Pop quiz, hotshot: Where was Saint Patrick born? If you said Ireland, this'll be a useful history lesson. Saint Patrick was born in Britain, then part of the Roman Empire, around 400 A.D. In the Confession, Patrick's alleged autobiography, we learn he came from a wealthy family of Catholic ministers but was shanghaied to Gaelic Ireland at age 16. There he worked as a shepherd before escaping back to Britain. Only later did he return to the Emerald Isle to convert its pagans to Christians. Patrick's religious campaign against druids was painted, metaphorically, as driving the snakes out of Ireland - an island that never had indigenous serpents. His feast day is held March 17 of every year, the day tradition claims he passed away.
It's been on the liturgical calendar for 400 years, but it broke big in North America two centuries before doing so in Ireland. The holiday's now popular throughout the Western world, and that reflects the so-called "Irish diaspora" - through which about 15 times as many people of Irish extraction live away from Ireland as on it.
Two of Tacoma's beloved taverns will be wearing the Irish green in fine fashion this weekend. Friday brings a double bill of hard-driving rock to Doyle's Public House beginning with Ockham's Razor, a "turbo Celtic" fusion band from Seattle. The Razors' sound blends the traditional Irish folk of The Chieftains - for whom they've opened - with the percussive stomp of The Pogues. They're followed by The Rusty Cleavers, a Tacoma four-piece focusing on punk-inflected bluegrass. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, give their song "Whiskey You're the Devil" a try. It sounds like it ought to be pouring from a Dublin garage. Or go local by busting out "Old Plank Road" with its opening holler, "Rock me in Tacoma!"
Doyle's expanded its St. Paddy's festivities into Saturday, when it rolls out four distinct acts. First is the Ethan Tucker Band, an acoustic pop band that's toured with Jimmy Cliff, Michael Franti, G-Love, Buddy Guy and The Wailers. Then comes the Stephanie Anne Johnson Band, led by Tacoma's popular contestant on The Voice. Jordani is a soul-pop singer from Tacoma who finds her inspiration in Motown and jazz classics. Last but not least, it's burlesque from the Gritty City Sirens, a troupe that proudly claims it's been "putting the T & A in Tacoma since 2010." Talk about a shamrock shake!
O'Malley's Irish Pub is also taking advantage of the Friday holiday to let it stretch into Saturday. (Remember to hydrate, Guinness fans.)
Friday brings a full bill of folk-metal ensemble Siren's Rain, booty-shakin' rockers Lo5, Seattle's Celtic folkies SeaStar, Sean (Curkendall) the Piano Man of Olympia and The Piping Duo, Seamus Neary and Suzanne Wolf. Saturday's lineup comprises Tacoma fusion band Higher Soul, upbeat Tacoma dance septet The Fun Police, the irresistibly named Tacoma bluegrass outfit Sweet Lou's Sour Mash, and the double whammy of Bagpipes and Drums. (Yes, the Scots were Celts, too).
In addition to live music, both locations serve terrific eats, with Irish specials hitting tables all weekend. Doyle's menu spans the United Kingdom, with a fine shepherd's pie and Irish stew. O'Malley's offers corned beef (cured in-house) and cabbage. Of course, both locations pour a mean Guinness. Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!
St. Patrick's Day Festival, 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, March 17-18, Doyle's Public House, 208 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, $10, 253.272.7468
St. Patrick's Weekend, 5 p.m., Friday, March 17; 8 p.m., Saturday, March 18, O'Malley's Irish Pub, 2403 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, free, 253.627.9403