A Shooting Star finds home with the Young Dubliners

(Above: “Nobody’s getting any money for this one.” The Young Dubliners bring a little bit of Ireland to the CBS Early Show in 2007.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

The first thing Chas Waltz does when he returns to Kansas City is check in with friends and family then head straight over to Gates BBQ for a slab of ribs. Waltz has been living in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years, but hasn’t forgotten the great tastes of his hometown.

As the violin player in Shooting Star, Waltz was part of one of the first major rock bands emerge of Kansas City. From 1977 to 1987, Shooting Star rubbed elbows with ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon, Jefferson Starship, Kansas and Journey.  They helped put the local music scene on the radar of the powerful coastal labels.

“Whenever people learned we were from Kansas City they always kind of perked up, especially people on the coasts,” Waltz said. “People knew our town from the legendary reggae group the Blue Riddim Band, who were big at the time, but we were the first rock band. It made people take notice.”

After the demise of Shooting Star in the late ‘80s, Waltz relocated to Los Angeles. His violin skills inadvertently put him at the heart of the burgeoning Irish rock scene. The success of U2 and the Pogues had brought a new generation of Irish songwriters to America.

“Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles I hooked up with a friend of mine who was a producer out there, but grew up in Springfield, Mo.,” Waltz said. “He introduced me to that world, and particularly to Dave King, who would later form the group Flogging Molly. I joined his band, which got me into the whole scene. Through that I met the Dubliners.”

Above: The Young Dubliners play tonight at Davy's Uptown Rambler's Club. Show starts at 8 and tickets are $12. Visit http://www.daveysuptown.com/ for more information.

The Dubliners were informal group centered around Dublin natives Keith Roberts and Paul O’Toole who started tweaking and recording their favorite songs from back home. When Roberts and O’Toole lost their fiddle player In the mid-‘90s, they asked Waltz to join their band, now known as the Young Dubliners.

“I didn’t know any of this music when I started out. I was a rock and roll guy,” Waltz said. “But through the festivals we’ve been booked to play, I’ve gotten to learn from a lot of the best fiddle players from Scotland and Ireland.”

Waltz was present for the band’s first full-length album, 1995’s “Reach,” but was gone by the time the second record materialized.

“I was in the band for three years, left to front another band and was back in 2001,” Waltz said. “The timing was right. The band I was in wasn’t working out. Our bass player was also from Kansas City, and he wanted to go back and start a family. That was Norm Dahlor, who now plays with the Elders.”

When Waltz returned, the Dubliners’ lineup finally stabilized. O’Toole had left around the same time as Waltz, but the current crop of players has stayed together, more or less, until today.

“Touring is hard work and not everyone is cut out for it,” Young Dubliners founder Keith Roberts said. “It took a while to find the right mix of people, but the band we have today is the best group I’ve worked with.”

The past 10 years have taken the quintet around the world several times, performing at both Irish and rock festivals and opening for Jethro Tull and Jonny Lang. In 2006, Roberts hastily assembled the band to record a quick follow-up to their biggest record to date, “Real World.” The resulting album, “With All Due Respect,” a baker’s dozen of their favorite Irish songs, has surpassed everything else in their catalog.

“We did that in 17 days,” Roberts said. “The beauty of that album is that we didn’t have much time to over (mess) with it. It was like in our bar band days.

“No matter where we play, we’ll sell as many copies of that album as the new one,” Roberts continued. “It’s timeless. We might do it again.”

It might be a while before that happens, though. The band is feeling the itch to write some more original songs to complement “Saints and Sinners,” the all-new album that followed “Respect.”

“I’m looking forward to getting some new material going,” Waltz said. “I’m writing all the time and I have a lot of stuff wanting to be finished. I can’t wait to hear what the guys will do with it.”

Read more:

Review: Flogging Molly

Kansas City Rocks Out

Go green with Stiff Little Fingers

Kansas City Rocks Out


(Note: the following feature appeared in the April, 2008 issue of KC Magazine.)

By Joel Francis

When Keenan Nichols was 19, he couldn’t wait to get out of Kansas City. The Avondale native and North Kansas City High School graduate wanted a bigger city where he had a better chance of making a living as a guitarist. He escaped to a town with a more promising music setting-Dallas.

“The scene in Dallas was great at first, but over the last few years, it started dying off,” Nichols said. “Everyone down there lost interest in live music. Everything became a race to become the next Miami and see who could build the most dance clubs.”

When Nichols came back to Kansas City on visits, he’d catch glimpses in his hometown of what he’d hoped to find in Dallas. Even­tually, he moved back.

“It seemed like the scene had grown up a little bit,” said Nichols, guitarist for the hard rock band The Architects. “With that distance, I gained a big appreciation for everyone here sticking to their guns and trying to make things happen.”

Scott Hobart moved to Kansas City in 1989 to take classes at the Kansas City Art Institute, but he found himself gravitating to the clubs more than the classrooms. Hobart was a member of the hard rock band Giant Chair when he had a change of heart (and name) and started writing country songs. Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys cel­ebrated 10 years of honky tonk last December.

“I’ve never felt stifled geographically by playing in Kansas City,” Hobart said. “Being a country band, people always ask us why we aren’t in Nashville. Nashville’s inundated. Our music doesn’t mean anything there. There’s something more original about playing here. You can’t just be in a band to impress someone. It has to mean something.”

In the neighborhood

The desire for musical integrity, which is shared by many Kansas City bands, translates to a neighborhood of musicians who collaborate more than compete.

“The greatest thing about our scene is that it is so supportive,” said Auggie Wolber, mem­ber of Americana band In the Pines. “We’ve all played together so long, everyone has gotten to know each other.”

The spirit of fraternity is reflected in the number of benefit shows thrown for other musicians. When blues guitarist Danny Cox’s house burned down in January, several bands (including Irish ensemble The Elders) eagerly signed on to perform at a sold-out benefit con­cert. That same spirit showed at a successful 2006 benefit for Blackpool Lights drummer Billy Brimblecom.

Making the decision to help Billy was not difficult for The Architects.

“Our old band and his old band had done some touring together and become pretty close. If he had needed a transplant, I would’ve con­sidered it,” said Architects singer Brandon Phillips. “It turned out he only needed us to play [for] 45 minutes and not get paid.”

Audiences show the same supportive spirit.

“The biggest show of support I’ve seen was when I was playing hard rock and de­cided I wanted to sing songs with a story in front of a country band,” Hobart said. “It may have confused some people at first, but everyone I knew from the rock side came out to hear me, and they’ve supported me the whole time.

“If you can switch genres drastically and have people willing to try it on some level, it proves the open-mindedness and good nature of our community,” Hobart said.

It also means more musical diversity. A punk band might play Davy’s Uptown op­posite a country band at the Record Bar one night, but the next day those same clubs may offer blues or indie rock.

“One of the great things about this town is you can go to the Re­cord Bar and see Rex (Hobart) and have dinner, or you can go to Davy’s Uptown and hear free jazz,” said Wolber of In the Pines.

The success of First Fridays and the revitalization of downtown points to the appetite and appreciation Kansas Citians have for the arts.

“I’m always surprised at how many people turn out for The Pitch Music Showcase,” said Record Bar co-owner and Roman Numerals instrumentalist Steven Tulipana. “Five bucks gets you all over town to hear different kinds of music.”

Ayo Technology

In the past, record stores provided an outlet for local artists with in-store performances and prominent displays. Today, Myspace pages and email lists provide a level of promotion and exposure that reaches far be­yond stapling a flier to the wall.

Just ask Adam McGill of The Republic Tigers, a local band re­cently signed to an imprint of Atlantic Records and discovered via the band’s Myspace site.

“An A and R (artist and relations) rep with Atlantic found us on our site and started talking with us,” McGill said. “She asked for a CD and then passed it on to Alexandra.”

Alexandra is Alexandra Patsavas. The name might not be familiar, but the TV shows for which she selects music are-“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Numb3rs” and “Gossip Girl.” Patvas loved the band and made them the first act signed to her Chop Shop Records label. The Republic Tigers’ debut album was just released earlier this spring.

Similarly, Olympic Size found one of their songs featured prominently on MTV’s “The Real World” thanks to a pitch from Anodyne, a local record label. It’s an impressive feat for anyone, let alone a band without a long-term record contract or even a finished album.

“I think you’re more likely to get discovered out of Kansas City than you are in a big city where you’ll get lost in the mix of a billion other bands,” said Republic Tiger Kenn Jankowski. “With the Internet, it’s easy for anyone to find you.”

Join Together

Knowing about the “next big thing” could be as close as a write-up in The Pitch or The Kansas City Star‘s preview section.

“If a band shows up in there, it’s a pretty good chance they have their stuff together,” said Olympic Size guitarist Kirsten Paludan. “I think some people have a perception that rock isn’t for every­one, but this is a music scene that can appeal to a wide range of people. It’s not just for teenagers, hipsters or artists.”

Kansas City is big enough to support many types of music yet small enough that it’s not difficult to stay in the know about what’s happening across town.

“Our city is very diverse. There’s a band out there for every­body-for the kids, for the rockers; it’s all out there waiting to be discovered,” said Darren Welch of In the Pines. “Just take a chance. Pay the $5 cover and wait to be surprised.”