The punk o’ the Irish

Living above an Irish pub can be hazardous for children. Dublin-born Finny McConnell knows this fact all too well.

Living above an Irish pub can be hazardous for children.

Dublin-born Finny McConnell knows this fact all too well.

As a young man he lived above such a  pub here in Canada.

And it turned him into a punk rocker.

McConnell is the founder, lead singer and frontman for the legendary Irish punk band, the Mahones.

The Mahones will be bringing its high energy Celtic sound to Whitehorse for two shows at Coasters tonight and tomorrow.

McConnell’s family moved to Canada looking for work when he was still very young. They found a home above the Pub.

For better or worse, the young Irishman was greatly affected by the music and commotion below.

“They never let me in,” he said from his home in Toronto. “But I used to stand in the doorway and watch the band play.”

Still, McConnell believes that his particular version of Celtic punk was more influenced by non-traditional Irish music.

“I found traditional Irish music a bit boring,” he said.

“Bands like The Pogues really shook the tree up and made the music what it is today.”

McConnell witnessed the uprising of the Irish punk rock sound of the Clash, the Pogues and the Waterboys firsthand in the late ‘80s while living in London.

Back in Kingston, he decided to form a group of his own.

The legend goes that the Mahones were formed in the local Irish pub in 1990, over a few pints of Guinness and some shots of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey.

Fittingly, the group booked its first gig at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Just ahead of another March 17 celebration four years later, the Mahones released its first album.

The band’s name has two meanings, McConnell explained.

The Mahones rhymes with The Ramones and is a nod toward those groundbreaking punk rockers.

But it’s also based on the Gaelic phrase “pog mo thoin,” pronounced pogue mahone, which means, “kiss my ass.”

The colourful expression was also the source for the name of the first Irish punk rockers, the Pogues.

The Mahones ended up touring with Terry Woods and Phil Chevron of the Pogues for a tour of Central and East Coast Canada.

McConnell’s one piece of advice to young bands is to keep their hands on the band as much as possible.

“Keep in the cockpit if you want your band to go your way,” he said.

“Otherwise it’ll go someone else’s way pretty quickly.”

This goes far beyond punk rock’s modus operandi of DIY — doing it yourself.

“I don’t trust anybody,” he said.

“There are a lot of wolves out there — I’ve been burned a couple times.”

Over the past 18 years, the Mahones has made its way through all sorts of different styles of sound.

“We’ve dipped our toes in lots of different styles,” said McConnell.

“We’ve played acoustic folk punk concerts and have used elements of country and rock.”

The band also accompanies its high energy, punk guitar with more traditional instruments like mandolins, tin whistles and accordions.

The Mahones most recent release is a compilation from the band’s 18 years together, which McConnell describes as “a non-stop, balls-to-the-wall CD.”

Irish punk is popular in areas with large Celtic populations like the East Coast and Boston, said McConnell.

But like a tall pint of Guinness, you don’t have to be Irish to enjoy the Mahones music.

“It’s different everywhere and from town to town,” said McConnell. “We might be more popular in a small town in Germany.”

The group travels extensively throughout Europe and America but McConnell is hoping to add to this global following by taking things to the internet.

The Mahones recently began selling its songs on iTunes and has its own website as well as MySpace and Facebook profiles.

“It won’t be long until everybody’s doing it that way,” said McConnell.

“It brings a lot of people to you that you wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise.”

However, technology isn’t all positive.

On Wednesday afternoon, McConnell was frantically trying to print out his plane ticket to Whitehorse.

The internet wasn’t working properly.

“It’s a good thing that I don’t drink like I used to,” he said.

“Or this computer would be smashed.”

Johnny Pogue and the Colleens will be opening for the Mahones at Coasters on Friday and Saturday.

Doors open at 9 p.m.

Tickets are $20 each and available at Triple J’s Music Café.