Raleigh, N.C. — Last year's closing of Raleigh's beloved pub Tír na nÓg is the stuff of laments. A true public house, it served up weekly helpings of Celtic culture along with fish and chips and bangers and mash – and Smithwick's, Guinness, and whisky, too, of course.
Friends greeted each other across tables, favorite bands from near and far played, area musicians got to share their talents, and local Scottish and Irish dance troupes set their curls awhirl. The Wake and District Public Safety Pipe and Drums band – a decade-old public safety band composed of area firefighters, paramedics, police officers and family members – were a mainstay. And all the while manager Annie Nice flitted about greeting and hugging patrons as old friends, because even if they weren't yet, they would be someday.
The auld gurl yet lives, as Wednesday's Tír na nÓg Pop up Pub event showed. Organized by Nice, the Annual Fall Kilt Night took place this year at the Raleigh Roadhouse on Glenwood Avenue. Kilts were worn, pipes and drums sounded, brogues and burrs were heard, shenanigans abounded.
Up first was Born Again Heathens, a local Celtic punk band proud to hail from Elroy, N.C. It's near Goldsboro, they're not too proud to explain. With a raucous blend of guitars and bagpipe, they played a rollicking and sometimes irreverent set, bantering with the crowd in between songs if not during them.
Several members of Wake and District Pipes and Drums marched in next. They formed a circle in front of the stage and belted out several tunes. There is something strangely alluring about the sound of bagpipes in unison. Raleigh has a real gem in its pipe band.
The featured act was Albannach, a pipe and drums group from Scotland and a crowd favorite through many years at Tír na nÓg. Albannach's piper is an exceptional talent, and its newest member drones exuberantly on a didgeridoo, but it's their percussive attack – three of the band members hammering away on large drums like it's the latest fitness craze – that resounds the solar plexus.
Albannach's sound builds, rattles the building, and if anything, kindles your inner Braveheart. There is no singing, apart from one done a cappella in a crystal Gaelic voice by the band's only female member, Jackie. What few other vocalizations they made were grunts and shouts amid pounding rhythms. Their music is insistent, elemental, primal.
They went unbilled, but the top group of the night were all the old friends and familiar faces who had lost their favorite haunt a year ago – but not each other. Sláinte!
Jack Jobangles (@j0bangles) is a Raleigh writer and fan. He doesn't play bagpipes.