While Asheville-area St. Patrick’s Day celebrations might pale in comparison to their counterparts in, say, Dublin, that’s no reason to keep your green self at home. Local clubs and other venues are offering loads o’ entertainment and drink specials to help keep your Irish up till the wee hours — and that’s particularly true of our fair city’s two “authentic” Irish clubs (pubs is actually the correct term, I believe): Jack of the Wood (95 Patton Ave.) and Hannah Flanagan’s (27 Biltmore Ave.).
Jack of the Wood is the closest thing to a true Irish pub in Asheville. Offering the warm, homey feel of someone’s living room — with the added perk of excellent, brewed-on-the-premises, Green Man Ales flowing freely — the pub oozes Celtic charm. This St. Patrick’s Day (Wednesday, March 17), Jack of the Wood plans to go all out, opening its doors at 2 p.m. Roaming balladeers Chanters All — dressed in full British Isles regalia — will mingle with pub patrons, beginning in the early evening, performing a cappella Celtic tunes. Around 7 p.m., the stellar mountain-music sounds of the Wednesday Night A-Tones start to ring.
Finally, at 9 p.m., the high-energy String Beings take the stage. The band (popular on the local contra-dance circuit) plays traditional reels and waltzes from the British Isles, New England and the deep South — driven by the timeless, graceful fiddle renderings of Laurie Fisher, and spiced up with Art Shuster’s mandolin and Tom Troszak’s guitar. Pay particular attention to the band’s lush takes on such old-time favorites as “Liza Jane,” “Hangman’s Reel” and “Late for the Dance,” as heard on their debut CD, Late for the Dance (Being Productions, 1995). A word of caution is in order, though: Late for the Dance, according to several written testaments from listeners, has been known to elicit hazardous behavior: “When I listened to the tape in my car, I got a $140 speeding ticket,” said one fan from Atlanta, while a wounded contra dancer from Asheville warned, “You should tell people they shouldn’t listen to your CD while shaving!” If the band’s recorded tunes engender such a frenzy, imagine the havoc their live sound might provoke. The String Beings will be joined by several special guests, including local favorites Beth Magill on flute and Anne Doerner on fiddle. (Club management suggests a $3 donation during evening hours, for the musicians.)
Jack of the Wood will also offer an Irish menu featuring such traditional delicacies as corned-beef-and-cabbage, Mulligan’s stew, seafood pot pie, smoked fish, and bread pudding with whiskey sauce.
Hannah Flanagan’s — a raucous, Irish-infused bar in the heart of downtown — prefers a more loosely arranged St. Patrick’s Day celebration. It’s their busiest day of the year, and anything can happen, we hear. Since the place is just too darn busy to deal with live music or anything too formal, according to the management, recorded traditional Irish music will pervade the premises instead, starting around 11:30 a.m., and the Guinness will flow freely till round about 2 a.m. In between, the bar will offer traditional Irish foods like Irish stew, shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, and fish and chips — all at bargain prices.
A wide variety of music and other entertainment will be there for the taking at a host of local venues. The following are a few highlights:
• Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company (675 Merrimon Ave.): (•••INFO TO COME##!!•••)
• Back Door Grill (Maggie Valley): Rocked-out cover tunes with Social Funkshen, plus green beer.
• Barley’s Taproom (42 Biltmore Ave.): The jazzy Tyler Ramsey Trio and lots of beer.
• Be Here Now (5 Biltmore Ave): Jammin’ with Wherever It Goes and Cousin Fungus (the latter claims the distinction of being “the best jam band on Long Island”) — plus, we’re told, the beloved Droog the Dog in a party hat.
• The Bier Garden (46 Haywood St.): Irish imports and draft-beer specials, food specials and a (band to be announced).
• Hairspray Cafe (38 N. French Broad Ave.):A St. Pat’s party with hostess Teri, featuring $1.50 Rolling Rocks and $2 Leprechaun shots.
• The New French Bar (1 Battery Park Ave.): (•••Info To Come##!!•••)
• New York, New York (13 W. Walnut St.): (•••Info To Come##!!•••)
• S&W Cafeteria (Patton Avenue & Haywood Street): Irish bash with a buffet, door prizes, a dance contest and what organizers call “a night full of blarney.” Doors open at 5 p.m., and the cost is $10 per person for buffet, dancing and entertainment; $8 per person for dancing and entertainment only. Call 684-1892 for more info.
• Saratoga’s Cafe (Maggie Valley): Sarah Claire and Saratoga’s Swingin’ Jazz Band.
• Stella Blue (31 Patton Ave.): Vaudeville rockers The Goodies! with openers Wormbelly.
• The Town Pump (135 Cherry St., Black Mountain): The horn-infused Incontinentals and a St. Pat’s party with drink specials and various wacky high jinks.
• Tressa’s (27 Broadway): Swingin’ Joe Difeo on piano, Ruby Mayfield on sax, and lots of Irish drink specials and party favors.