The Doolin Rakes bring a touch of the Irish to the Islands.
PHOTO BY Rae Huo
The Rakes’ James McCarthy, Leslie Kline, Jamie Winpenny and Geoffrey Red.
OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS, the Doolin Rakes have earned their status as Honolulu’s resident Irish pub rock band—not bad for musicians who only intended to play together for a one-time wedding gig. The band’s brew of modern Celtic music pays tribute to its members’ cultural heritage.
“The passion comes from trying to maintain identity,” says vocalist and guitarist James McCarthy. “We still have the songs, we still have the music.”
The Rakes’ sound is a cross between traditional—think The Clancy Brothers—and modern rockers, such as The Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. What’s it like being a Celtic band in Hawaii? The scene is pretty small, with a total of 10 bands across the Islands, estimates Rakes guitarist Jamie Winpenny. But groups are more likely to collaborate than compete against each other.
“We play with Celtic Waves and the Kaimana Ceili Band,” Winpenny says. “They perform acoustically, which creates a different vibe. We just wanna rock.”
For those of you wondering, the band took its name from the village of Doolin, a famous musical meeting point in Ireland. And Rakes? “Rake is a word for a roving rascal,” Winpenny says.
“Other then the fact that none of us are from Doolin, the name is apt.”
These days, the band can be found every Saturday at O’Toole’s in Chinatown and every Wednesday at Waikıkı’s Kelley O’Neill’s. “We love the diversity of our audience,” Winpenny says.
“Everyone comes down—soldiers returning from Iraq, 65-year-old-women, locals, merchant marines, downtown barflies.” The crowd sings, claps, and dances along to such classics as
“Whiskey in the Jar” and rocked-out arrangements of traditional jigs and reels, like “Coolies’ Reel” and “Rakes of Kildare.”
“The crowd loves them,” says O’Toole’s acting general manager, Chris Bartilosi. “People dance and have fun. The Doolin Rakes are our rocking Irish band.”