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Three-fourths of the Houston Irish rock band Blaggards are assembled at Shay McElroy's pub downtown. Singer/guitarist Patrick Devlin, fiddler Turi Hoiseth and bassist Chad Smalley (drummer Brian Vogel is MIA) are sitting at a table loaded with pints of Guinness. If this were any more stereotypical, leprechauns would be dancing around the room looking for "me Lucky Charms."
Thankfully, very little that the Blaggards do musically is stereotypical. Their style of Irish rock isn't of the U2 variety. Nor is it of the Flogging Molly or the Dropkick Murphys ilk. Even the Pogues doesn't tag it. Nope, Blaggards are -- wait for it, wait -- Celtic metal! (Hoiseth needles Devlin: "He just loves to use his 'metal' pedal!")
Back in 2003, the Irish-born Devlin, who previously fronted On the Dole and the Patrick Devlin Band, was looking for a new musical direction that would let him release his inner headbanger. "I liked a lot of the traditional Irish melodies," he says, "but they didn't always have a lot of punch. When we're playing these clubs for four hours, we've got to keep the audience's attention, and the heavier aspect just came out."
Things started to gel for the band in July 2004, when Hoiseth found Devlin while surfing the Net. "I really wanted to play in an Irish rock band in Houston," she says, "and [Patrick's] name was the only one that came up." Devlin, who says he's jammed with "about 55,000 fiddle players," wasn't looking forward to auditioning another one, but he liked Hoiseth's sound. "It was part of that different direction I wanted to go in," he says. Devlin recruited bassist/vocalist Chad Smalley, whom he had seen at open-mike nights around town. Then they found a drummer, making the quartet complete.
But the drummer didn't exactly work out. "He would drink tall boys of Busch beer between sets." Devlin says. "We wanted a drummer with better taste in beer. Or who could at least handle it." Enter Brian Vogel, a friend of Hoiseth's from Rice University.
Currently working on a new CD, the band reports that its collaborative songwriting is going well. "For one that we've been working on, Turi had a melody and Patrick brought in some lyrics and then we just added more," Smalley offers. "It's basically everyone contributing what needs to be done."
The band released their debut CD, Standards, in early 2005. It pretty much captured their stage show -- hopped-up hard rock versions of Irish classics like "Drunken Sailor," "Irish Rover" and "Rocky Road to Dublin," along with covers of "Suspicious Minds" and "Folsom Prison Blues."
Comparisons to the Pogues were inevitable.
"I didn't much care for them growing up; I thought, 'Who is this whiskey-soaked git?'" says Devlin of the Pogues' dentally and mentally challenged frontman Shane McGowan. "But if people tell us we sound like them, that's a compliment. The downside is their singer is a lot prettier than ours!"
Not that Blaggards lack for visual impact onstage. The three guys look like, well, like they should be in a loud Irish rock band. Much of the audience's attention -- particularly that of lager-soaked lads -- naturally centers on the striking Hoiseth, all fire and flailing hair, not to mention the occasional short skirt.
"Me being the only girl isn't really an issue. [The band] treats me no differently than they do each other. They're like brothers to me," she says. "Really gross brothers."
A note to would-be suitors: If you're going to buy Hoiseth a drink during intermission, be careful what you offer her. "It better be a Guinness or something comparable, and not a Michelob fucking Ultra Light!" she laughs.
As the pints are emptied and Devlin chats about their recent opening chores for country outlaw David Allan Coe (or, as he says, "David Allen Corpse"), a stranger wanders up to the McElroy's patio and asks Devlin to buy him a beer. The stranger's not taking no for an answer.
"I can't buy you a beer, it's against my religion. You know, water into wine and all," he tells the man. Then, like he's offering the stranger a consolation prize, Devlin says, "Now, I'll pray for you." With that, he closes his eyes and folds his hands under his chin, as if intently channeling the Almighty. Several seconds click by before Devlin opens one eye to the perplexed man and says, "This may take awhile." Blaggards appear Thursday, September 21, at Molly Maguire's, 15945 Kuykendahl. Call 281-580-6167 for more information.
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