Last week's private RecordBar performance by the Elders was a trial run of sorts. It not only was a chance for the band's family and friends to see the six-piece Celtic-rock band away from the usual Guinness-fueled festival atmosphere, but also was an opportunity to witness the debut of the band's newest member, Kian Byrne.
"I'm about to have a heart attack," frontman Ian Byrne said. There was no medical emergency — Byrne was talking about the band not having played in months. But the front line of this act is made up of people in their 50s. The Elders remain one of the city's biggest draws, with a name that's starting to look a little more literal, a fact made more visible with the addition of Ian Byrne's 25-year-old son. The Elders' elders still play fiercely enough to make you worry that they might give young Kian his own heart attack. At this gig, the drummer stayed sweaty and furrow-browed.
His mother, WDAF Channel 4 news anchor Kathy Quinn, tells the story of being pregnant with her firstborn son in Ireland while she was selling tickets at one of her husband's shows. "I could feel Kian keeping the beat while the band played 'My Sharona,' " she says. "Kian is a natural drummer. It's his way of communicating."
Like her son, Quinn was born into a family steeped in rich musical and cultural traditions. "My mother used to dress me up like a leprechaun and make me play my violin for the camera when I was really little," Kian recalls.
"Kian is a young lad with an old soul," Ian Byrne says. "He's been pals with all the members of the band for a very long time. He's half our age but he's definitely bringing a new dynamic to the band." His dad's band and others: Kian also plays bass in the rock-steady ska band New Riddim and fiddle for the Americana outfit the Grisly Hand.
"With Kian being a multi-instrumentalist, it's going to provide the band more flexibility," Ian says. "We are very lucky to have Kian in the band with us. I've been touring for so long and I've been away from my kids. Now I get to take him on the road with me. It's going to be a blast."
"Irish music has always been a part of my family and life," Kian says. "Like learning the violin at the age of 3. It's something I have to do. It's cool, though — I like it. The Elders definitely aren't the Pogues, and we don't do 'Danny Boy.' Ever."
Despite his heritage, Kian is more of a PBR-in-a-can guy than a Guinness man. "The Irish," he starts and then trails off for a moment. "They can get funny. It embarrasses me sometimes when it gets too Irish. When you're not in Ireland, it can get too Irish too quick."