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Irish, but not Celtic

Gems from the Emerald Isle
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  January 9, 2009

Guggenheim Grotto

With the Boston Celtic Music Festival taking over a host of venues January 9 and 10 (see, it can be easy to forget that not all Irish music is . . . Celtic music. Much of it is just pop, and too much of it is unknown. Take Dublin’s Guggenheim Grotto. Sometimes they’ve got a little Spoon, sometimes they’ve got a lot of Stars, sometimes it’s a squeeze of Squeeze or a shake of Shelley (as in Percy Bysshe) — but it’s all done with a chummy (even pubby?) candor, and a sincerity that’s not exotic, exactly, but certainly rare in these parts. This week they kick off a four-week Thursday-night residency at Lizard Lounge, with early-evening shows scheduled for January 8, 15, 22, and 29. Here’s a preview.

Guggenheim Grotto, “Philosophia”
A perfunctory sit with their MySpace offering makes it clear that the Grotto are as skilled with sweet, wafery pop (“Fee Da Da Dee”) as they are with more-austere meditations (“Ozymandias”). But “Philosophia” covers frontman Kevin May’s “deflation” from years of theological studies. Heavy! Although you wouldn’t know that from drifting off on it.

Sub Rosa, “The Blue Seed”
Stick around on the January 15 date for the Sub Rosa Society — a “secret society” (oops) led by local folk hero (though she’s real) Rose Polenzani. Born as an impromptu act to fill a gap left by a cancellation at Lizard Lounge, this loose-knit gang of players now perform monthly — always bringing in a stranger to keep them on their creative toes. If “The Blue Seed” is any indication, things tend to work out quite nicely.

The Blizzard of ’78, “The Song”
If you haven’t heard Book of Lies, the second full-length release from this scruffy Boston/Providence troupe, you can download the whole dang thing off their Web site — and I recommend you do. “The Song” seems as natural an ambassador of their sound as any: snarling guitars, hooks hooked from the Mats playbook, a dab of punk. Hold onto your pint glasses on January 29 when they join the Grotto for a proper release party.

Scarce, “Ocean Blue”
Although the title of Scarce’s most recent album, Tattoos, Parades and Yesterdays, is about as confusingly non-evocative as it gets, their music comes through loud and clear — or, in this case, soft and hazy. “Ocean Blue” is a good indicator of what to expect when the band get acoustic with Guggenheim Grotto (and the Blizzard) on January 29.

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