By Jim Vorel, Herald and Review, Decatur, Ill.
Mar. 5--Eamonn De Barra grew up immersed in the traditional music of his homeland, Ireland. His bandmates, a collective of equally enthusiastic Irishmen, wanted to name their band after a traditional tune type in Irish music, the "slide."
It wasn't until they found success and began touring in America that this proved a problem.
"It turns out there was already some kind of '80s hair band named Slide, so we had to tack an 'IE' for Ireland on," De Barra explained. "Now we're just SlideIE."
SlideIE has gone on to popularity as a front-runner of a new wave of young Irish bands that are bringing contemporary energy to traditional music. The band brings its new sound to Millikin on Wednesday.
"We've been hitting universities and Irish festivals in the states," said De Barra, whose group began a U.S. tour last month. "We're really enjoying the university shows. It's great to be making a connection with the younger generation and be bringing them a new form of high-powered Irish music."
Although the group has been recording and touring since 2001, the members have only recently perfected the sound they had always been seeking. It took three studio albums and a live album to get there. Finally, the addition of singer, multi-instrumentalist and Galway native Dave Curley put the group over the top, in De Barra's eyes.
"He's really turning heads," De Barra said, chuckling. "He's just slotted in perfectly, and we've been expanding our reach and our sound ever since. I think this is the sound that we always really wanted."
Traditional Irish music, and folk music in general, can seem monotonous or uninteresting to a young crowd used to a faster pace, De Barra said. But SlideIE's music defies the traditional mold while still featuring the instruments and influences of its homeland.
"The one thing that people who have never heard this music should understand is that the music is very lively," De Barra said. "There's so much energy. In the past, the physicality of traditional music hasn't always come through, but that's not the case here. If you're coming to the show, bring your dancing shoes. I'm serious."
The band members are not content simply to play shows and record albums. They also teach their instruments to less-experienced musicians whenever possible, even when on tour. The band hosts workshops for high school and college musicians at many of its touring stops. The group's six members teach fiddle, concertina, guitar, flute, mandolin, bouzouki (an Irish derivative of the Greek instrument), banjo and bodhran (a handheld Irish drum).
De Barra said the group would consider opening a school of music down the line to teach the next generation of Irish musicians.
But not just now. As De Barra sees it, the future belongs to SlideIE. In five years, he hopes to still be with the group, forging ahead and innovating new twists on old sounds. He said the enjoyment of introducing new music to young people is what keeps him motivated.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 10.
WHERE: Kirkland Fine Arts Center, Millikin University, Decatur.
TICKETS: $6 to $16 at the Kirkland box office, 424-6318.
ON THE WEB: slide.ie.
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