The traditional Irish music scene was alive and well in Portland, Oregon in the early 80’s. Many fine local players even traveled to Ireland in search of the music masters to learn from. The arrival of Kevin Burke and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, (October 7, 1951 – July 7, 2006) formerly of Ireland’s seminal Bothy Band, sparked Portland’s Celtic music culture to a roaring fire of some of the hottest music on the planet. Elements combined to stir the Irish music scene to a lather in the wee hours at the Monday night sessions at the East Avenue Tavern on the corner of 7th & East Burnside.
Together, the Artichoke Music Presents concert series and the welcoming ambience of the East Avenue Tavern opened the floodgates to a steady stream of musicians from Ireland, Scotland and Brittany, including DeDannan, Jacky Daly, Andy Irvine, Dick Gaughan, Gerry O’Beirne, Silly Wizard, Clannad, La Bottine Souriante, Kornog, Pierre Ben Susan, Gabriel Yacoub, Johnny & Phil Cunningham, Relativity, Manus Lunny, Dolores Keane & John Falkner’s Kinvara, and many others who stopped in Portland on tour – and often stayed for days or months – fanning the blaze at the sessions in the working-class bar near the Willamette River. The mutual reputation of Artichoke Music and the East Avenue Tavern put Portland on the map as a favored destination for world-class acts by providing a “home away from home,” packed venues and friendly hospitality. In exchange the locals partnered a music culture that many only dream of.
It was all about the music.
One northwest outcome of this inspired time was the formation of the band Wildgeese who brought stepdancers to their feet and charmed the hearts of the region for a rich but fleeting couple of years. The collaboration among the musicians Randal Bays, Kate Power, Bill Bulick, Barry Crannell, Jim Chapman, was captured and produced by Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, and resulted in a beautiful recording: Wildgeese, Celtic Music of the Northwest in 1983 at Michael O’Rourke’s Grass Roots Studio.
In tribute to this exquisite chapter in the musical history of Portland, this out-of-print recording has been reverently restored and is now available once again for the enjoyment of all.