The Young Dubliners play so frequently in Boise, a good percentage of valley residents probably think they're a local band. But these feisty Irish and American boys are definitely not local (hailing from Los Angeles, unfortunately for them), and technically only come to Boise about twice a year. The Dubs make additional appearances in town as the opening band for other headliners, so in general it seems they love playing for Idaho fans. But when they play the Big Easy Saturday night, lead vocalist Keith Roberts chides we'd better be grateful for the show-or else.
Speaking after "a little bit of a fun night," which could mean anything from partying hard, to partying harder, Roberts talks about how difficult touring is now that he has a two-year old son. "It kills me to be away from him," he says. "If I don't see that place fuckin' packed, I'll think, 'I stayed away from my baby for this?'" He's not as hot-tempered as his comment makes him out to be-the Dubs are one of the most fan-faithful bands around. When we talked, they had just finished playing a gig in Washington and Roberts agreed on behalf of the band to play the next night as well, though it was their only night off-just because a fan asked. And just cause a few others asked, the Young Dubliners are taking 120 of their fans on tour with them to Ireland next fall."Somebody asked us to do it years ago and I thought it was fuckin' ridiculous. What do we do, send an email around, 'Hey anyone want to come to Ireland with us?'" Roberts says. "But we sold out the first bus of 60 people, and there are only 10 spots left on the second bus. We'll take 'em on an 8-day thing altogether, and out on the piss a lot after the shows." Whether you're familiar with their music or not, guaranteed these guys would be fun to throw back a few with. (Roberts likes Killian's Irish Red, FYI).
Their two-week break after Saturday's show serves as a chance to head back to L.A. For Roberts, it's mainly an opportunity to see his mother flying in from Ireland, in addition to his family in California. "She comes out every so often to slap me around. She said about the tour, 'I hope you're not bringing 120 friends to my house!'" He admits he probably will. And she's used to it-his mother is a famous Irish singer as well as his father, so he grew up in an artistic environment where everyone recognized his parents. Though unlike famous Americans, he still swears they never had money.
"Friends and I literally graduated from college and went on the dole," Roberts says. Most of his friends left Ireland right after college as Roberts did, unsurprisingly as the employment rate was around 21 percent. "I almost feel like a stranger there when we go," he says. "But once you're home for a day, you're back." Roberts immigrated in the early 90's and started to work for PBS as a journalist, though he quickly left the industry as it paid less than he anticipated and the credit he received was minimal to the effort he put forth. So Roberts started cajoling passengers in the shuttle bus route he took up driving instead, and eventually bought a bar where the current members of the Dubliners met and began playing. "I made no plans whatsoever to be a musician," he admits. "All I could think when the band took off was, what about my bar?!" Not exactly a shabby sacrifice to make, however, as the band has achieved enormous success around the country. They've played everywhere from the 2004 Winter Olympics to numerous Irish music festivals, the surprise birthday party for actor and friend Gabriel Byrne, attended by the likes of Mickey Rourke and Bob Dylan, to the wedding of the mayor of Jackson Hole, Wyoming (1,000 or so uninvited guests snuck through the woods to hear the show, not the ceremony).
Roberts describes their music as rock with a Celtic influence, and ironically points out the Irish members of the band are more inclined towards rock and roll, while the Americans are the ones exploring Irish traditional music. The role reversal adds to the dynamic energy of their live performance, where Roberts encourages the press-coined "jig pits" that tend to proliferate at their shows. "Instead of moshing in circles, people jump up and down for no apparent reason," he says. "If you let yourself go you can have a wonderful time, but you don't have be able to put your left leg around your right earlobe like the Lord of the Dance to dance to Irish music." Though their musical style is much more mainstream in Europe, in the States it's still relatively unique. Their latest record, Real World, is an account of the reality behind touring, the nitty gritty aspects of the job. "With this record we're finally getting some airplay. We're still working on it in Boise. I think it's called 94.9?" he says. Roberts also recalls the name of Tom Grainey's where the Young Dubliners first played in town, in addition to details of summertime Riverfest and block party gigs. His memory for an out-of-towner is so impressive, perhaps the Dubs should become an honorary local band. The campaign for the official honorary title could be, in the apt words of the native Dubliner: "Hug the Dubs."
Saturday, April 30, Big Easy, $12.50 (first 100 are $5), 8 p.m.