The band playing Irish on Ionia and Liquid Note Brewing on Saturday showcased its tunes for Local Spins on WYCE, which also debuted tracks by John Sanger, DL Rossi, Pop Evil and more.
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While firmly rooted in the Celtic tradition, the songs of Michigan’s CrossBow don’t necessarily fit your father’s – or your grandfather’s – definition of Irish music.
“We enjoy breathing new life into familiar tunes using high-energy pop and rock injections. Adding that little edge is what helps create our sound,” said fiddler Steve Lesko, who also manages the seven-piece band.
“Where we find the most joy in what we do is where we take these songs that have been around for hundreds of years but we’re giving it a whole new sense, new purposeness, some new life into it.”
That means a CrossBow performance boasts a full drum kit, electronic sounds and some distortion along with the usual fiddles, guitar, penny whistle and percussion.
“It’s a whole new taste to songs that have been done 100 times over,” Lesko said. “It’s just a new way to look at it.”
Thousands of revelers will get a chance to experience that on Saturday, when the band plays the giant, day-long Irish on Ionia street party taking place on Ionia Avenue SW south of Fulton Street in downtown Grand Rapids.
The band plays the main stage at 1:15 p.m. and the Irish Jig Tent at 4:30 p.m. Afterward, CrossBow will travel to Otsego to play Liquid Note Brewing’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration at 8:30 p.m. The band also plays the GOTAK Irish Festival taking place 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 25 at Grand Haven’s First Presbyterian Church, 508 Franklin Ave.
CrossBow’s genesis can be traced to Chelsea High School, where Lesko and fellow fiddler and singer Carly Meloche began performing Celtic music in the highly regarded Chelsea House Orchestra – led by Jed Fritzemeier – and “fell in love” with the genre.
They formed CrossBow in 2011-2012 as Grand Valley State University students, eventually performing across the region and releasing two studio albums, “CrossBow” and “Ascend.” For this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, Lesko showcased the tracks “Little Talks” and “Incredibow” from 2018’s “Ascend.” Watch a video from CrossBow’s 2018 St. Patrick’s Day tour here and scroll down to listen to the full radio show podcast.
VIDEO: CrossBow, “St. Patrick’s Day Tour 2018”
The current lineup of the band features Lesko of Chelsea, Meloche of Ann Arbor, guitarist, keyboardist and singer Clare McMillan and penny whistle player and clarinetist Adam McMillan, both of Comstock Park, percussionist Ethan Noga of Ann Arbor, bassist Joe VanderBroek of Portage and drummer Joe Doney of Grand Rapids, who’s making his first appearance with the band on Saturday.
Inspired by the likes of Alasdair Fraser, Natalie MacMaster and Michigan’s own Billy Strings, Lesko also has played with Grand Rapids’ Peat in the Creel as well as filling in with The American Rogues, Mother Grove and The Moxie Strings, a duo he considers mentors and friends. An audio specialist, he’s also assisted The Moxie Strings on tour.
CrossBow celebrated its 10th anniversary last year by performing in Scotland and plans to concentrate on arranging new sets while “starting the groundwork” on a new studio album in 2023.
“I love the instrumental tunes that build and make you want to get up and dance or let out a big whoop; the ones where you can’t help but bob your head and bounce your knee,” Lesko offered.
“Those are the sounds I’ve always been drawn to and they’ve have had a huge influence on the sound of our band. That’s why we tend to gravitate toward festival shows the most: That environment goes hand-in-hand with the sound we’re chasing.”
In addition to spotlighting the music of CrossBow, this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE – which is all about music by Michigan artists, airing at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org – featured recent releases by John Sanger/New American Playlist, D.L. Rossi, The Moxie Strings (this week’s musician’s pick by Lesko), The Still Wonder, NLIGHTiN, Ohly, Short Panic, The Junky Swinger, Pop Evil and Weezil Malone Band.
Listen to the full radio show podcast here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (3/17/23)
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