When Murphy’s Pigs made their Festival debut at Joe Maguires Pub with three gigs last year, including a hot and rollicking Friday night, staff gave publican Oscar Leonard an ultimatum: get them back or we quit.
It must have worked because this year the Brisbane-based Celtic band is back for double the amount of shows and Oscar’s as happy as, well ... a pig in mud.
“I was very impressed with them,” he said.
“They had a good following and were very easy to get along with.”
And the feeling was mutual.
“We had a ball,” guitarist and singer Peter Vincent said.
And it seems that’s what audiences have been doing since the evolution of the band in 2006 when Vincent and fellow guitarist-singer John Graham got together to perform with the Queensland Irish Association Pipe Band at the world’s largest Celtic festival in Lorient, France.
With bass player Chris Jack and flautist Adam Connelly, they ended up performing in their own right at the festival, winning rave reviews from the organisers, other performers and their audiences.
“We were playing late one night in front of about 1000 crazy French,” Vincent recalled.
“After the first couple of songs they began chanting ‘merci, merci’.
“I turned to John and said ‘they’re begging for mercy already’,” Vincent laughed.
“Later in the set they started chanting ‘cochon, cochon (French for pig).”
On their return to Australia the band became seven with the addition of pipes, violin and drums. At Tamworth last year, there were nine on stage and that looks like swelling this year.
“There will probably be 10 this year,” Graham said of the loose collection of coppers, teachers and scholars whose CD sales at the 2009 Gympie Muster were only exceeded by Troy Cassar-Daley. That includes guitars, violin, viola, banjo, mandolin, flute, whistles, bass, drums , bodhran and even a world-title-winning bagpiper.
The band has had a long-time residency at the Irish Club in Brisbane and Mick O’Malley’s Irish Pub and plays at many festivals, including Woodford and Gympie, but rarely travels much further south than Brisbane.
They have, however, been the darlings of the Australian Celtic Festival at Glen Innes for the past four years.
Influenced by the folk revival bands of the 60s, 70s and 80s, they play songs made famous by bands such as the Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners, The Bushwackers and The Pogues.
Country they ain’t, it’s a blend of Celtic rock and traditional folk, but if you like to clap your hands, stamp your feet, sing along, dance like a loon and generally have a good old Craic, then Murphy’s Pigs are for you.
They begin their Tamworth sessions tonight at Joe Maguires Pub from 8.30pm and are on every evening until Saturday and, contrary to some guides, are free.
Check our daily program.