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Wednesday, August 12, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Floating Crowbar lacks Irish blood, but not spirit

Group’s Celtic flair fitting for KPBX Kids Concert

Floating Crowbar plays the KPBX kids concert Saturday.
Floating Crowbar plays the KPBX kids concert Saturday.

It’s the melodies that brought the members of Floating Crowbar to Irish music.

The members meandered toward it, some taking decades to get serious about it. And coming together as a group took a while, too. It started with Rick Rubin and Don Thomsen as a duo. Morgan Andersen and James Hunter eventually joined, and they’ve been playing as a quartet for close to six years.

“None of it happened quickly,” Thomsen said.

Saturday the band – minus Andersen, who’s out of town – is playing the KPBX Kids Concert at Riverside Place (the old Masonic Temple).

And their music, Thomsen said, is a perfect fit for the occasion.

“If you’re alive and breathing and someone’s playing Irish tunes, it’s really hard to sit still,” he said.

“They can’t help themselves,” he added. “They just want to get up and dance.”

The group plays traditional Irish tunes, though there’s not much Irish blood among them.

“James is the only one in the band that actually has any Irish blood in him,” Rubin said.

“We’ve got a Dane, a Norwegian, and I’m a mixture of Italian, French and a tiny bit of Scottish,” Rubin said. Though Thomsen claims “a wee bit of Irish.”

The lack of Irish heritage hasn’t hampered them. The group has released two albums: 2011’s “Two Nights in December” and 2013’s “The Torn Jacket.” A third is in the works, likely coming out this summer.

And, the group has gone to Ireland twice – a third trip is in the plans, hopefully next year. They’ve been welcomed by the locals when they travel.

“We were deathly afraid,” Rubin said, that they’d be seen as the Americans pretending to be Irish on their first trip.

Finally someone told them, “Just play the music, we like what you do,” Rubin said.

“They really appreciated the fact that we loved the music,” he said.

The only negative response: When they tried to sing in Gaelic.

Rubin recalled their friend’s response: “Maggie basically said, ‘Your Irish sucks.’ ”

How did a group with so little Irish among them learn the music?

“People wonder how to learn this style of music,” Thomsen said. “The way you do it is listening.”

“A lot of listening,” they said in unison.

And, potentially, a significant amount of compromising.

The traditional tunes might vary from county to county, or even pub to pub. So, each member of the group might already know a tune, but not the same version.

“Part of the challenge of playing in a group is coming to an agreement,” said Thomsen. “Of how you want to approach a tune,” Rubin finished.

They want to sound like a group playing one song, not four guys playing, Thomsen said. One gets the sense that the process is filled with more fun than angst.

The group plays weekly – almost, depending on schedules. The members all have other work: Hunter is a linguistics professor at Gonzaga, Andersen is an award-winning bow maker, Rubin repairs instruments (“basically anything with strings”), and Thomsen is retired from UPS, but teaches music lessons and plays with other groups.

About twice a month they play downtown at Hills’ Restaurant and Lounge, usually every other Thursday night.

“At Hills’, everytime we play now, it’s jammed,” Rubin said. “That’s gratifying; it’s really kind of cool that that many people want to hear us.”

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