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The Town Pants return for March 12 show at Geneva's Smith Opera House

The Town Pants
Robert Gilbert Photography
The Town Pants

The Town Pants, the Vancouver-based Celtic band that has made the Finger Lakes region its second home over the past two decades, will return to Geneva at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 12, to perform at the Smith Opera House.

Founded in 1997, and led by brothers Duane and Dave Keogh, the band has built a widespread following in upstate New York by putting on energetic shows during years of relentless touring. But how did the band find a devoted audience thousands of miles away from Western Canada?

“In 2001, a dear friend from Penn Yan asked us to try a show in the area, stating that there was nothing like us there, and thought that we would do well,” remembered Duane Keogh in a recent interview. “Our first show was at a restaurant on Keuka Lake, and we loved it. Every show after that was bigger and had much larger crowds, like at the Corning Museum of Glass, various Irish festivals, the Great Blue Heron Festival, and, of course, GrassRoots. (The band has played the Trumansburg festival three times: 2011, 2013, and 2018.)

The Keogh brothers have a lifelong relationship to Celtic music.

“We grew up hearing the music in our grandparents’ house at many kitchen parties,” said Duane Keogh. “Dave and I were both in many bands as teens, and formed The Town Pants after immersing ourselves in our Irish culture and listening to countless albums by The Pogues, Clancy Brothers, Dubliners, etc.”

The Keogh brothers are joined in The Town Pants by fiddler Johanna Sö, a native of Fairbanks, Alaska, and graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University whose high-flying pogo jumps have been a trademark of the band’s stage show since she joined in 2017.

Johanna Sö performs with The Town Pants at the 2018 GrassRoots Festival
Jim Catalano
Johanna Sö performs with The Town Pants at the 2018 GrassRoots Festival.

“She was recommended by a friend in Pittsburgh who was a promoter, and had seen her perform as a solo act and at a few open mic nights supporting other artists,” Keogh said. “It was quite apparent to him that she was an exceptional musician, and when we had asked him for contacts, she was the first on his list.”

The Syracuse-based rhythm section of bassist Blake Propst, who joined in 2019, and drummer Jeff Tripoli, who signed on in 2016, rounds out the lineup.

“What I love the most about playing with The Town Pants is the high energy,” he said. “But what humbles me as a musician is the ability to stretch outside the box, drumming wise. Also, I love touring, discovering new places, and meeting all of the friends that follow us to the shows and support us.”

The Town Pants’ eighth and more recent album was 2018’s “Something to Say,” captures the band’s “West Coast Celtic” sound, and contains “songs of the sea and songs of self-reflection, barn-burners, and ballads,” according to the band’s website.

Keogh described the band’s approach to that album as “blitzkrieg,” noting “we wrote like crazy, got in the studio and hoped for magic. It definitely arrived, in my opinion, and we’re so very proud of the album.”

The band takes a pragmatic approach to its songwriting.

“Every song is different,” Keogh said. “Sometimes they are written in a flash, other times I've written many music treatments for the same lyrics, until I've found the right match. My brother Dave and I are the main songwriters, but Johanna was also a huge part of ‘Something to Say,’ and definitely brought her style and sophistication to the music. Jeff also came up with some amazing drum parts that just made it all mesh.”

As for future recording plans? “I'm always writing, and hope to record another TTP album, but we have nothing planned as of yet,” Keogh said. “But Johanna (aka JoSo) is about to release an amazing album which I co-produced and performed on.” (Find out more about Sö here.)

While the band has made regular visits to upstate New York since before the pandemic, that may not be the case for much longer.

“This is our 25th year of touring, and it may be our last, so if you have never seen The Town Pants, or want to catch them live, this could be your last chance for a St. Patrick's Month show,” said Keogh. “If you are nervous about being in a crowd due to covid, we have an online show on March 13 that is 'Pay What You Want' (minimum of $10). But we love Upstate New York and its incredible people, and we hope to see most of them on March 12 in Geneva or March 18 in Buffalo!”

He added: “Geneva is a great town! We have performed at the Smith many times, and feel lucky to have had the experience. It's a beautiful theater, and the staff and volunteers are amazing!”

If You Go

Who: The Town Pants

What: Celtic concert

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 12

Where: The Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St., Geneva

Cost: $20, available online here.

Event Info

Band Info

Jim Catalano covers the Finger Lakes music scene for WITH (90.1 FM in Ithaca, and its affiliates.