On occasion, perhaps you've overheard fellow Colorado Springians bemoaning the fact that there is no good local music scene in town. Perhaps you may have even uttered those very words yourself.
If you've been one of those naysayers, you might want to rethink that mantra. Especially if you are a fan of Celtic music. Because just when you thought Colorado Springs was void of any steady and dependable music scene, along comes Jack Quinn's.
Over the past four years, Jack Quinn's Irish Ale House and Pub has slowly been cultivating, nurturing and growing their very own little Celtic music identity. At the same time, they've also been carving out a niche for themselves as a dependable venue not just for good ale, but good music as well. And in the past year that careful nurturing has visibly paid off.
Throughout the years, the popular downtown Irish watering hole has gained a reputation as one of the most authentic Irish pubs in the city. So it stands to reason that they are now also one of the most popular venues at which to regularly hear (or play) good, authentic Celtic music. They have not only secured this niche by providing local and national Irish- flavored acts on a weekly basis, but they've also cultivated the one key component important to any thriving scene: a crop of regulars -- patrons who come week after week to hear, sing along with or dance to their favorite bands.
Now, the scene which first began with simple, once-a-week jams four years ago, has spawned a steady weekly lineup of local, national and international touring acts.
Recently, I got a taste of the high quality of touring bands Quinn's has been bringing through the Springs.
Though it was a chilly, rainy Tuesday night, with flooded downtown streets, large claps of thunder and intermittent bolts of lightning sparking in the sky, the upstairs of Quinn's was warm, sweaty and in overdrive. It seemed to be the epicenter of action in the otherwise mellow downtown area that night. The band was jamming. People were dancing. The beer was flowing.
The band was called Cuillin. They are from Nova Scotia and are in the process of playing their way from the East Coast to the West Coast here in the United States. I soon discovered, they had just won top honors at the Colorado Irish Festival in Denver days earlier.
Part of the crowd that evening was a group from the St. Brendan's School of Irish Dance, a local outfit dedicated to the tradition of Irish dance and folk music, and overall promotion of the culture. They'd been at the festival over the weekend and had seen Cuillen, which is what brought them out on that particular rainy evening.
But the folks from St. Brendan's are also regulars. Not only do they attend Quinn's regular Celtic events, but they are also one of the regular acts at Quinn's as well. They've been performing traditional Irish dance at Quinn's on the last Wednesday of every month for nearly four years, and according to dancer Vikki Beauprez, Quinn's is one of the best Celtic outlets in town.
Its a very authentic Irish pub for one thing, said Beauprez. And we also like coming here because we can bring the kids. They're (Quinn's) very kid friendly and foster a great family atmosphere. Its one of the few places the whole family can have a good time. And we, including the kids, get to dance.
In fact, that evening, just as I arrived, I was fortunate enough to catch the last minute or so of an Irish jig performed by a small boy, the youngest member of the school.
And Beauprez was right. Cuillen were incredible. Their blend of traditional Irish folk fused with rock was like pure adrenaline. You couldn't help but dance, or at least stand close to the band and be swept up in their energy.
The addicting element of Celtic music played by newer and larger bands, at least for a non-Irish person, non-bagpipe player, though Irish ale connoisseur such as myself, is that it starts out slow and gradually winds its way into this frenzied energetic trance, peaks and then winds its way back down. All the while solid bass and drum lines are laid down, and a fiddle weaves traditional Irish melodies throughout.
Its always inspirational, to say the least, and that night Cuillen inspired me to come back the next evening for a band from Ireland called The Equation.
Though The Equation were up against Survivor, they stood their ground. The place filled up by about 8:30 p.m. and energy flowed through the room. Again, lots of faces from the night before.
The Equation was a bit less on the traditional folk side and more along the lines of straight Irish folk-rock. And their bagpipe player, it turns out, had just won an international bagpipe competition with his soulful renditions.
Again, the band was excellent and the crowd responded, especially after finding out that this was The Equations first trip to the States.
But the national acts, or international acts as the case may be, are just part of the scene at Quinn's. The weekly stuff is really whats at its heart, keeping regulars just that. Regular.
In addition to the St. Brendan dancers, Quinn's regularly features an open platform Irish session -- an open mic of sorts -- every Sunday night, and the local Mountain Road Ceili Band on the first three Wednesdays of every month. General Manager Gina Thompson says that while those two usually draw a fairly large crowd, the Thursday night ballads and pub songs sing-a-long has also garnered a large, avid and loyal following.
Shes right. If anything transforms Quinn's from another downtown Irish-style bar with good beer to a friendly neighborhood pub, its a bunch of people sitting around long bench tables, drinking dark beer and enthusiastically singing their hearts out.
Quinn's is not the only venue in town which offers Celtic music on a regular basis. Recently, Mayfield's, in the Rockrimmon area, has set aside a few nights, and the grandfather of the local scene, Poor Richards, offers Celtic every Thursday night as well.
If last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday offered any indication of the quality of music that Quinn's is bringing through, and the crowd on Thursday was any example of the popularity and growth Celtic music has experienced in the past several years, its a sure bet that Quinn's scene is intact, and Celtic is here to stay.