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(Somewhat) Irish eyes to smile at the Mill

BY ERIC SUNDERMANN | JULY 23, 2009 7:15 AM

Sligo! And everybody drinks.

“We said it one time as a joke onstage,” percussionist George Curtis said. “ ‘Hey, we seem to have a lot of songs that mention sligo, why don’t you take a drink each time you hear us say that?’ and it stuck. That was almost 13 years ago, and it hasn’t changed a bit.”

Native Irish who see a Wylde Nept show may be confused about why everybody is drinking and toasting while yelling “sligo.” The traditional Irish toast is “slancha.”

Cedar Rapids-based Celtic band Wylde Nept will take the stage at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Admission is $8.

“We gathered at a local pub that was having Celtic music,” Curtis said in describing the group’s formation more than 14 years ago. “As we were sitting and talking over beers, we realized that we all knew and liked this music, and it would be fun to form a band for our own amusement if nothing else. We had no idea things would go as well as they have.”

Wylde Nept — whose name originates from an ancient medieval potion that helped with surgery recovery — has released four albums full of songs about death, drinking, love, and life. The band covers traditional Irish tunes, but the members write their own as well.

“I would say 99 percent of the time [we cover a song], we like to put our own stamp on it and perform it in a way that fills it with the spirit it should have,” vocalist Weston James said. “We play it with gusto. We play it with heart. We try to make it not sound like any other version you will find.”

Even though Wylde Nept has only toured the Midwest, it has gained a following all over the globe, with fan clubs as far away as Sweden. It’s iTunes music has even been downloaded in Japan.

However, not all the members of the band are of Irish decent, which may come as a surprise to some.

“Some of us are, some of us more than others, some of us not at all,” Curtis said. “It’s the music more than the heritage that I think we enjoy.”

Even though there are some members without family ties, the group aims to not only put on an entertaining show but also create an environment in which people can let loose and have fun.

“There’s a lot of spontaneity,” Curtis said. “We definitely try to make it a real event — more than just showing up and watching us play music we may or may not have recorded already. We actually do practice a lot and try to keep our sound tight, but people tell us that no show is the same.”


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