15 March 2024

Nine-piece Illawarra folk band set to showcase a lively and authentic St Patrick's Day performance

| Keeli Royle
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Nine members of the Carefree Road Band.

Carefree Road Band are playing contemporary and classic Irish folk classics as part of a Great Southern Nights event. Photo: Supplied.

Illawarra’s own Carefree Road Band have spent years travelling up and down the coast and into country towns bringing authentic folk and Celtic music to captivated audiences. Now they’re hoping to get crowds back on their feet in their hometown with a concert showcasing both traditional and contemporary Irish music this St Paddy’s Day.

John Tubridy decided to start the band eight years ago with a few friends from work and people he knew from the folk club and as the small talented group gained momentum, they also gained experience, with new members bringing new things to the table.

“I was a retired schoolteacher and I think it was around 2016 a few of us got together and we’ve gradually got to the stage where we are now, which is probably the final stage, where there’s actually nine of us, so we’re a nine-piece band,” Mr Tubridy said.

A few years ago he reached out to John Spillane about bringing his unique talent to help guide the band as they explored new music.

“The reason for John coming on board is that he had this extraordinary reputation as a great musician and we wanted to do more Celtic,” Mr Tubridy said.

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Mr Spillane is a renowned whistle player who has decades of experience in the music industry after learning the instrument as a teenager in his home country.

“When I was about 15 in Ireland, I lived in a little village and there were no cinemas, no televisions or anything, so we were out at nighttime getting into trouble,” Mr Spillane said.

“So there was this very young priest, only about 24, and he came to town and saw us all going our separate ways so he bought us all a penny whistle and he bought himself one as well because he couldn’t play either, and we started learning between us and we went on from there.”

When he left Ireland, he stopped playing for many years before a Wollongong Irish band got wind of his talent and reignited his passion.

And now he has played in venues across the country, from arenas, to pubs, festivals and restaurants.

“I’m usually in about five different bands, there’s always something happening,” Mr Spillane said.

Mr Tubridy has helped hand select suitable and inspirational musicians over the years to join the group, with members coming from five countries.

“I thought you’ve got nothing to lose by asking and nobody’s ever knocked me back which I’ve been very lucky,” Mr Tubridy said.

And the commitment from all members of the group has continued to help them thrive.

“They all put in an effort to get to rehearsal because with nine people it can be a nightmare trying to get everybody in the same place at the same time, but we’re pretty lucky because they all want to play in the band,” Mr Spillane said.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have a group of nine people who get on well socially; we don’t live in each other’s pockets but when we rehearse it’s great fun,” Mr Tubridy said.

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And they’re hoping their hard work will pay off this Sunday with a special St Patrick’s Day performance at City Diggers as part of Great Southern Nights.

“You go into these concerts after a lot of preparation and practice and you just hope that it brings a smile to a face and people enjoy it and sing along,” Mr Tubridy said.

With the inclusion of Ceili Dancing and a mixture of traditional and contemporary Irish folk classics, crowds can expect an afternoon of great music, great dancing and great company, with the whole community encouraged to get involved.

“I really enjoy when people get up and dance and react,” Mr Tubridy said.

“If you get a good reception from the audience that makes your day,” Mr Spillane said. “There’s probably no better feeling.”

The concert will kick off at 3 pm Sunday 17 March at City Diggers Wollongong.

Tickets are available on the Illawarra Folk Club website or at the door.

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