Craic Is Back: Saluting Rory Miggins With Irish Stew & Celtic Rock

Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day, which is fine by Seamuis Strain. The more, the merrier, he says.

But, he reasons, the annual Miggins Memorial Irish Music Festival & Stew Cook-Off -- which returns for its seventh installment Saturday at Lucky's Pub, from noon to 6 p.m. -- is Houston's event reserved for those who embrace the culture for more than a single day in March. Produced by the Houston St. Patrick's Parade Commission, the event is designed to raise funds for the annual parade.

"In my eyes, the Miggins cookoff is a far better event than the parade itself," says Strain, front man for The Dead Rabbits, who will perform at the event. "It's really the only time you'll have just about every Irishman and woman in the city in one place. And you'd be hard pressed to find anyone on the entire grounds who isn't engaged in some grand story telling with drink in hand, surrounded by folks smiling and laughing."

If that sounds awesome -- yes it does, if you're asking me -- go ahead and throw a cookoff event into the mix for good measure. That means plenty of Irish stew, chili, chicken and other fare, all for the tasting.

"We've been playing for four years now and this is our fourth year doing Miggins," says Steve O'Brien, a Texan by way of Dublin who fronts THINK LIZZY, an Austin-based Thin Lizzy tribute band. "It's great craic, great music and food. And we get beer free."

O'Brien is aware of the event's namesake, Rory Miggins, but never met him. Miggins ran the eastside bar/music venue Local Charm until his death in 2007.

"We never knew him since we're not from Houston but know he must have been one cool dude to have this many cool people come to the event," O'Brien says.

Blaggards' front man Patrick Devlin knew Miggins and knows he would approve of the annual gathering in his name.

"Rory and all the Miggins family are, and have been, huge supporters of all things Irish, and Rory lived for live music and the Houston scene," he says. "I opened the Continental Club here in town and that's where I first started to hear of his contribution to the scene. He was a great man, as was his brother Larry."

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Devlin said Blaggards have played the event many times and are eager to take the stage again this year to showcase the band's newest member and "newfound treasure," fiddler Brittany Johnson. At the Rock the Shelter Toy Drive in December, one of her first gigs with the band, she sawed her fiddle parts like she'd been alongside her fellow Blaggards for years.

"She has massive energy and a boundless desire to learn and perform," Devlin says. "I've been extremely lucky and blessed with great players and she's soaring to the top of the heap."

Godfrey's Rangers, TreynWreck, the Celtic Chorus of Houston and Houston Highlanders round out the day's music acts. The Cass-Barrington Academy of Irish Dance, McTeggert Irish Dancers of South Texas and Tew School of Irish Dance will be along as well.

Strain said his band was honored to join the lineup years ago. Now, like many who have attended year after year, it all feels very comfortable. He'd like others to come soak up the culture the day offers and get that feeling, too.

"When the Rabbits were first invited to play a number of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting the matriarch of the Miggins. We had a grand conversation," he recalled. "Every year since it has become more of a family reunion for us rather than a fundraiser."

The Seventh Annual Miggins Memorial Irish Music Festival & Stew Cook-Off is held, rain or shine, noon to 6 p.m., Saturday, February 8 at Lucky's Pub, 801 St. Emmanuel Street. Tickets are $10 per person; children 12 and under free.


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