The Fenians and Humble Hooligans headline the BIG Irish Fair and Music Festival this weekend at El Dorado Park
The BIG Irish Fair and Music Festival has been a staple of American-Irish culture in Southern California since 1975. Bringing in specialty vendors, demonstrations, dancing and music, the BIG Irish holds something for everyone.
One of the key parts of the BIG Irish is the music. From fiddle and harp competitions to live showcase bands, BIG Irish is known to host the best of Irish and American-Irish music.
This year headlining BIG Irish in Long Beach’s El Dorado Park, are The Fenians and the Humble Hooligans. The Fenians, founded in 1990 have played BIG Irish more than 20 times, and Humble Hooligans founded in 2004 are headlining BIG Irish for the first time.
The Fenians founder Terry Casey has fond memories of his time at the fair. “We’ve seen so many venues with [BIG Irish],” but Casey says his favorite has been El Dorado Park, where the fair will take place this year during Father’s Day weekend.
Casey founded The Fenians as an outlet for his love of Irish music and culture. Though he says the band’s music to be simply “Irish,” he described it to be more of a Celtic Rock style – a blend of Irish, Scottish and Welsh roots paired with a bit of electric guitar. The Fenians have brought a twist to Irish music that opens the doors to a more worldly take on Irish sounds.
Chris Pierce, The Fenians drummer, says that he saw The Fenians perform for the first time at BIG Irish in the ’90s.
“ I walked into a tent at the fair and saw Terry [Casey] rocking out on top of a speaker,” Pierce says. And when he heard a few weeks later that The Fenians needed a drummer, he knew he had to be a part of what they were doing for Irish music.
“I auditioned for six weeks,” Pierce says, mentioning that it was the strangest and longest audition he had ever done. “I went every week with my notes having listened to all their pieces, and every week they said I was good but to come back again.”
It wasn’t until week six of his extended audition that The Fenians announced to the Harp Inn, the band’s regular Long Beach gig, that Pierce was the official drummer of the band. “That’s also how I found out,” he says.
“The best part about [BIG Irish] is from 9 to 90 there is something for you to do or see,” Pierce says.
Casey says that one of his favorite things at BIG Irish, beside the music, is the sheep herding shows; that it reminds him of his family and seeing their dogs herd in cows for milking.
The Humble Hooligans, headlining BIG Irish for the first time, and performing for the seventh, are somewhat of an up-and-coming band. Beginning as a life guard band made up of only life guards from Huntington Beach, Troy Rulmyr, founding member and solo equity member of the band, said they were horrible.
With rotating members and financial hardships, the Humble Hooligans have come a long way. Rulmyr says they are gaining new notoriety and a preparing to put out an album soon.
In 2015, the Humble Hooligans went out on its first European tour. “We performed 36 shows in 12 countries,” Rulmyr says.
In total, Humble Hooligans performed in over 300 shows last year, nothing like the slump they faced in 2008 when they could only manage to pull in 40 gigs. “We were making money, a lot of money, and then the market crashed,” says Rulmyr.
But back and better than ever, the Humble Hooligans will not only be headlining BIG Irish, but they will be performing at the Irish Fair Pub Party for the second year in a row.
“We consider ourselves a Long Beach band,” Rulmyr says, mentioning that he is a California State University, Long Beach alum and that they regularly played at the Old Dubliner in Long Beach.
Rulmyr says that one of his favorite things at the [BIG Irish] is seeing the Irish Step dancing where they have over 1,000 dancers compete in the annual Feis. “The thing about the fair is that if you’ve never been there’s a lot more then you would expect,” Rulmyr says. The 2016 BIG Irish Fair and Music Festival is set for this weekend, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at El Dorado Park, 7550 E. Spring St..Big Irish Fair and Music Festival single day adult passes go for $15, students 13-21 years of age and seniors 62 and older go for $13 and children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. Two day passes for regular adult admission is $25.
For more information on schedules or to buy tickets to the BIG Irish Fair and Music Festival visit http://www.irishfair.org/#!irish-fair/cy20