Matt Nelligan promises a great day for the Irish — and their friends — on Saturday.
But it will just be one day. The 21st annual Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival, which in past years kicked off a weekend of Irish traditional and rock music on Friday night, will be held on a single day this year.
Saturday's 12-band lineup at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa includes rockers such as Off Kilter, Shilelagh Law, Screaming Orphans and Hair of the Dog. The Irish pub stage will include acts such as the Brothers Flynn, McKrells and the Druids.
In 2007, Nelligan said, Irish punk rock bands began opening the festival on Friday nights. Organizers have decided to drop the two-day format, partly because of low attendance, partly because the festival often could not sign up the right mix of bands.
The absence of Friday night acts means the absence of higher ticket prices. Advance tickets for Saturday's show are $15 in advance (with the Price Chopper "Advantage" card) and $20 at the gate. Festival chiefs also have lowered vendor fees in an effort to increase vendor selection. Kids under 12 will still be admitted to the festival for free.
Some people will go to Irish music festivals at any price.
"When you look around at others during an Irish Music Festival everyone is "Irish," said longtime Schenectady Ancient Order of Hibernians member Tom Lawrence. "It doesn't matter what color you are, what language you speak, or anything else. We are all there for the music. It's intoxicating."
Added brother Hibernian Michael Glenn: "You have to think dying and going to heaven is a lot like an Irish music fest," he said. "There's wonderful music, lots of terrific people, great food and drinks and everyone makes you feel welcome."
"Everyone remembers the last Irish Music Fest," Lawrence said. "What they were doing, drinking and who they were talking to. They wear the T-shirt they bought the prior year."
Nelligan said signing up bands for the festival, which was first held Sept. 20, 1997, can be a challenge.
"Getting bands from all over the country to come to Ballston Spa, the Capital Region, is not always easy," he said. "There's a great Irish population here, but it's not New York City or Boston and you've only got one day to offer them."
Nelligan likes the bands that will perform on two stages Saturday. Headliner Off Kilter, which will close the show with a 9:30 p.m. performance, enjoyed a 17-year run at Disney's Epcot Center in Florida. The gig ended in 2014.
"Showmen!" Nelligan said, when asked to describe the act in just a few words.
Nelligan also offered brief descriptions for the other bands:
- Narrowbacks: "High energy punk."
- Emish: "Hot fiddlers."
- Get Up Jack: "High energy Irish."
- Screaming Orphans: "Best Irish chick band."
- Shilelagh Law: "New York immigrant Irish."
- Brothers Flynn: "Beer drinking group.
- Who's Your Paddy: "Diverse music."
- McKrells: "Best area songwriters."
- The Druids: "Irish rebels."
- Searson: "Canadian Celtic."
- Hair of the Dog: "All I can think of is 'All the Hard Days are Gone."
Nelligan understands people will come to see the headliner acts. Others will be there for Screaming Orphans, who played Scotia's Freedom Park this summer. He believes if people want to "discover" a new favorite band, they might check out The Druids on the Irish pub stage.
"We had them on the rock stage last year and people went crazy for them," Nelligan said. "They're high energy and if you're Irish, you've got some rebel in your soul. You know they're from Ireland because you can't understand what they're saying in between the songs. That gives you an idea how authentic they are."
On the Coors Light Rock Stage
- Narrowbacks, 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.
- Emish, 12:50 to 1:50 p.m.
- Narrowbacks (second set), 2:30 to 3:15 p.m.
- Get Up Jack, 3:55 to 5:05 p.m.
- Screaming Orphans, 5:45 to 6:55 p.m.
- Shilelagh Law, 7:35 to 8:50 p.m.
- Off Kilter, 9:30 to 10:45 p.m.
Nelligan-McSweeney Irish Pub Stage
- Brothers Flynn, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
- Who's Your Paddy, 1 to 2 p.m.
- McKrells, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
- The Druids, 4 to 5:15 p.m.
- Searson, 5:45 to 7 p.m.
- Hair of the Dog, 7:30 to 9 p.m.