tunes like “Drank Too God-Damned Much” to sillier tunes such as “Twice as Happy Birthday Song,” to the more serious narrative in “A Lullabye [For Those Who Died]”. This makes checking out the band a true experience, and while the kitchen camaraderie might seem the obvious inspiration for the album title, Vanhorn said its origins lay elsewhere — and may sound familiar to Western Canadian football fans.
“The story behind the title is a suggestion from fans through a contest which we ran on Facebook,” said Vanhorn. “And once suggested it became quite clear: ‘Sociable!’ Is something we shout out at every show and which we have been doing for seven years now. Essentially, it’s a ‘cheers’, raise your glasses, shout out and drink! We’re not the only ones doing it: it was refreshing to see CFL’s Spirit of Edmonton doing the exact same cheer from across our country, and they even named their mascot ‘Sociable’.”
The Celtic Kitchen Party’s collective skill and adaptability results in an incredibly versatile band that can easily flow between the upbeat, party band vibe they’re known for, to the more subdued, dulcet mood required for some performances. This has allowed the band to cover virtually any kind of gig as they’ve been able to provide a more classic approach to modern pop tunes for weddings and cocktail hours — what Vanhorn calls “the tamer, more mellow shows” — but still being able to read the crowd at regular shows to deliver the tempo and flavor of songs they may want to hear.
At the end of the day, Celtic Kitchen Party is proud to embody the sensibility of the folk and Irish/East Coast music that they’re known for, according to Vanhorn. Engaging with the audience with music that’s laden with storytelling, energy and humour helps them get to a place of complete distraction.
This love of a good drink and a good time has helped to elevate The Celtic Kitchen Party, and earned them a reputation of being true to their name. When band member Ted Chew pointed out at one point that the group was getting to be known as a party band, Andrew had but one thing to say: “Good.”
Their sheer talent and focus has led the group to play some interesting places and events around the country, including the Perth Kilt Run, many Canadian Air Force Bases, and has also helped them to share the stage with legends like The Mudmen and The Mahones.
There’s been no end of memorable shows, according to Vanhorn, including a Humane Society fundraiser in Iqaluit. This was an intense experience, requiring 4,548 km of travel with a 24-hour musical layover, laden with “lung-crushing, beard-frosting, face-freezing” climb marked by “crisp, face-tightening -52” weather and “squeaky-fingers-on-chalkboard, chewing-on-Styrofoam-crunching” footsteps through the snow. Luckily, fans who weren’t able to make it can still tap into the performance by checking out “Live in Iqaluit” at CD Baby or iTunes.
The band has also played an East Coast party for Grey Cup celebrations in Ottawa in 2017, hosted by the Atlantic Schooners, marking another event to remember.
“We also did an early show with Spirit of Edmonton, who were well into the ‘sluice juice’ by the time we did an energetic 45-minute show at 11 a.m. Because the prices of hotel rooms were close to $400-$600 per room we opted to stay a bit away from downtown and I was lucky to have booked all six of us into one room at the Ottawa Jail Hostel. That alone was crazy, thank goodness nobody snored horribly. But what a neat place. And also inspired a song aptly titled the ‘Ottawa Jail Song’ which will be a Song of the Month in the upcoming year.”
What’s a Song of the Month, you ask? Supporters of The Celtic Kitchen Party can be part of the Song of the Month Club, getting advanced access to a brand new single, with each one later being fodder for their next album. Sociable! was the first album the group has launched using this system, putting it to the public in November 2018. Patrons [https://squareup.com/store/celtickitchenparty/] also receive more than music as they support the creative efforts of this talented group, receiving other perks like complimentary tickets, t-shirt designs, a physical CD disc and digital copies.
This creative approach is gaining traction and helping to build a foundation for their creative efforts, while offering fans new material on a regular basis. In fact, Celtic Kitchen Party is hoping to continue the trend, with an eye on releasing additional albums in November 2020 and November 2021
“I think the crowdfunding much like we’re doing with Song of the Month is one way people can support the writing of new material,” said Vanhorn. “If you love the music, move away from the streaming like Spotify for a moment and support any live shows or merch from the artist. And outright purchase their music either physical or digitally.”
To keep up with what the Celtic Kitchen Party is up to, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Purchase their new album and become a patron for the Song of the Month Club here [https://squareup.com/store/celtickitchenparty/]. You can also catch them live at the upcoming Light Up The Night Santa Claus Parade in Prescott on Nov. 15 at 7pm, as well as CC’s on the Rideau again on April 18, 2020 at 8pm. Mark your calendars!