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Across the Celtic universe
Trevor Tanner brings a unique rock 'n' roll past to the Savannah Irish Festival

There was a moment, around 1987, when it looked like the Bolshoi were going to be among England’s biggest musical exports. Thanks to the sharp, cynical songwriting of lead vocalist and guitarist Trevor Tanner, the band was firmly rooted in that dark, post–punk place where pop and goth intertwined and had sarcastic little babies.

History, however, ran the Bolshoi over, and the guys went their separate ways before the ‘90s dawned. For a while, the talented Tanner explored other musical avenues, and then ... nothing.

If you’ve been wondering whatever happened to Trevor Tanner, wonder no more. He’s quite happy, thanks, living in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and playing in a seriously good Celtic band called Rathkeltair.

Rathkeltair (named for an historical landmark in County Down, Northern Ireland) headlines the 2013 Savannah Irish Festival.

Along with Tanner on guitar and vocals, the band’s core members include drummer Nick Watson and singer and multi–instrumentalist Neil Anderson, who’s known as “The Jimi Hendrix of the Bagpipes.”

In short, this is not your sainted grandmother’s tin whistle combo. Rathkeltair is a muscular rock ‘n’ roll band with

great songs, killer musicians, an electrifying live show — and decidedly Celtic–inspired music–making.

The Bolshoi

“We were just a band playing around London who got a little singles deal with Beggars Banquet. It was a very gradual thing. Then Miles Copeland From IRS got involved and took us to the States, and that’s when it really took off. We were always bigger in America, and in South America and Spain, than we ever were in England.”

The breakup

“Old story, really. We had a difference with our record company. We wanted to get a different producer for our second album. We wanted David Allen, who did the Cure and stuff, but he was busy. So I suggested David Bowie — he was doing Tin Machine. He was producing a lot of weird stuff. And the record company laughed at me and said ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ And that kinda pissed me off.

“And we toured so much that we just started getting fed up with each other. After a while, we just didn’t want to do it any more.”

Away from music

“I stayed in England doing music for soundtracks and stuff, but the music scene was so boring over there. It was all that kind of rave stuff. I didn’t like all that at all. I had an American girlfriend, and we decided to move. I gave up music for three years and I became a construction worker. I worked as a roofer in Alabama, of all places. I became a redneck for about four years. It was fun, actually. None of the boys on the crew knew anything about me – they actually thought I was Mexican at first, because I tan so easily.”


“My wife’s got family in Jacksonville. She works in TV, she travels a lot, so it doesn’t really matter where she lives. I like New York, but I don’t like living in a shoebox. I like having a back yard where I can take a grill and get drunk.
“I answered an ad in the paper ‘cause I was bored. It said Celtic band looking for guitarist and I thought, that might be fun. Because I’m half Scottish. I was tortured with that music from an early age. My mum likes trucker music and country —that and Celtic music.

“When they brought me into the picture, all I really wanted to do was play guitar. But they looked into my catalogue and liked a lot of my songs. And I ended up writing most of the stuff, and singing most of it. So it just sort of evolved into what it is now.”

Celtic festivals

“There are always several stages, and I think what they try to do is having something for everybody. Some of them are more traditional than others, and obviously we don’t do those. We just do the ones that are fairly music–based.
“There’s a bit of a counter–culture now, because you’ve got these young guys in utility kilts all tatted up, like a metal scene almost. It’s sort of evolving a little bit. They’ve even got little gangs now. They call themselves the New World Celts.

“They’re younger guys. They kind of look like they should be listening to Slayer. But they’re not.”


Friday Night Cieli (Irish dance): At 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 at Knights of Columbus hall, 3 W. Liberty St. Admission $5

Savannah Irish Festival

Where: Savannah Civic Center, 301 Oglethorpe Ave.

Tickets: $12 one day, $16 two days. Under 14 admitted free

Info and tickets: (800) 351-7469

Entertainment schedule


Saturday, Feb. 16:

10:15 - 11:30 Opening Ceremony with St. Vincent's Academy Chorale and Savannah Pipe and Drum

11:45 -12:30 Irish Dancers of Savannah

12:45-1:30 Atlanta Junior Ceili Band

1:45-2:30 Seamus Kennedy, storyteller

2:45-3:30 Cathie Ryan Band

3:45-4:30 Glorina Daire Dancers

4:45-5:30 The Dardenelles

6:00-7:00 Rathkeltair

Sunday, Feb. 17:

12:00 -12:45 GlorIna Daire Dancers

1:00 - 1:45 Seamus Kennedy

2:00 - 2:45 Irish Dancers of Savannah

3:00 - 3:45 Cathie Ryan Band

4:00 - 4:45 The Dardenelles

5:00 - 5:45 Rathkeltair

Kevin Barry's Pub Stage

Saturday, Feb. 16:

11:45 - 12:30 Savannah Ceili Band

12:45 - 1:30 Harry O'Donoghue

1:45 - 2:30 The Dardenelles

2:45 - 3:30 Rathkeltair

3:45 - 4:30 Seamus Kennedy

4:45 - 5:30 Cathie Ryan Band

Sunday, Feb. 17:

12:00 - 12:45 Savannah Ceili Band

1:00 - 1:45 The Cathie Ryan Band

2:00 - 2:45 The Dardenelles

3:00 - 3:45 Rathkeltair

4:00 - 4:45 Seamus Kennedy

For all other stage schedules and information: