Shamrock 'n' Roll

Erin O’Hara

It's that time of year again, when just about everything—from beer to bagels—temporarily turns green, and everyone's got a little luck o' the Irish (even those without any ancestors from the Emerald Isle). This year, trade the face paint for some fiddles and celebrate St. Patrick's Day in true Celtic fashion, with live Irish music and other authentic activities.

For all you lads and lasses who want to get in the St. Paddy's spirit early, the real revelry starts long before the parade does. Some of the best Irish rock bands this side of the Atlantic are performing the weekend before the big day. Legendary for both their Irish roots and their punk-rock spin on classic Celtic sounds (including "Fairytale of New York," an irreverent Christmas breakup number), the Pogues are playing Friday and Saturday nights (March 13–14) at Roseland Ballroom. Meanwhile, the Saw Doctors are bringing their distinct sound—a mix of traditional Irish instrumentals with guitars, a bittersweet nostalgia for the motherland and a touch of sacrilegious humor—to the NOKIA Theatre in Times Square Friday and Saturday nights (March 13–14). Farther downtown, the 10th annual Irish Rock Revue kicks off at 7pm at (Le) Poisson Rouge. The night is a mishmash of talented Irish folk (and Irish-for-a-day folk), from raucous rockers to Broadway stars, comedians, DJs and more.

On St. Patrick’s Day itself, when you're not saying "Sláinte" over a pint of Guinness or watching the hordes of bagpipers and step dancers make their way up Fifth Avenue, head to Connolly's Pub & Restaurant. From noon to midnight, it's got live music to get your blood pumping green. Mike Begley and Toni Di Marco open for popular local band Shilelagh Law (whose name is Gaelic slang for "brawl"). Their talented fiddling and mix of original and cover songs are sure to get you dancing a jig—or thinking about it, at least. And Black 47, Irish expats who've lived and played in NYC for two decades now, bring their socially conscious rock to the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill—a change of scenery from their weekly Saturday gig at Connolly's.

For more traditional and educational entertainment, the Irish Arts Center's Annual St. Patrick's Open Day is free and great for kids and adults alike. Enjoy the traditional Open Music Seisiún, a lively, informal gathering that recalls the spontaneous eruption of music and dance that occurs in pubs across Ireland. All musicians are welcome to participate, and nonmusical folk can listen in and sing along. The day's many other events include performances by a Celtic harpist, the How Not to Get Rich Orchestra and students of Irish music and step dance, as well as a tin whistle workshop and Irish language and history classes for adults and children.

Check out our St. Patrick's Day Parade route map for info on where to grab a brew and bite without missing the action.