Unconventional Celtic: The Young Dubliners plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day a little early at the Nashville Social Club

Few music groups are as misunderstood as the Young Dubliners.  

Being from Ireland, having thick accents and using “Dublin” all signify a heavy connection with Irish music—but the group is not a one-trick pony. Celtic rhythms and traditional sounds serve as an influence as the Young Dubliners attack blistering punk rock jams (“Waxies Dargle”), softer ballads (“I’ll Tell Me Ma”) and pop-rock adventure themes (“Foggy Dew”).  

The band is a Reno area favorite, and is performing at the Nashville Social Club in Carson City on Thursday, March 14.  

“There are certain areas that, if you told me they were going to be hotspots for the band 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have known, because not being from America, I honestly hadn’t ever heard of Carson—but we’ve had very great fortune in certain areas, and Reno’s one of them,” frontman Keith Roberts said during a recent phone interview. “Carson City became sort of an additional gig when they started having us do Levitt (AMP Concert Series) performances, and for some reason, we seem to click with that audience, and the gigs are always great. … It’s a fun little town for us to go to, and it’s the busiest weekend of our entire year, so the fact that we were able to get it in at a good time slot was a good thing for us, because for Paddy’s Day weekend, you’ve only got three or four shows, tops, you can get in there, so they are usually places we like.” 

The band always has a busy March, even if their music isn’t consistently Celtic. 

“I’m sure it’s very similar for my mariachi brothers who get a call about May 5 constantly,” Roberts said. “I even posted during COVID, ‘To my Mexican musician friends, I feel your pain. I was where you were on March 17, no gig for the first time ever.’” 

The Young Dubliners began in 1988 in Southern California. 

“When we started, there really weren’t many bands doing what we were doing,” Roberts said. “You had Irish ballad bands and traditional bands, and … The Pogues emerged; The Waterboys emerged, and bands were suddenly putting Celtic stuff with drums and rock and punk and everything else. It was really an eye-opener for my generation, because that would have been considered blasphemy in our parents’ era. I didn’t jump on a bandwagon, so to speak; I just was over in America trying to get a rock band going, and I found that I was being drawn towards Celtic rhythms, and I started to miss home a little bit more. Once I heard Big Country playing full-on Scottish-Celtic riffs on electric guitars, it just blew my mind, because it was a blend of where I’m from and what I love to do.” 

Roberts said he’s a firm believer that genres can, and should, mix with each other.  

“A lot of our songs have a very small Celtic influence, and then there are other ones that are very Irish-sounding,” Roberts said. “We’ve ironed out our own niche, but it’s amazing to me the amount of kids who are finding us through social media platforms, where they’ve found a different band, and we’re immediately suggested as something they might like. Very often, they’ll come to our gigs and say, ‘… I didn’t realize that there was a band like you that played a lot of the punk stuff hard, but then played a lot of rock stuff, and then had a lot of softer stuff, and very Irish.’” 

Rather than embracing what became today’s conventional Irish rock, Roberts saw a more original and fulfilling way to craft songs.  

“There were many, many, many, many opportunities for us to go down a road that might have created a bigger fan base for us and might have lifted us up a few levels, but in all honesty, it would have meant selling my soul to do it, and I would have had to become an imitator instead of a creator,” he said. “There are a lot of people who would slap me in the back of the head and say, ‘Why didn’t you do what I told you to do? You could be massive right now.’ And I go, ‘Well, we’ve got a great reputation; I’ve got my dignity; and I’ve left a lot of albums that I’m still proud of for my son to always have when I’m pushing up the daisies.’  

“Looking back on it now, that was the best move I could have made, because I think had I gone chasing rainbows, we would have been a flash in the pan, and I probably wouldn’t still be doing this now, whereas here I am, 30 years later, sending vocal tracks for my 10th album, and I still feel really excited about the new stuff, and wishing I could go back to being 21 so I have the energy to do all the shit we’re doing, because our tour is massive right now.” 

The Young Dubliners have, rather interestingly, become regulars on the On the Blue Cruise, featuring classic rockers like The Zombies, Alan Parsons and Starship. 

“It’s an amazing lineup of friggin’ legends, and what the hell we’re doing on it, nobody knows, but it’ll be our fifth year,” Roberts said. “It’s funny, because the whole big thing in the ’60s and ’70s was, ‘Hope I die before I get old.’ If you’d said to any of these bands that ‘you’re still going to be doing this in your 70s,’ they’d be like, ‘What are you talking about?’” 

It’s been more than a decade since the last Young Dubliners album, but Roberts and co. are aiming to release something this year. 

“We’re looking at embracing the more modern way of releasing albums now versus the way we did it traditionally,” Roberts said. “In the old days, you’d work away on a record—it might take months and months and months off the road—and try to get it ready, and then agonize over which song is going to go which in the order, and how many seconds will be between the end of one song and the next. Now that’s all out the window. All people do is pull up your album; they see which tracks look like they’re getting the most attention; they hit those assuming they’re the single; and they’re more than likely are subscribed to Apple Music or Spotify or something, so they’re not individually buying your album or individually buying a single.  

“Our greatest difficulty is being able to take that much time off the road to finish an album. However, what we’re very good at doing is going into the studio and starting a track and getting it almost done, and then going back over and doing all the polish and adding all the magic to it. Because of the digital age, you don’t have to set up your drum kit and get every single drum take that day, because you will be able to re-create that sound again … It opened up the door for me to say to the band, ‘Let’s push forward on four or five tracks, then let’s start releasing tracks as we’ve got them done, and let each song have a life.’” 

Young Dubliners are also integrating a pledge element to help with recording and production costs. This is the second time the band has had the financial help of fans to produce an album, as 2014’s Nine was completely crowdfunded.  

“At the end of it, when the record is completed, we will do a very traditional release on CD and vinyl, and all the people who contributed to the pledge will get copies of all of that, but meanwhile, we will release songs first exclusively to the people who supported the album, so they’ll get a while to listen to them and know they got the song before anybody else did,” Roberts said. 

Young Dubliners will perform at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 14, at Nashville Social Club, 1105 S Carson St., in Carson City. Tickets start at $25. For tickets or more information, visit thenashvilleclub.com.