Michael Deeds: Not quite as young, but still Dubliners

February 23, 2014 

Singer Keith Roberts, center, and the rest of the Young Dubliners will perform March 1 in Boise.


There was a time when St. Patrick’s Day meant an endless blur of Guinness pints and fist-pumping shout-alongs for Irish-rockers The Young Dubliners.

“In the early days, we would start in mid-February and tour the whole country and go ballistic,” frontman Keith Roberts remembers, “and be gone for two months.”

That brutal battle plan has evolved for the Los Angeles-based group, which Roberts started in 1991 with bassist and fellow Irishman Brendan Holmes. (“We got called the Young Dubs because we were the young guys from Ireland,” Roberts explains.)

Shots of Jameson Irish Whiskey don’t seem mandatory anymore. Wedding rings now brush against guitar strings. Days off even occur.

“I get to still do what I’m doing, but I get to be with my kid a lot more,” Roberts says.

Not that the Dubs don’t still tour like mad. They’ll perform Saturday, March 1, at Boise’s Knitting Factory (8:30 p.m., $14, TicketWeb).

But this is a kinder, gentler, more sober Young Dubliners than you remember from a decade or two ago (albeit hazily).

“And I hate it!” Roberts complains with a laugh. “I hate it!”

Malarkey. Today’s Dubs — who are in their late 40s to late 50s — are still a lightning-charged band. The current quintet has been together for 14 years. And their raucous sound remains tight, euphoric and uplifting — live or on CD.

“We the Mighty,” the irresistible first anthem on their new album, “Nine” (out March 4), sets a stomp-and-singalong tone. But the lyrics — about immigrating to America — are more personal than ever for Roberts.

“Each song has a little bit of something in there that means something to me,” he says. “For a ninth album from a band that could just be putting out ... cover albums of Irish ballads — we’re not like that. We want to try and stay relevant.”

Relevant? Unquestionably. After a Kickstarter-like campaign was launched at YoungDubliners.com, fans donated $65,000 for the band to make the record, he says.

“I’m just glad we did it,” Roberts says proudly.

The Dubs have built a unique relationship with their followers. After a St. Patrick's Day gig in Lake Tahoe, they will travel to Ireland for a special 10-day “vacation” with 80 Americans. Usually a week-long trek, it’s the seventh year for the annual tradition.

The Dubs will perform three concerts, including a major party in Dublin. They’ll hang out with fans and lead pub crawls.

To cap off the trip, everyone will lounge in a couple of countryside castles for an optional final three days — horse riding, golfing, maybe wearing armor while golfing. It’s an idea Roberts hatched for the first time this year.

He laughs incredulously that so many people opted to stay those extra three days.

“There’s no gigs,” he says happily. “Just, like, a question and answer session. You ask me if I want a pint. I tell you, “Yes I do, thank you very much!”

Not a bad life, growing a little older and Irish.

“We now work less than we did in the past and make more money,” Roberts says.

St. Patrick’s Day is still weeks away, but we all should be able to drink to that.


Join Tim Johnstone and me as we discuss Boise music happenings, then play new music from national acts such as Bleachers, Lo-Fang and Conor Oberst.

“The Other Studio” airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.


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Michael Deeds’ column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. He co-hosts “The Other Studio” at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News. Twitter: @IDS_Deeds

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