The sweeter sounds of the drinking life

Celtic gypsy punk rockers the Whiskeydicks have struck again with the recent release of Get’er Done, the band’s second album.

Celtic gypsy punk rockers the Whiskeydicks have struck again with the recent release of Get’er Done, the band’s second album.

While the album’s title is an insufferable cliché (it may well have been called Shut yo’ Mouth or Wazzup), it admittedly does an excellent job of describing the energetic locomotion of the Vancouver-based band.

On the scene since 2002, when founders Ryan Enns and Patrick Ernst began playing outside a Vancouver liquor store for tuition money, the group has quickly gained a reputation all throughout BC and the Yukon as skilled minstrels of drunken, Irish-inspired revelry.

Get’er Done is “totally different” from the band’s 2003 album I May Be Wasted, said Ryan Enns, the band’s singer and guitarist.

Their first recording was essentially a collection of Celtic rock mixed with “electric guitars and shouting,” said Enns.

“We’re a lot more eclectic now than we were then,” he said.

The band members describe themselves as having interests ranging “from Hungary to Hip-hop and from Scotland to Slayer,” but above all their schtick are the glories, pleasures and triumphs of alcohol consumption.

Wobbly Pops, the album’s ninth track, is played as a rollicking Russian ballad and takes the listener on a romanticized journey through the rowdy, drunken chaos of a tavern packed with well-inebriated patrons.

Down at the Trap is a musical tip of the hat to Vancouver’s Atlantic Trap and Gill, a favourite early drinking haunt of the band.

Like an actual evening of drunken revelry, the song starts slow, with Enns vocally accompanying an acoustic guitar.

The song then gradually builds into high-energy drinking song choruses.

Yet beneath all the rum-soaked lyrics and musical exultations of drunken conquest, lies a complex tapestry of high quality musical fusion and technique.

Cat Harsis, a contemporary rendition of the Cat Came Back, opens with a fast driving three-minute intro comprising wailing heavy metal guitar, a thunderous drum-beat and wickedly fast fiddle.

The hardcore realm of fiddle and guitar rock is reprised only two songs later on Tamlynn’s Dizzle, with cellist Curtis Ernst’s frantic squaring off against the combined guitars of Ryan Enns and Dave Kornas and the maniacal dual fiddles of Zoe Robertson and Patrick Ernst.

Their words may conjure barflies, yet their music recalls the songs of angels.

That’s because The Whiskeydicks, renowned minstrels of excess alcohol consumption, are all classically trained musicians.

Singer and guitarist Ryan Enns has a master’s degree in guitar performance from the University of British Columbia. Violinist Zoe Robertson was formerly the assistant concertmaster of the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra. And fiddler Patrick Ernst is currently studying under a number of acclaimed Vancouver Jazz musicians.

“We all lead double lives in a sense — on Saturday nights I’m singing in the bar and by Sunday morning I’m singing in the church choir,” said Enns.

“This band is five musicians who normally have to be quite reserved — (most of the time) we’re playing at weddings, funerals and corporate events,” said Enns.

“We are professional classical musicians, but we like to cut loose, and this band is the ultimate example of this,” he said.

If anything, their extensive musical training gives the band extraordinary musical ability even in the face of encroaching drunkenness whilst on stage.

“I guess that’s the advantage of being highly trained musicians is that what we’re doing with the Whiskeydicks is very easy,” said Enns.

“I’m usually strumming three chords most of the time, so I can do that no matter how drunk I get,” he said.

A needed escape from the guarded rigours of classical performance, an embrace of drinking culture is also a well-calculated strategic manoeuvre.

“By making everybody drink we keep ourselves in business. Bars book us a lot because when we play they sell a lot of alcohol – and sometimes we get paid based on how much alcohol the bar actually sells,” said Enns.

“Also, we just sound better when everybody’s drunk,” he said.

While based in Vancouver, born and bred Yukoners comprise three out of the band’s five permanent members.

The mystique of the Yukon figures heavily in their stage performances.

Before singing Dirty Old Town the band always opens by telling the crowd that “in Whitehorse, you never lose your woman you just lose your turn.”

Take this verse from Yukon Brew, the band’s ode to the Yukon Brewing Company.

 That cranberry wheat is tart’n sweet, what a way to start the day

It’s the most nutritious thing I eat, it keeps the scurvy away

You can only get it in Whitehorse and that’s all that makes me stay

If you could suck it from a brown bear’s teat, you know that I just may.

“Everybody’s a Yukoner when they watch us, I guess,” said Enns.

In addition to their prowess as booze boosters, The Whiskeydicks are exceptional stage performers.

There are many bands that can pump a bar full of high-decibel drinking songs, but there are few that have the same catalytic effects on revelry.

Enns credits this to early training in the Whitehorse tourism industry.

He did interpretation at the SS Klondike and at the MacBride Museum while Patrick Ernst, the group’s fiddler, had a position in the Frantic Follies.

“That’s where we got our chops as being entertainers was talking to tourists and putting on the bowler hat and reciting The Cremation of Sam McGee three times a day,” said Enns.

“I had nightmares about it by the end of the summer actually,” he added.

Get’er Done is available on cdbaby.com or at Triple J’s Music Café on 4121 4th Ave.

To hear song samples or to find out more information on The Whiskeydicks, visit myspace.com/thewhiskeydicks.

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