Moonfest promises three different stages throughout Clematis Street in West Palm Beach on which 25 bands will mark their territory; now that's a block party you can enjoy without fear. Headliners Reverend Horton Heat are getting lots of buzz, but it's the local lineup that has us all fired up.
In preparation for a full-on Moonfest-ivus, we chatted with Robert Norvell from the Lahinch Mob. You might recognize him as the guy on stage at O'shea's wearing a kilt. Self described as "high energy Irish rock," Norvell and his band mate Keith Ahern have made temporary homes for themselves at every Irish bar in South Florida you can name. We learned how Norvell splits his life as a DUI lawyer and precisely why he never leaves home without his trusty kilt.
New Times: You guys definitely lean towards the Irish/folk side of things. Do you ever feel playing a bar might not be the best place for your music to be appreciated?
Robert Norvell: We aren't just Irish music. The irony is that so much pop music has classical overtones that integrate with the violin so well. Coldplay, the Verve. I never actually had a problem or thought that our music didn't fit wherever we played. Thanks to Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, people are totally receptive to that genre.
Whenever I have seen you live, it has only been two of you. But in doing some research, it looks like there is sometimes a full band?
Yes, we do have a full band. We have two other members. Alex on drums and Joe who is from a U2 tribute band. When the venues have the money to afford the full band, we certainly prefer to do that. But with the economy today, many bars only want to pay the least they can.
That makes sense. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel like you are gigging a lot more lately than you had been in the past.
Yes, we took a break. I wear many hats. I have a family, and I have a law practice, and I took the time to work on that. It's been about six months since I called Keith and said "Let's get together and make beautiful music again!" When I came back, I had a greater appreciation for why I enjoy it. I enjoy playing music with Keith and that comes through and we have a great time together and I think our audience gets that.
How long has the band been together?
The band is really Keith and I, and we have been playing together for at least 12 to 13 years. I just posted pics to our Facebook from when we toured Ireland in 2003.
So, this is going to sound weird, but how Irish are you?
Keith is from Dublin, so he is as Irish as it gets. I am of Irish decent but, it is not first or second generation. I mean look at me, I have freckles and red hair. I look like I'm fresh off the boat.
Do you have a story about how you discovered Irish music and decided it was something you wanted to be involved with?
I do! I was classically trained. I grew up playing in orchestras and, to be honest, my family was very disappointed that I went to law school. But I went to law school at UF. I won free tickets to a traditional Irish music festival in Gainesville from the local radio station. So I went there and was like "that's great stuff, I should play that." After law school, I came down here and was looking for a traditional session to play with and Keith was bartending at O'shea's and playing there on Sundays. So I started playing there with him.
We didn't actually take the stage. We went to Ireland next as friends. That's where we toured with friends. If you ever hang out with Irish kids, it's amazing. Everyone sings. Everyone plays instruments. That's all we did, we went bar to bar and played music. When we came back after that first trip, we said let's form a band.
Have you guys been back to Ireland since then?
Yes. We went every year from 2003-2007. Then the Irish economy went to crap.
A little birdie told me that you are a DUI lawyer. Is that correct?
I am yes. By day.
What's that dichotomy like? Being a DUI lawyer and then being surrounded by drunk people at night?
It's called job security. It's funny when I see clients out. That's kind of an amusing thing when they see that their lawyer is on stage. It's just a job. Being a DUI lawyer is just like yours. Sometimes judges and prosecutors come in and it's pretty neat. Most of them tell me I should quit my day job and do this full time.
You are always rocking the kilt. What does that mean to you?
It's just a nod to the Celtic background and the traditions. When I was in Ireland, I went and took some classes at the traditional music school they have there. The music of Ireland is amazing. I wear that because it reminds the audience and me that's where I'm from.
What's coming up next for The Lahinch Mob. Recording anytime soon?
It's so funny because I talked to Keith today about this. You have arrived when you can find yourself on iTunes. So yes, we are putting together a new album. By St Patrick's Day, we will definitely have an album out, but probably sooner.
Is there going to be anything different about your Moonfest set from a normal bar night?
I can tell you we always tailor to the audience. So it will be more rock. Our normal set is Irish rock in the beginning and the we start tuning up the rock notch. And then the last set is usually all rock.
How does it feel to be playing this show?
It's fun. It's always cool to hang out with other musicians. That festival is always crazy. There will be slutty everything. Slutty angels, slutty devils. There are always people wearing inappropriate clothing, and I always encourage that.
Moonfest is Saturday, October 26, on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. Gates open at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $7 in advance, $10 at the door. VIP $50 in advance, $75 at the door. Visit the Facebook page for more info.