St. Patrick's Day weekend is a busy time of year for the Denver Celtic band Gobs O' Phun, which promises to bring the Irish pub experience to wherever the group happens to play.
Brothers-in-law Denis Sullivan and Martin Lambuth offer the best of the old-time tunes of the British Isles while accompanying their well-honed vocals with traditional instrumentation.
Sullivan says the two, who perform in traditional kilts, sing songs that tell stories. The songs cover universal themes: love, relationships, honor, pride, freedom, humor and overcoming adversity. They say that's why their music appeals to people of all cultural backgrounds and generates good cheer.
"We're just old-school guys," says Sullivan, who, along with Lambuth, is also a grandfather. "We don't get real fancy. 'Gob' is slang in Ireland for your mouth. 'Hush your gob' means 'quiet your mouth.' We pride ourselves on our singing and back it up with guitar, harmonica and the bodhran."
The bodhran is a traditional Irish drum. When England outlawed the Irish owning instruments, which were used to promote rebellion, they rebelled by playing the hand drum.
"If the English caught you, you could be thrown in jail," Sullivan explains. "It's basically a piece of wood with a goat skin stretched across it. It's been around for hundreds of years and, like many of the songs we sing, has traveled up and down the island of Ireland."
The lyrics of Irish folk songs are shaped by the country's geography.
"It's also not uncommon for a song with the same musical notation to change lyrically from county to county there," says Sullivan. "That's part of what the folk tradition is about."
Gobs has been joined in the past by local folk-influenced luminaries including Rich Moore, Chris Daniels and the inimitable Harry Tuft, after whom the Swallow Hill theater where the pair is performing this Friday is named.
"We always do the drinking songs, because everyone knows and loves them," says Sullivan, who is a regular visitor to the British Isles. "But because we play year-round at festivals and pubs, we also do love songs, hero songs, songs about horse racing, which are popular over there, and really just every facet of life. These tunes are part of the tradition, and we get into that. We're very proud of our heritage."
Gobs O' Phun plays at 7 p.m. Friday, March 13, at the Tuft Theatre at Swallow Hill, 71 East Yale Avenue. Tickets are $14 to $16 and available at the Swallow Hill website. Check out the band's website for more dates.