Ogden goes Irish for music festival

Tuesday , July 15, 2014 - 7:39 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

Toe-tapping, stein-swinging music and festivities will land at the Ogden Amphitheater for the second year in a row for the Piper Down Irish Music Festival.

Five bands, playing everything from traditional Irish folk music to Celtic rock ’n’ roll, and more than 70 Irish step dancers will hit the stage on Saturday, July 19, creating a little green isle in the middle of the city.

One of the featured bands, Swagger, is based out of Park City and has been performing at the festival since its creation five years ago. Previously, the festival was held at Deer Valley Resort in Park City. Rick Butler, Swagger frontman, said when the resort wanted to book orchestras and country stars, the festival had to find a new home.

“There was nowhere for us to go on the weekend that we wanted to do this, which is generally the middle or end of July, so we had to find somewhere else to go,” Butler said, adding that the Ogden Amphitheater is fantastic. “I actually like that amphitheater better than the large open space at Deer Valley.”

Butler said Swagger is one of the biggest Celtic bands in Utah, and folks attending the festival will have a hard time sitting down during the band’s set.

“We’re a pretty exciting band to watch. We do move around a lot and we’re animated and we get into the music that we’re playing,” he said. “We do play a lot of original music that our fans know, so a lot of the fans like to sing along with us.”

If the crowd doesn't feel like dancing, Swagger has that covered with its own Irish step dancers, who come onstage periodically throughout the performance. The Rocky Mountain Irish Dancers also join Swagger at its shows at Piper Down Pub in Salt Lake City.

“They know our music very, very well, and we strategically place the songs throughout our set list that brings them out to highlight what we’re doing,” Butler explained.

Like most traditional Irish bands, or “trad” as they are called, Swagger features instrumentation that is uniquely Irish. The octave mandolin, as well as the tin whistle, are staples of the Celtic culture, as are the fiddle and guitar.

Swagger’s tin whistler, Eric Slaymaker, also plays with The Young Dubliners, the festival headliners. Slaymaker also plays in Slaymaker Hill, another band on the bill for the festival. 

“We do play a lot of shows with The Young Dubliners, and the fact that Eric plays with them and we can pair with them is always good,” Butler said, noting the combination of the three bands brings the energy at the festival up a few notches.

As with most American musicians playing Irish or Celtic rock, Butler said the band starts out with a traditional ballad and adds “swagger” to the song, changing it to fit its style. Hence the band name.

"We add an American style to the song,“ he said, giving the example of turning the Irish ballad “Black Velvet Band” into an American hit. “We sped it up and give it a ska twist. So now it sounds like a ska/reggae song. It’s just like what reggae does to every song out there. That upbeat Irish beat is the same beat that ska music has. So it doesn't change the feel of the song, it just changes the tempo and the sound of it.”

“This kind of music is really fun, it’s very upbeat. There are not very many slow songs, everything is very toe-tapping and on your feet,” he continued. “Irish music is very happy music ..”

Joining Swagger and The Young Dubliners on the lineup are Slaymaker Hill, Dunmore Lasses and Leaping Lulu. The bands will share the stage with dancers from across Utah. The Scariff-Hardiman School of Irish Dance, Shelly Irish Dance Company, Celtic Beat and Acadamh Rince are all featured at the festival.

Toby Martin, festival organizer, said more than 1,000 people are expected to come out to the amphitheater for the Irish takeover. He said the festival is a “celebration of Irish culture” and should be experienced by everyone at least once.

The performance schedule is as follows:

12:30 Doors

1:15 – 1:40 p.m. Dunmore Lasses

2 – 2:20 p.m. Shelly School of Irish Dance

2:35 – 3:20 p.m. Leapin Lulu

3:35 – 3:55 p.m. Celtic Beat #1 - dance

4:10 – 4:30 p.m. Dunmore Lasses

4:45 – 5:00 p.m. Celtic Beat #2

5:15 – 6:00 p.m.  Slaymaker Hill

6:15 – 6:35 p.m. Acadamh Rince - dance

6:50 - 7:50 p.m. Swagger

8:10 - 8:30 p.m. Scariff-Hardiman - dance

9:00 - 10:30 p.m. The Young Dubliners

Contact reporter Raychel Johnson at 801-625-4279 or rajohnson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter @raychelNEWS.


  • WHAT: Piper Down Irish Music Festival
  • WHEN: 1-10 p.m. July 19
  • WHERE: Ogden Amphitheater, 343 Historic 25th St.
  • TICKETS: $15/advance; $20/at the door; smithstix.com/events/item/root/utah-irish-music-fest-jul-19

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