St. Patrick’s Day is obviously noted in Ireland, but the patron saint of Eire is celebrated on another level in the United States.
That’s why Irish acts such as the iconic Chieftains and the venerable Danu perform in America for much of March.
“We know and appreciate how significant St. Patrick’s Day and the days around it are regarded in the states,” button accordionist Benny McCarthy said by phone from his home in Waterford, Ireland. “It’s a huge deal, and so bands like us can’t miss the trip to America because we want to be in on the party.
“When we come to Iowa, we want to transport the people there to Ireland. We want to immerse you in our music but we won’t stop there. You’ll hear our talk, our accent, the way we joke around and our sense of fun when we perform. You’ll get everything Irish out of us.
Danu, performing Saturday (3/2) at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, will deliver traditional Irish tunes drawn from the band’s seven-album canon.
“Since we’ve been around for 24 years we have a lot to choose from,” McCarthy said. “We just have a blast with the music. I love the upbeat songs that get the crowd going.”
Bodhran player Donnchadh Gough, who formed the band with McCarthy, is the only other original member of the band in the lineup.
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“We’ve had some people leave, but other musicians have joined us and kept the music and spirit of Danu alive,” McCarthy said. “It’s not easy to keep any band together, but I do my best.”
McCarthy serves as the band’s manager.
“It’s hard work but it’s a labor of love,” McCarthy said. “If I wasn’t so passionate about this, I wouldn’t do it. But this is my life’s calling and the people that are in this group now are just as passionate as I am about our music. I don’t mind any of the non-musical things I have to do. It beats the alternative, which is having a regular job.
“I grew up playing this kind of music and I never stopped loving playing Irish music. It’s an obsession, but it’s a good obsession.”
McCarthy appreciates the support Danu has received in America. He realizes a plethora of Celtic acts are out there, from the Chieftains to Flogging Molly to the Dropkick Murphys and the Riverdance productions.
“Anytime any music fan chooses to see us we’re very thankful,” McCarthy said. “We know how many options there are out there. But the great thing about those playing Irish music is that we’re all so different. The Chieftains are unique and so many other Celtic acts are doing their own thing. So you go and see who you connect with or you can go out and see as many Irish acts as possible.
“As long as you’re having fun, it’s all right. Just grab a drink and sink into one of our songs to escape. Music is my favorite form of escapism. We in this band love to take fans on an unforgettable journey.”
McCarthy is uncertain about what’s next for Danu or how the group will mark the quarter century milestone in 2020.
“Your guess on how we celebrate 25 years together is as good as mine,” he said. “I just want to go out there and play the kind of music that will make people happy when we come back next year. I love playing the traditional songs and looking out at people smiling and singing along. That’s what it’s all about.
WHERE: Hancher Auditorium, 141 E. Park Rd., Iowa City
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
TICKETS: $10 to $45, Hancher Box Office, (319) 335-1160, 1-(800) HANCHER or Hancher.uiowa.edu
BAND’S WEBSITE: Danu.net