By Robin Banks
What began as an acting and singing gig at the pirate-themed Crooked Toed Tavern at the 3 Barons Renaissance Fair led to a wildly fun and entertaining group now known as the Rogues and Wenches.
Self-described as “a drinking band with a small piratical Irish problem,” the group delivers humorously larger-than-life music, energy and theatrics to stages, festivals, and even the occasional pirate ship across Alaska.
Performing since 2003 the band is comprised of seven Anchorage musicians, who play a variety of both common and unusual acoustical instruments, including the accordion, guitar, violin, banjo, flute, harmonica, Bodhran (a distinct Irish handheld drum), and of course what pirate band would be complete without the sound of beating dried and cured “real” bones played enthusiastically across the stage.
The music of Rogues and Wenches consists of traditional Irish and Scottish pub songs, sea shanties, and pirate-themed music that celebrates lyrics that are both humorous and sometimes bawdy.
“Anyone who has a knowledge of Irish traditional pub music will come and enjoy our gig because they can sing along with it,” said Lucie Tappero, band vocalist and accordion and flute player.
Popular songs in the band’s music set includes Whiskey in the Jar, Beggar Man and even a tune called Old Dun Cow which tells a story of a burning pub and its patrons locking themselves in the cellar to furiously swig down all of ale and spirits before the fire department arrives.
“Our shows are more than just coming out to hear a band play music,” said Erin Wells, band vocalists and flute. “We do songs that are toasts, we do drinking songs, and you might even hear a dirty limerick. It’s always fresh and it’s always a good time.”
Reflecting back on the early days when the band first formed Tappero shared. “We had such fun in the 3 Barons Renaissance pub shows because it was singing and acting and a bunch of hilarity,” she said. “We really loved the Irish tradition and that’s why we migrated towards the idea of pub singing.”
Another unique characteristic adopted from its early music theater roots is that audiences will never see the band members out of character. “We never perform in street clothes,” said Tappero. “We either dress in pirate clothes or as Irish men and women dating back to the 1800 century. Kind of what you might see in a tavern in Ireland maybe Dublin or in Galway.”
“It’s a labor of love to perform music but it’s a huge creative outlet for all of us and we have some very talented people,” said Tappero. “But all of us have day jobs.”
Band members work in a variety of fields and by day you will find them as German immersion instructors, music and drama elementary school teachers, an aspiring symphony conductor, a banker, a professional musician, a rock-n-roll band member, and even a practicing attorney.
In addition to performing in other festivals such as Girdwood Forest Fair, Salmon Fest, and the Alaska State Fair, the band has traveled to Ireland to play in pubs and collaborate with other musicians.
“On our Ireland trips we get to sit down and jam with some of the local musicians. The Irish have a word for it ‘craic’,” said Tappero. “It’s a Gallic word and basically means having a great time, having a laugh, all wrapped up in a package. And that’s exactly what it is. Getting together with people and making music and having fun.”
Another memorable venue where the band has performed recently was the First Friday at the Anchorage Museum for the Death in the Ice Franklin Exhibition.
“We have a ballade we sing called Northwest Passage, totally on point on to the whole exhibition,” said Tappero. “It was really well received and we had a lot of fun singing at the museum.”
The band has performed at several well matched nautical themed venues, including the Kachemak Bay Festival in Homer and the Anchorage Pirate Pub Crawl where in 2018 the group performed aboard the 36-foot replica of the infamous Black Pearl pirate ship as it made it navigated the streets of downtown Anchorage to kick off event.
Rogues and Wenches’ will be performing during the upcoming Pirate Pub Crawl at Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse on Saturday September 21st where they will be performing on the back patio stage and host a costume contest for pirate pub crawlers.
“We don’t take ourselves very seriously but we take our music seriously so it’s a nice combination,” said Tappero. “Our bottom line always is we have a heck of a lot of fun and we invite you to come have some fun with us, too.”
To learn more about the band visit Rogues & Wenches on FaceBook or Instagram or visit their website at www.roguesandwenches.com.