Over eight years and through ten different band members, the contemporary band “Celtic Aire” has been delighting and rocking audiences in the Midwest, primarily around their stomping grounds in Chicago. With the release of their second recording, Pay the Piper, the group has risen to the awareness of a broader range of fans, endearingly dubbed “aireheads.”
It began in 1988 when a Chicago pub called the Duke of Perth yearned to have live entertainment for its patrons. A short time later, a member of the Invermich Gaelic Society Pipe Band recruited musicians to perform Celtic rock for “the Duke.” Their performances were well received and they worked up to playing twice a month at the pub in addition to many ceilidhs and Invermich band dances.
In 1992, the band recorded its first effort, Under the Influence, an energetic work which took only 24 hours to complete. It was received well by their fans and by U.S. Scots, which favorably reviewed it in our magazine’s very first issue (Autumn 1992).
But, as has happened to many groups, time and outside pressures took their toll. After a Valentine’s dance, several members left the group. A few other players joined and left, leading to the current lineup of Arthur Gunn on guitar, Gikas Markantonatos on drums, Mike Dietz on pipes, and Scott McCawley on keyboards and pipes. They bring many diverse influences to the group. Scott draws from a religious background. The others combine jazz and Celtic musical backgrounds, most notably Mike on the pipes. But he loves AC/DC and brings a rock element to his dance tunes in a highly pleasing way. In addition, Gikas, who hails from South Africa, draws upon a rich tradition of Greek as well as Irish culture. Together, they produce a pleasingly traditional yet richly contemporary sound.
By 1994, the current members had gelled and were achieving a higher level of performance. Their gigs ranged further into the Midwest, again at ceilidhs and also at many Highland games. By the end of the year, they were ready to record Pay the Piper. It contains many rock interpretations of traditional Celtic tunes as well as originals from band members. The bar-band music is entertaining and enjoyable, but the real strength of the recording comes through in the softer pieces near the end.
1995 has been their best year yet. They are quite in demand, booking their performances a few months in advance. Their recordings are reaching a national and even international audience due to a self-created network of vendors and use of the Celtic gatherings on the Internet (They are the ones stuffed into a rocking van with pipe drones hanging out the back, speeding down the Information Superhighway).
Those interested in hearing more about the band can call Arthur Gunn at 708-486-1739 or write to Celtic Aire, P.O. Box 3421, Skokie, IL 60076, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.