2017 GAIF Lineup: Old Friends, New Voices

The official lineup for the 2017 Great American Irish Festival was announced at the Halfway to GAIF Hooley held January 29th at Hart’s Hill Inn in Whitesboro, with a broad array of veteran GAIF performers and an equal number of acts making their first appearance at the festival, and styles ranging from the delicate to the raucous.

Headlining this year’s festival will be two of the Celtic music world’s most sought-after acts: the “Jimi Hendrix of the Violin,” Eileen Ivers, and Toronto-based Celtic roots rockers, Enter the Haggis.

Fiery fiddler Eileen Ivers has established herself as the pre-eminent exponent of the Irish fiddle in the world today. Grammy awarded, Emmy nominated, London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, guest starred with over 40 orchestras, original Musical Star of Riverdance, Nine Time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion, Sting, Hall and Oates, The Chieftains, ‘Fiddlers 3’ with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Regina Carter, Patti Smith, Al Di Meola, Steve Gadd, founding member of Cherish the Ladies, movie soundtracks including Gangs of New York, performed for Presidents and Royalty worldwide…this is a short list of accomplishments, headliners, tours, and affiliations.   Making a welcome return to the stage she last commanded in 2015, Eileen Ivers will have her adoring fans on their feet from the first note.

Back again at their home away from home for the 11th time, Enter the Haggis is poised to rip it up under the big tent with all the familiar catchy songs that have made fans of Central New Yorkers and Haggisheads alike for over 15 years.  Besides the ETH classics, they will also be performing songs from their latest studio recording, “Broken Arms,” released to great acclaim in 2016.

Other returning upper-tier acts this year include the high-energy Barleyjuice from Philadelphia, Graham Wright and the Glengarry Bhoys and Ottawa Valley’s favorite sons…uh, daughters, Searson, along with long-time GAIF veterans the Blarney Rebel Band and Hair of the Dog (each making a record 13th appearance!) and the always entertaining Seamus Kennedy.

While there’s a certain comfort to bringing back familiar bands as a way of appeasing the wishes of both attendees and performers, it has always been a hallmark of the Great American Irish Festival to introduce new acts to the festival; names that probably are not on the lips or playlists of even the most knowledgeable Celtic music fans.  Names like… Enter the Haggis and Rathkeltair (2005)… the Elders (2007)… Leahy (2010)… Slide and Goitse (2011)… Girsa and Lilt (2013)… Runa and Moxie Strings (2014)… Dallahan (2016).  Anyway, you get the idea: If they’re new, they’re at GAIF, and if they’re at GAIF, they’re going to be good. This year’s lineup includes five exciting acts that are either new to the world or have never appeared at GAIF… and you should definitely check them out.

FullSet has already earned multiple “best band” and “band to watch” awards; the Colin Farrell Band features former Elders’ fiddler Colin Farrell, stepping out front to head up an all-star trad outfit; Next Generation Leahy is Doug Leahy (of the acclaimed Leahy family) and his family, carrying on the storied Leahy musical legacy; The Screaming Orphans features the skilled musicianship and dulcet harmonies of the four Diver sisters from Donegal, and American Rogues bring a unique mix of Celtic rock, rock roots, patriotic, military and classical music to the stage.

Adding to the non-stop entertainment will be a variety of other local and regional performers, including Donal O’Shaughnessy, Kilrush, Triskele, Deirdre McCarthy and family, Rattlin’ Bog, Gerry Dixon, Craobh Dugan, Emerald Dawn, Arise and Go, plus Irish dancers and pipers throughout the weekend.

In addition to the non-stop music, merchandise vendors from across the U.S. and Ireland, carefully selected from a list of applicants, will be selling Irish and Celtic merchandise, and a variety of food booths will be providing a taste of the Emerald Isle for festival-goers.   Returning again this year will be the 5k run, bagpipe competition and Irish Mass. Campsites are also available.

This year’s festival will be held from July 28-30, 2017 at The Herkimer County Fairgrounds, located just off Route 5s in Frankfort NY, just minutes from the New York State Thruway. For directions, tickets or more information, visit the festival web site at www.greatamericanirishfest.com.