Blochinger likewise hasn't quit on the band's commitment to its Celtic roots, an odd fit for a German/Argentine raised in New Jersey. The specialty seems all the more unlikely considering Blochinger's musical roots; an early fan of classic rock and jam bands, the drummer learned his craft playing Grateful Dead covers and extended percussion jams.

It was while hosting an open stage in Evergreen that Blochinger first heard guitarist Christopher Shelby, who played stripped-down versions of old Irish and European ballads.

Those performances exposed him to a deeper side of Celtic music, a history and power that seemed to underline every verse of folk tunes like "South Australia," "Whiskey in the Jar" and "Drunken Sailor." The songs' simple narratives and raw energy immediately appealed to Blochinger, who saw the music as a compelling link to the distant past.

Avast, mateys: Jeremy Kurns (from left), Andrew Thompson, Laura Quam, Matt Lafferty, Neil Zimmerman and Christian Blochinger are Potcheen.
Avast, mateys: Jeremy Kurns (from left), Andrew Thompson, Laura Quam, Matt Lafferty, Neil Zimmerman and Christian Blochinger are Potcheen.

Location Info


Clement Park

7306 W. Bowles Ave.
Littleton, CO 80123

Category: Parks and Outdoors

Region: Southwest Denver Suburbs


Potcheen2011 Colorado Irish Festival, with Seven Nations, the Indulgers, Colcannon and more, 3:45 p.m. Friday, July 8, Clement Park, 7306 West Bowles Avenue, Littleton, $12-$15, 303-973-1209.

"The first one I remember is 'Whiskey in the Jar,' and I still play that to this day," he notes of the 800-year-old ballad, a song that tells the story of a highway robber who's waylaid by the betrayal of his own beloved. "A lot of the songs were pirate songs. They were songs about drinking, or drinking and being a pirate.

"What's more fun than that?" he adds, smiling.

From there, Blochinger delved into the history behind the music: romantic stories of Irish sailors hitting ports in western Europe as pirates, combining careers as plunderers and ballad singers. "Ireland, that's where a lot of the most famous pirates were from," he asserts.

Blochinger and Shelby enlisted a bass player and formed the first, bare-bones version of the group. The trio called itself the Potcheen Folk Band. The title came from the Gaelic word for Irish moonshine, a spirit celebrated in the folk song "The Rare Old Mountain Dew."

"The more I looked at it," he recalls, "the more I realized that Celtic music was the original music that was put in a band format. It became bluegrass, country and R&B. We were finding that we could play a metal bar or a jam bar or a country bar. It was the first time that I was in a band that we could play any genre, any club, and everyone was digging it."

As Potcheen grew and different players circulated, Blochinger worked to expand the scope of its style. The speedy, rocked-out approach to Irish music refined by the Pogues and later adopted by bands like Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys played a large role in the band's repertoire, but so did rock standards, originals and poppier tunes by bands like the Proclaimers.

"I have my own song that I wrote called 'Pogue Mahone,' which means 'Kiss my ass,'" Blochinger points out. "We just mix everything. We'll do a little Flogging Molly," he adds, noting that he's met and played with Nathen Maxwell. "We do bluegrass, we go to zydeco, go to an Irish song and then flip and do the Isley Brothers." It's an all-of-the-above approach, one that's drawn musicians who are new to Celtic music, just as Blochinger was when he heard those first ballads at the open stage.

"'Whiskey in the Jar' is 800 years old," Zimmerman points out. "It's been done in 9,000 different ways. We do a very upbeat version of it, and I think it's cool that it's survived this long."

"There's an utter simplicity and purity to it," he concludes. "It's about whiskey, it's about love, it's about rebellion. They are the same basic elements that appealed to people 700 years ago."

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Sorry, their music sucks. Driving around in a bus to play for a few people and make squat is no way to go through life.

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