New Celtic rock bands trying to crack the U.S. market have had as many ups and downs as the kilt of a drunken Scotsman. But if any band can make it here, it's Great Big Sea, a four-piece group from Newfoundland. In its 12-year career in Canada, Great Big Sea has reached the same level of popularity as the Tragically Hip, performing before legions of raucous fans (a 1999 concert attracted 90,000). The band's most recent release, Sea of No Cares, entered the Canadian charts at No. 1. Like the Hip and other Canadian groups before it, Great Big Sea is willing to be a tiny fish in the, um, great big sea south of its border to get a buzz going here. The band has traded in its rock star status for the grind of a tour bus, opening for American groups in punk rock clubs. This weekend brings the band's first ever visit to Houston.
Great Big Sea's Celtic and traditional roots are as rock-solid as the craggy province they call home. Two members, multi-instrumentalists Séan McCann and Bob Hallett, played with traditional purists Rankin Street before Great Big Sea's formation in 1991. But the lad who commands the stage -- as Gord Downie does for the Hip -- is vocalist Alan Doyle. It's hard to say enough about a Newfie who can rip through a traditional sea-faring ditty like "The Scolding Wife," backed by tin whistle and bodhran, and generate the same mosh-pit excitement as other bands that wouldn't dare show up for a gig without pyrotechnics and giant props. Great Big Sea opens for Cowboy Mouth at 9 p.m. Friday, September 12. Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak Drive. For information, call 713-862-3838. $15. -- Greg Barr
STIRRED AND SHAKEN
SULLIVAN'S STEAKHOUSE'S ORANGE DREAM
"So where did you just fly in from?" asked a sassy bartender with a shaved head as I settled into a bar stool at Sullivan's Steakhouse (4608 Westheimer, 713-961-0333). "Let me guess," she said. "You're in town on business, you're staying next door at the Derek and you stumbled in here for one more nightcap." She was, of course, wrong. How many dudes staying at the Hotel Derek would wear a disheveled Hawaiian shirt like mine? She served me an Orange Dream, a high-octane little number that sent every other drop of alcohol in my system scurrying for cover, and then she left me alone. Some half-drunk preppie was seated at the piano, playing campy hits of yesteryear for a small crowd of White Zinfandel-drinking, crooning ladies. My head started to hurt from the off-key singing and jarring piano-playing. Ten minutes later, my glass was empty, and my medicine woman suggested a Knockout. Now she wanted to know the origin of my accent. If I'd been sober I might have realized she was trying to pick me up, and I might have bothered to tell her my real story.
2 ounces Grand Marnier
1 ounce Hiram Walker Crème de Cacao
Half an orange
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
Combine ingredients in blender (remembering to break apart the orange), along with a small scoop of ice. Blend for 17 seconds and pour contents into a curvy cocktail glass. Orange slice garnish optional. -- J.W. Crooker
A Novel Affair
If you're in the market for an intellectual hottie, look no further than a reading at Brazos Bookstore -- especially if it's Susan Choi reading from American Woman. The author, who also wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Foreign Student, has become the toast of the literary community; Joan Didion called her "a writer whose intelligence and historical awareness effortlessly serve a breathtaking narrative ability." Now that's some serious praise. American Woman, which was inspired by the Patty Hearst kidnapping, tells the story of Jenny Shimada, a Japanese-American activist on the run after committing an act of violence against the American government. 7 p.m. Monday, September 15. 2421 Bissonnet, 713-523-0701, www.brazosbookstore.com. Free. -- Cathy Matusow
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Go, Joe, It's Your Birthday
Joe B is opening the doors of his northside warehouse for an open-invitation birthday party titled -- and bear with us here -- "Visions of Chicken Side North." The Rebel Crew DJ is one of the birthday boys and girls who will be honored at this shindig; he'll also be providing the music, along with spinners Suma and Witnes. And Aerosol Warfare will be on hand for some spray-paint action. Now, if only Joe would tell us what in the hell the party's title means, we'd be ever so grateful. 9 p.m. Saturday, September 13. 2023 Semmes. For information, visit www.texasgraffiti.com. $5. -- Craig D. Lindsey