Review: Head-Bangin’ Bagpipes Rock Honokaa


Celtica Pipes Rock!
w/Hawaii Irish Dance
Honokaa People’s Theatre
March 31, 2018

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Imagine a band that has two heavy-duty lead guitar players, like Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. Now add in some fire and fury, like Judas Priest or Thin Lizzy. Replace the dual lead guitars with two screaming highland bagpipes, add in a solid backing band with a steampunk flair, and you have Celtica Pipes Rock!

The six-piece band was formed in 2009, by Austrian guitarist and composer Gajus Stappen. He’s joined by the brother and sister team of Duncan Knight and Jane Espie, on tricked-out Scottish bagpipes, along with Bulgarian violinist Aya Georgieva, drummer Tom Cadek (Austria), and bassist Harald Weinkum (Arizona). Saturday night’s concert was their third Big Island performance at the Honokaa People’s Theatre, and it rocked!

Since St. Patrick’s Day, just a few weeks ago, the Big Island has seen three Celtic-style bands perform here. The Alt and Switchback recently played the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea with great reception, and tonight’s show, much louder, brought out folks that wanted to dance. Some wore authentic kilts and steampunk attire.

Celtica augmented their show with members of the Hawaii Irish Dance troupe. You might have seen them dance onstage with Switchback last week, but tonight it was a more casual setting at the People’s Theatre. Celtica asked the crowd to kindly give them some space as they prepared to do traditional Irish dance steps backed by the group’s signature hard rock sound. It worked! The crowd (of all ages) cheered them on, clapped, and stomped their feet to the infectious rhythm. Later in the show, the dancers were joined by men in kilts who waved enormous Scottish and Irish flags in each corner of the dance floor.

Celtica’s two-hour set (with a short intermission) was filled with songs from the band’s five albums, the latest being Live At Montelago (Stringdependent Records). There were also a few familiar classic rock covers that got the crowd on their feet and shouting along to the lyrics of “Smoke on the Water,” or “Don’t Stop Believing.” Most contrasting on the dance floor was a young boy with a Mohawk and a glowing neon neck ring, and an older gentleman wearing the latest Celtica t-shirt.

All the band members had their individual moments in the spotlight. I particularly enjoyed Gajus Stappen’s riveting guitar work. (Thanks for the grimacing snarls right into my lens!) Frontman Duncan Knight never let the level of excitement dip. His sister Jane is a force to be reckoned with. She’s got the stance and look of a lead guitarist, reminding me a bit of an unpredictable Angus Young, especially when she played the bagpipes laying down on the stage. Violinist Aya Georgieva added a hypnotic classical element, while Cadek and Weinkum keep the group on solid ground.

My only regret is that I wished I’d seen them play in a large outdoor arena, as they do in Europe. Fire-shooting bagpipes! Something else to add to the bucket list.

Set I
Romance | Megawatt | Excalibur | White Whale | Cork Hill | Nautilus Descending | Itchy Fingers | The Iron Angel | Victoria’s Desire | Whiskey in the Jar | Shipping to B | We Will Rock You/I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll

Set II
Carmina Celtica | Andy R.’s Ferret | Harbour in the Sky | Cape Horn | The Last Voyage of the Great Michael | Visitors | What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor | Jane Espie’s solo| FMM | Smoke on the Water | Gateway to Utopia

Amazing Grace | Don’t Stop Believing

You can learn more about Celtica Pipes Rock! via their jam-packed website:

Visit the Hawaii Urish Dance website here:

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