JigJam hailed best Irish group in bluegrass

Powerhouse quintet performs in Helena and Missoula

On Stage

JigJam, the multi-award winning Irish band, returns to The Myrna Loy in Helena by popular demand at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 28. They also headline the Failte Montana Festival at Caras Park July 30.

JigJam calls their pond-hopping invasion of bluegrass “i-Grass” or “a mashup of Irish and bluegrass.”
JigJam calls their pond-hopping invasion of bluegrass “i-Grass” or “a mashup of Irish and bluegrass.”

Expect to hear “plenty of Irish tunes and plenty of reels and jigs and bluegrass as well,” says Gavin Strappe, the band’s mandolin and tenor banjo player.

The Tipperary native says he and other quintet members all grew up hearing a lot of Irish traditional music and began listening to bluegrass music when they got older.

“The more we learned, the more we realized It had so much in common with Irish music and the relationship of the two. “Irish immigrants came over to the Appalachian Mountains and brought over Irish tunes. There are tunes that are common in both repertoires.

”When we stumbled on it, we realized we could fuse both genres together.”

They like to call their pond-hopping invasion of bluegrass, “i-Grass” or “a mashup of Irish and bluegrass.”

All the band members have garnered their share of music awards, collectively earning over 20 All-Ireland music honors at national music festival competitions.

Founded in 2012 by lead singer and guitarist Jamie McKeogh and Daithi Melia, on 5-string banjo and dobro, both from Offaly, the band has recently added some Scottish music to the mix. Its two newest members Calum Morrison, on double bass, and Danny Hunter, fiddle, hail from Glasgow.

The band is known as a high energy, foot-stomping powerhouse and has headlined such major festivals as Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Milwaukee Irish Fest as well as festivals in the UK and Europe.

“We have a lot of new material for people,” says Strappe, and they’re looking forward to returning to The Myrna Loy.

Playing at the more intimate Myrna auditorium gives them a chance to interact more with the audience, he says, and tell more background and stories about the music. One music critic compared them to The Punch Brothers, while another predicted they could have the impact of the Clancy Brothers or U2. And Irish American News hailed them as “The best Irish group in bluegrass so far.”

Myrna Show: 7:30 p.m. July 28. Tickets are $24 and available at 15 N. Ewing St. or online. For more information, call 406-443-0287.

Failte Montana Festival: noon-10 p.m. July 30 at Caras Park. In addition to headliner JigJam, the free festival also includes performances by the Celtic Dragon Pipe Band, Thorns Among Roses, Wild Potatoes, and Second Wind, plus Irish art and crafts, dance, food, beverages and a hurling demo. Learn more about the Friends of Irish Studies event at the festival website.