By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
If on one Saturday evening in 2002 you had settled into the homey confines of The Field Irish Pub & Eatery, you would have been entertained by the authentic Irish music of its rollicking house band, Celtic Bridge. Astonishingly, that would be the exact same thing you could have done last Saturday night.
That’s right. Amid the chameleonic milieu that is South Florida entertainment and dining, Celtic Bridge has been invoking the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night for 18 years at the popular “public house.” (And, of course, on the actual St. Paddy’s Day, too — see the sidebar.)
Naturally, there’ve been a few personnel changes, but the genealogical constant remains multi-instrumentalist John Schreiber and his Belfast-born wife and fiddler extraordinaire, Roisin Dillon, who have played together since Celtic Bridge’s conception. Joining them from 2007 on has been dynamic vocalist-guitarist Adrian Peever, who hails from outside Liverpool.
“We’re very consistent. We’re here all the time,” Schreiber says, explaining the longevity. “We’re consistent in the material we do. We’re consistent in fulfilling requests. The adaptability of the band musically to what’s happening audience-wise makes it able to be consistent.”
The lineup, too, had remained consistent since 2015, when Dillon’s brother, Eamonn, who had joined in 2004, took his uilleann pipes and whistles to Nashville. However, the trio is back to being a quartet for this season with special guest Emily Jane Furlong, an Irish singer-songwriter who by way of Disney’s Raglan Road pub and the touring cast of Rent brings a modern folk/pop feel to the proceedings.
“Basically we’re a jam band,” Schreiber says. “We’ve probably had one or two actual rehearsals outside of playing here since 2007. We’re not doing the same thing in the same order, the same way every time. We’re changing and fluctuating based on the night, the people in the audience and things that are going on around them. And so again, that boils down to adaptability.”
That interaction between audience and band is much of what makes The Field special for both. “Everybody likes the same kind of music,” says Schreiber, originally a bluegrass banjoist who now keeps to bass and guitar. “Everybody gets into it the same way. It’s not the randomness of going to a bar, not knowing what you’re going to hear and you might like a song or two. Here you get whole sections of people who are all interested and know the songs.”
As the name implies, Celtic Bridge’s repertoire blends traditional tunes (The Clancy Brothers, The Chieftains) and more contemporary folk or rock (Van Morrison, U2) — with the likes of Dylan or Prince thrown in.
A sure-fire crowd-rouser is the dazzling medley of breakneck jigs and reels arranged by Dillon and Schreiber that typically closes each set. Matched by Schreiber’s effortless, rhythmic accompaniment, Dillon sparks the bow and fingerboard with the graceful precision of a fiddler born and bred with the instrument under her chin. Her intermittent seven-year stint with national touring act Cherish the Ladies speaks to her virtuosity, and her soulful soloing fits as warmly into an Appalachian ballad as a jazzy improvisation.
Frontman Peever’s similarly versatile vocals stretch from tender to growling as he conducts each set with the authority of the Barry University English professor that he is. And when Eamonn comes back to add some green power during St. Patrick season, the synchronicity of his blistering duets with his sister makes the ecstatic sound of a single instrument.
From a tiny stage in a tight corner of the routinely packed house, Celtic Bridge’s intoxicating spirit kindles a reliably convivial atmosphere, which — as in any pub worth its weight in Jameson and Guinness — is as welcoming to septuagenarians as it is to toddlers, and everyone in between. In that regard, The Field remains a refreshing buffer of trendiness.
“In terms of staying power, there’s a combination of a niche being filled that no one else is filling — not just with the band, but with the pub itself,” says Schreiber, who with his wife goes back 25 years, past the Field’s 2001 opening, to co-owners Hillary Joyalle’s and Alan Craig’s previous enterprise, the now-departed Maguires Hill 16 in Fort Lauderdale. “For the survival of a business like this, the best combo is good service, good food and a good band. I call that the big three. If you have two of those, you could survive. The Field has all three of them.”
And because there is no cover charge, the band’s accomplished musicianship is not simply an amazing value for lovers of acoustic music. It’s more like an Irish blessing.
IF YOU GO
The Field goes big on St. Patrick’s Day, and this year is no exception with a full slate of Irish music and dancers indoors and out. This year, the big day falls on a Tuesday, and that’s simply not celebration enough for The Field. So the festivities start on Saturday and Sunday nights, March 14-15, with special guest Eamonn Dillon joining Celtic Bridge, and continues Sunday night with Celtic bluegrass band Uproot Hootenanny. The St. Paddy’s warm-up party on Monday features a solo show by Emily Jane Furlong.
On March 17, the party overflows into the big tent in the parking lot, where the pub’s regular Beatles tribute band, The Two of Us, performs at 6:30 p.m., followed by a deejay and some serious shenanigans. Of course, Celtic Bridge plays throughout the day, joined by Eamonn Dillon and Hillary O’Leary. The band will also be playing on The Field float in both Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood holiday parades, the first time in many years the pub has participated.
The Field is at 3281 Griffin Road, Dania Beach, under the big banyan. For more information, visit thefieldfl.com
PHOTO: Celtic Bridge at The Field on a recent night, from left: Roisin Dillon, John Schreiber, Emily Jane Furlong and Adrian Peever. (Photo by Alan Craig).