On the BArSTuARDS at Paddy Murphy’s


I’ve seen this band at Paddy Murphy’s in Bangor several times.  They are a rowdy, good-time bunch, playing energetic Celtic rock, and in a relatively small pub, as Paddy’s is, their loudness can drive you out onto the sidewalk.  In the summer, when it isn’t raining, this can be rather pleasant, for West Market Square is a friendly sort of area.  In the winter, you have to grin and bear it and don’t plan on talking to anyone, no matter how close they’re sitting, unless the band’s

Brian, Gary, Andy, Connor & Justus at Paddy's

on a break.  You can’t hear yourself think when these guys are in full stride, let alone hear other people speak.  At the bar, you order pints of Guinness using sign language.

I have a certain fondness for the BArSTuARDS, mostly because I’ve known four of the five musicians since they were in high school:  Brian Oyster was in both my sophomore and senior English classes, and in fact did his sophomore career research paper on being a professional musician.  I get out to see them when I can…but that’s getting more and more difficult as they begin their takeover of the world, starting with the Maine music scene.  They’ve been doing some shows in Bar Harbor, Ellsworth, and at Sugarloaf, as well as in Bangor; sometimes they even play the golf club in Kenduskeag.  But hey–you pick up the gigs where you can–that’s what Connor Oyster told me once, with the characteristic Oyster smirk.  They made a promotional CD, a copy of which Brian gave me at a show last summer, and which can be downloaded from their website.

There are five of them, as aforementioned:  the brothers Oyster, Brian and Connor (guitar/ banjo and upright bass/tin whistle/ mandolin respectively), along with Gary Collins (mandolin/ guitar/ harmonica/ bass guitar/ vocals), Andy Koncinsky (guitar/ drums/ vocals), and Justus Magee, the only one who is not a former student of mine (drums/vocals).  Their show is three hours of enthusiasm, featuring covers of diverse artists such as the Dropkick Murphys, Johnny Cash and Eric Idle, amped-up traditional songs, and not a few of their own compositions.  By far the most popular in their live shows at Paddy’s, usually requiring an encore performance at the end of the evening, is Eric Idle’s “The FCC Song,” though it’s possible that the audience has no idea of the song’s

At the Rack, Sugarloaf

provenance:  just screaming out the chorus with the band is enough for them.  Another favorite is Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road,” while “Me a Mutt am I” always seems to keep the crowds shouting and moshing.  Because mosh those crowds do:  sometimes seeing the BArSTuARDS can be a somewhat dangerous experience.  The energy from these guys is contagious.

I’m glad Brian has become a professional musician.  In fact, I’m glad they all have, and can’t wait for the rest of the world to discover them.  Most of all, I’m glad they’re out on stage doing their wild-and-crazy thing…rather than in my fifth period senior Brit Lit class.  If you know what I mean.

Postscript:

They really can’t help it–at least the Oysters can’t.  Their father, my friend and favorite substitute teacher/educational technician Lowell Oyster, can play nearly any stringed instrument in the world, and has taught many many students to play as well.  For years he held garage band sessions after school for any teenaged noodlers who felt the urge.  He taught me to play the ukulele (though I’m still not very good–sorry, Mr. Oyster), and in his honor I wrote a piece called “The English Teacher Gets a Lesson in Humility,” which he tells me he has tacked to his music stand at home.

P. S. 2:

Because of that poem for Lowell Oyster, which I read at an MWPA writing retreat on Deer Isle a bunch of years ago, my awesome friend Tommy Shea sent me my first Oysterband CD.  Synchronicity: it’s a beautiful thing.

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