The Shillelagh Lads

local Irish folksters keep the crowd going

Lisa de Felice, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Shillelagh Lads Michael Rambo and Michael
VanHemert croon at Dooley’s Irish Pub on November 3.

The Shillelagh Lads consider their audience members to be Irish the second they walk through the door. As the only band in Eau Claire that exclusively plays Irish pub music, the Shillelagh (pronounced Shill-lay-lay) Lads’ defining characteristic is getting the audience involved during their performances.

Michael Rambo, one of the four main members of the Lads, likes playing at Houligans Steak and Seafood Pub because “there’s no separation between us and the crowd,” he said. Unique in its sound (despite doing several traditional Irish pub tunes), the Lads use instruments such as the penny whistle, banjo, accordion, and mandolin to energize the crowd, getting them to dance and sing.

And with the release of their debut album, now that crowd can take the Lads home with them. The LP is a “foot-stompin,’ rollickin’, raucous good time,” specifically composed of 13 of the Lads’ most well-known tracks.

As much as Irish music can amp up a crowd, their music is still family friendly. “The music has a universal-roots feeling to it,” said Rambo, adding that all ages enjoy it.

The main Lads, who have made up the group since it began earlier this year, include David and Daniel Rambo (Michael’s brothers), Jake Henry (of New North String Band), and friend Michael Van Hemert. Each member has his own specialty instrument and they all participate in vocals. 

While none of the band members are actually from Ireland, they play the part when performing as the Shillelagh Lads, Rambo said. “We want to give the impression we’re fresh off the boat from Ireland,” said Rambo, explaining that they wear the garb and use Irish accents even while setting up for a show.

Unlike authentic Irish pub-bands, the Lads haven’t incited any bar fights yet. “That’s our goal someday,” said Rambo, jokingly.

Shillelagh Lads Xmas Concert & Dinner • Dec. 1-2 and 21-22 • Houligans, 415 S Barstow St., Eau Claire • 5:30-9pm • $37.50 per advance ticket • 835-6621 • includes three-course dinner and Irish Christmas carols

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