The Lash
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The Lash

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"Celtic Pride: Lansing-area band carries mix of tradition, attitude, talent."

Celtic Pride: Lansing-area band carries mix of tradition, attitude, talent.
PAUL WHEATLEY/MSU State News, East Lansing, MI (1998)

James Brown was known as “the hardest working man in show business” and The Lash could be the larger version of the Godfather of Soul. Members of the Lansing-area band have taken up the mantle of Irish rock, lugging stacks of amps and instruments to gigs, spreading the word of the homeland in a manner similar to Ireland literary greats such as Seamus Heaney or Samuel Beckett. Even the non-Irish American members carry themselves with some Irish clout — like hard-nosed boxers yanked from rock-choked, island soil. You get the feeling that these Yankees could spout out some beer garbled Erse — the native language of Ireland — if that’s what the occasion called for.

The band captures these themes in all of its music, such as the oppression-focused “Sweet Maighread,” which can be heard during two local shows today, one at 8 a.m. and another at 11:30 p.m. at the Small Planet Food and Spirits, 220 M.A.C. Ave., in celebration of the Irish holiday.

The Lash also is celebrating the success of its first CD release “Celtic Mayhem Live,” which sold out its first 300 copies in a week. “We had no idea they were going to sell as fast as they did,” said singer Rob Klajda.

But things weren’t always this way. The band went through a few lineup changes. They were like a factory-made crotch rocket, which isn’t fully acceptable to ride in public until the core of the motorcycle is souped up. Now many say The Lash have become a full-fledged, butt-whoopin’ Irish-hybrid that comes off stout but flows down the gullet smooth.

How the band reached this point is still under quiet debate among the members. After a year of radio appearances, gigs and the release of their live album, some founding members left the group. “As far as people coming and going that’s just something that happens with bands,” Klajda said. “Fortunately, there’s no bad blood.” The core of the group remains, and thanks to almost constant touring, The Lash have become a precise musical beast that packs crowds into bars such as the Small Planet.

“The Lash have brought in a whole group of people that may or may not go see other bands,” said Robert Fischer, who handles national booking at the Small Planet. “It’s the kind of thing that was lacking.”

- PAUL WHEATLEY/MSU State News


"Celtic Mayhem Storms Danville"

Celtic Mayhem Storms Danville
The Commercial News, Danville, IL

The Lash, self-proclaimed “Celtic Mayhem from America!” showcased an amazingly unique mix of styles, which according to them, results “in a turbo driven take on traditional music”. The four-members performed a two hour set in Temple Plaza this past Friday as part of the Downtown Summer Sounds concert series, complemented by a follow-up gig at Gino’s Place later that evening.

The plaza was filled to the bordering streets with Irish music lovers (or people who happened to be in the area) sitting on benches, blankets and lawn chairs. The crowd was mostly grandparents and parents with their children, but I did notice a pair of 30-something women donning jean skirts, who were mock waltzing to the thumping Irish beat. The under-13 crowd was certainly having a great time, sitting underneath picnic tables and bouncing along to the music.

Sadly the Lash was forced to compete with the threat of rain, which entered the plaza with vengeance about a half an hour before they were slated to finish.

The follow-up concert at Gino’s Place was patronized by a slightly younger, slightly hipper crowd. They paid to hear the band play another three sets, free from the threat of the elements.

Whether outside under the shelter of the plaza’s gazebo or crammed onto the small stage at Gino’s, the Lash was a memorably good time. The repeated apologies by front man Rob Klajda for “another awkward instrument change” only added to the charm of this talented and often tongue-in-cheek band.

Klajda, the only member who has been with The Lash since it’s inception, wowed even the least knowledgeable audience member with his lightning-quick fingers. He danced across the strings of his “banjo that’s having an identity crisis” and his ten-string cittern (a distant relative of the lute), while belting out lead vocals with a light brogue for added authenticity.

There was one newcomer to the group. John Potrykus added violin, lead guitar, and vocals to the sound. If I hadn’t known he was the newbie, I would have never suspected, except for the moment when, when kicking off a song, Klajda said to him, “This one goes deh-ne-ne-ne”. Off they went, closely watching and listening for the chord movements under the flying tempo. Potrykus admitted, “It’s a real exercise in concentration”, but it certainly paid off.

I was impressed by both the original songs as well as many of the covers The Lash conquered, including several by The Pogues, a band introduced to me by a friend who has lived in Ireland. The delightfully ironic and intricate lyrics of The Pogues fit perfectly with The Lash’s style, forcing the apt listener to work to get all of the intricacies of the rhymes and clever usages of words.
The lyrics for many of the songs of The Lash are available on their website, http://www.thelash.com. Personally memorable highlights include “She spun me like a dervish on a long midsummer's night/And filled my head with dreams of what might happen down the pike” (“Irish Cajun Polka Queen”). Any lyricist who can find an appropriate use for the word “dervish” deserves applause.

Lyrics were only one part of the attraction of The Lash. In my opinion, any band that can seamlessly bridge from Johnny Cash to “Pinball Wizard” with only guitar filler has something special, or at least entertaining, going on.

The audiences at each location seemed to appreciate and enjoy the traditional rock selections, including great takes on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and “Long Black Veil”. The band even humored someone celebrating her birthday at Gino’s with a rock/Celtic/calypso/ska version of “Happy Birthday”.

The Lash has been in existence for eight years, having as many as fourteen members. After several attempts, the group of musicians, each involved with other bands, came together. Booked by an agent who was working with several of the members on other projects, they played the twelve songs they knew over and over, eventually snowballing into a multi-state tour, including Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and parts of the east coast, always returning home to Michigan.Though the members and instruments have rotated and changed, the sound has morphed into something really terrific to hear.

The Lash has previously appeared in Danville, including on a windy day at the Balloon Classic a few years ago. The thumping Celtic beat caused even the most resistant of audience members to transfer it to somewhere on their body. Toes tapped, hands clapped, and Celtic Mayhem reigned!


The Lash will be performing throughout the summer in Michigan, stopping next in their home city of Lansing for a three-day gig. You can learn more about them, sample and buy their music, and see where they’re headed by visiting http://www.thelash.com.
- The Commercial News, Danville, IL


"The Club Circuit"

The Club Circuit
Laurel Hayles/ The Paper, Grand Rapids, MI.

The Intersection was the place to be last weekend for a variety of live entertainment. Friday, March 6, featured The Lash and Mustard Plug, two very popular and unique bands. The Lash, a Lansing-based Gaelic rock band, consists of high energy and amazing musical talent. Styled after The Pogues, these six artists are just as serious about their music as they are about their fun. With the crowd bouncing in front of the stage, they folk-danced and played and sang their hearts out. Singing odes to whiskey, beer and lost loves, they carry the tradition of Irish folk music into the next century. With a debut CD, they are currently expanding their touring, contacting new clubs and serenading new audiences. They will be back at The Intersection, opening for The Drovers (a Chicago-based Irish rock band) for a St. Patrick's Day celebration Monday, March 16. Be very sure to catch them if you can -- they are well worth the trip.
- The Paper, Grand Rapids, MI.


"The Lash: Celtic rock for the new millennium"

The Lash: Celtic rock for the new millennium
Erick Trickey/ Ann Arbor Observer, Ann Arbor, MI

I went to see the Lash at Rick's on a Saturday night, having heard that they were a Pogues cover band. My imagination reeled. After all, the group had obviously named itself after the Pogues' 1985 classic Rum Sodomy and the Lash - a shocking collision of Celtic folk and punk rock. I remembered, too, that one of Pogues lead singer Shane MacGowan's famous breakdowns had happened in Ann Arbor, when he wandered off the Power Center stage early in a concert, obviously too drunk to continue. Would there be a MacGowan figure in The Lash, staggering across the stage at Rick's, spitting out songs of spite, degradation, alcoholism, and self-loathing?

Well, not quite. In fact, the Lash aren't really a Pogues tribute band anymore. But they are a lot of fun.

The band was founded on St. Patrick's Day 1996, when some Lansing-area musicians decided to celebrate the holiday by performing a short, Pogues-heavy set of Irish songs at a local bar. The Lash soon became so popular that the onetime side project became the musicians' main band. Today they tour widely, playing bars and folk festivals as far away as New York, Kansas City, and Chicago. With a lineup that includes banjo, accordion, and mandolin as well as guitar, bass, and drums, their sound mixes Celtic folk with rock much as the Pogues do. Stray moments also suggest Cajun and even Latin influences.

When they sing, they affect decent to good growling Irish accents, though their between-song comments dispel the fiction. They're a tight band, sticking precisely together on their many fast-tempo songs. Cheery, happy mandolin lines get the crowd clapping and dancing. On the slower songs the accordion, steady and mournful, can sound almost dirge like.

The Lash's sets are mostly made up of original songs now, as is the band's 1998 CD Celtic Mayhem Live. Electric banjoist Rob Klajda writes heavy lyrics about Northern Ireland, a death in the family, the state of humanity at the turn of the millennium, and uncertain relationships. "I had wild obsessions and you did too," he sings. "Your mother said we must be star-crossed lovers / 'Cause people like us, we deserve each other." His lyrics remind me of another Celtic folk-rocker, Richard Thompson; they're full of a sense of life and love weighed down by fate.

—Erick Trickey
- Ann Arbor Observer, Ann Arbor, MI


"The Lash: Celtic Mayhem Live"

The Lash: Celtic Mayhem Live
Scott Romsa/ Minnesota Daily

It's so refreshing when a group of traditional Irish musicians deviate from the predictable path and let their music lead them into new territory. Michigan-based group, The Lash, fuse the framework of traditional Irish music with rock, punk and even techno stylings to create a unique form of music.

As the title implies, Celtic Mayhem Live (The Lash's debut), is a live album. Unlike most other live albums, however, you can feel the energy exchange between the band and the audience: the crowd screams as the lead-off track, "Brick Wall," crescendos into a full-on punk attack. Meanwhile, the instrumental "Eitilt un Phrata (Flight of the Potato)," starts out with a traditional accordion jig, but soon the bass comes sliding in with a loop that could force any raver to move just a little closer to the bass bins.


- Scott Romsa/ Minnesota Daily


Discography

“Celtic Mayhem Live”, their first album, was recorded in 1997. Taped in front of a sell-out crowd, the disc, which cost less than $500 to make, sold over one thousand copies in one week. That might not be a feat of major record label proportions, but for an independent band, it’s the equivalent of a gold record. Rob Klajda is the only current member of The Lash to have played on that album, and is still the principal songwriter for the band.

“Every Direction”, the band’s 2001 offering, not only introduced bass player Tom Beller, but also brought traces of Hip-Hop, Bluegrass, and Cajun music to The Lash sound. “Every Direction” has sold thousands of copies, and is popular on many digital download sites, such as iTunes, Rhapsody, and Napster.

“Fire Under Grace” is the long awaited third album from The Lash. It is the first to feature multi-instrumentalist Jon Potrykus. Jon spent several years in New Mexico with The Last Mile Ramblers, where he filled the spot vacated by slide guitar legend Junior Brown.

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Bio

The Lash has played on both coasts of the United States, and most points in between. They’ve shared the stage with traditional Irish acts (The Clancy Brothers), chart-toppers (Hootie and The Blowfish), and alt-country icons (The Waco Brothers). The band has never had trouble endearing itself to new audiences. The Lash has performed over 1000 shows, and it doesn’t look like they intend to slow down.

The Lash possesses a repertoire of songs that rivals any of their contemporaries. Along with an impressive catalog of original songs, they are able to cover a broad spectrum of roots based music, from traditional Irish fiddle tunes to Delta Blues, with a little Classic Rock and Country thrown in just to mix things up.
In the end, there’s only one thing that makes The Lash radically different from other bands. It’s not that they don’t follow the rules of music. It’s that they don’t even acknowledge them.