boys of the hock

(L to R): Ed Newman, Sean O'Malley, Lynn Shaw, Tim Hogan, Rusty Smith

Photo courtesy of: Boys of the Hock

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Boys of the Hock ready for busy St. Patrick's Day

Band provides traditional Irish sound to Athens music scene

March is Irish American Heritage Month and that's a good thing for
local band, Boys of the Hock.

As the only Celtic band in the Athens area, the band comprised of mostly Ohio University staff members is enjoying its busiest season.

The band, which is known for its Irish jigs, reels and hornpipes, brings the sounds of Ireland to the hills of Appalachia. The band uses several traditional Irish instruments and caters to people who like Ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee) and Contra dancing.  

"March is definitely our busiest time, especially with St. Patrick's Day coming up." said Ohio University Information Technology Communications Manager Sean O'Malley, who is the band's wooden flute and penny whistle player.

On St. Patrick's Day, Boys of the Hock will play an unusual three-set
schedule. It will play shows at Athens pub Jackie O's at 1:30 and 9:30 p.m. and squeeze in an evening show in Portsmouth, Ohio, between them.

The band performed in Shade, Ohio, and Marietta, Ohio, last weekend and is scheduled to play at the Dublin, Ohio, Irish Festival this summer.  

Guitarist Rusty Smith, who is also the public radio program manager at Ohio University's WOUB, said the band has been growing in popularity and has played gigs all around the region, including Columbus, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Charleston, W.Va. He said the band plays wedding receptions, parties, festivals, and any other celebration that needs the sounds of Ireland.

"We always look forward to our busy schedule at this time of year,"
Smith said. "I always say that an Irish band that is not working around St. Patrick's Day must really be bad."

Four of the five members of the Boys of the Hock are Irish, which adds to the authenticity of the band. Besides O'Malley and Smith, other full-time band members include: Ohio University Director of Recycling and Refuse Ed Newman, who plays the hammered dulcimer and Athens resident and psychiatric nurse Lynn Shaw, who in the summer won the state's over-55 fiddle championship for the second consecutive year.

The fifth member of the band is part-time Irish bodhrán drummer Tim Hogan, a former Ohio University administrator who works in Raleigh, N.C. He is scheduled to be in town this week to play the St. Patrick's Day shows.

"We've known each other for years," O'Malley said. "And we've been playing together for 12 years now."

O'Malley said the Irish jam session the band hosts every Tuesday
evening at Jackie O's is a highlight of each week. "We've got something pretty unique here in Athens," O'Malley said. "This session has been a tradition for at least 30 years." 

The Boys of the Hock is doing its part to make sure that tradition
continues. Once a month, the band starts the session early and invites local music teacher Liz Shaw's fiddle students to join in. 

"On kid session nights, it feels less like a bar and more like an Irish public house," O'Malley said. "You've got families hanging out together, eating dinner and watching while their kids play tunes with the adults."

Newman said he also likes the jam sessions because everyone is having a good time and that is his favorite thing about playing in a Celtic band.

"Everybody's happy when we play, especially on St. Patrick's Day,"
Newman said. "Most of the venues we perform at consist of people having a good time and that makes all of us happy."

Smith summed it up by saying that the Boys of the Hock are all about having a good time. 

"We don't take ourselves too serious – we just like to play tunes and have fun."

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