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The Michael O’Brian Band consists of Michael Zerbee and Brian
Anderson. They met in the mid-seventies and have performed together in rock bands since 1976. Then, in 1998, they had the
opportunity to hear live Celtic music and were inspired by the amazing spirit of the music and decided to perform Irish music
themselves. Searching for a moniker to convey they were an Irish act, they struck on the idea of using their first names and
formed “The Michael O’ Brian Band”.
The band spins an audience-participation show heavily laced with humor, parodies, tongue-twisters,
toasts, jokes and Irish pub songs with occasional ballads and rebel tunes. The emphasis is always for the audience to enjoy
their time with the band and to keep the show up-beat and lively...and the audience involved - sometimes literally - audience
members are often invited onstage to perform with the band. They are not a band that plays background music nor
dance music, although they will do some more contemporary renditions that may cause the audience to spontaneously jump out
of their seats.
music is simple with Michael’s guitar work as the foundation, and Brian adding the flute, penny whistle and Bodhran
(Irish drum). The final touches are the rich vocal harmonies. What really makes the act is the cohesive chemistry between
the performers. An interesting chemistry, some twenty years in the making, that says to the audience, “These guys are
having a good time. Let’s join the fun”. The audience always becomes an important part of the show.
Although you will most often hear their
performance in Pubs (Irish or otherwise), their brand of entertainment appeals to all ages and has been seen at a variety
of events including numerous Firemen Conventions, Spyglass Ridge Winery Celtic Festival in Sunbury, Johnstown Folk Festival,
Johnstown Ethnic Festival, Erie Irish Festival, Thunder in the Valley, State College Arts Festival, Blair County Arts
Festival, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historical Site, Holiday Valley Resort in New York, Fire & Ice Festival
in Somerset, Apple Cider Festival Glendale Lake. Some Pubs they like to frequent are The Phyrst in State College, the Johnstown
Inn, Molly Maguires in Altoona, Mullhany's Harp & Fiddle in Pittsburgh and others far too numerous to mention here.
They've recorded 5 CD's (all live to try to capture some of the essence of the show) and are working on a sixth.
We're on Barry Loius
Polisar's Tribute Album: "We're Not Kidding!". A tribute to Barry (the man who has written more children's songs
than we can count, (including "I Wanna Be A Dog"). This 2-disc set features artists from around the world covering
Barry's songs. Sixty songs have been compiled by Aaron Cohen of The Radioactive Chickenheads and re-imagined and performed
by musicians in genres as diverse as hip-hop, folk, rap, jazz, klezmer, rock.....and, of course, IRISH!. Your can hear our
version of Barry's song "Potty Training" here: http://www.barrylou.com/tributeAlbum.html
their name is better than the music”
By Mike O’Brien (no connection to Michael O’Brian Band)
Somerset Daily American Staff Writer
June 6, 2003
(article reprinted with permission)
If ever there
was a musical band that shared your birth name (give or take a letter), what kind of music would you hope they play?
Would it be polka music? Speed metal? Gospel? New Age pan flute arrangements?
Now, perhaps it’s just a
coincidence, but the two-man band known throughout the region as The Michael O’Brian Band happens to specialize in the
timeless art of Irish pub music, the very same type of music that my ears have listened to and appreciated ever since I was
a wee one.
How’s that for the luck of the Irish?
Starting when I was just knee-high to a grasshopper,
I can clearly remember the Saturday evenings when my parents would bring my older sister Katie, my younger brother Danny and
me to a place called Brittingham’s Pub near our home in suburban Philadelphia. It was there that the clans of Murphy,
McMullen and Burke (to name but a few) would gather to listen to another duo of Irish singers by the name of Timlin and Kane
ply their trade and cast spells of old Ireland upon any open ear.
Even now, I can still recall the crisp sound
of Dad’s college ring knocking in time with the music against a long, crowded table as he sand along with Jerry and
Tom on stage while Mom kept us kids quiet and happy, with endless plates of cheese and crackers and bottomless glasses of
soda. Like a form of osmosis, the music of those nights and the history it contained must have seeped into my young head
and has continued to echo there ever since.
So it’s déjà vu all over again last Saturday night
at Ace’s Bar in Johnstown, only this time “my” band took the stage as my parents and I took our seats to
once again enjoy a particular brand of humor, music and stories that can only be classified as live Irish culture. The only
difference between the nights of long ago and the nights of now is that I am no longer relegated to drinking soda at such
…..As the dozens of pairs of ancient Hibernian hands clapped in unison, palms turned red
as the faces, which emitted whoops and whistles at the conclusion of each well-played song.
After their set was
concluded, I went up to the stage to say hello to Mike and Brian and ask about getting one of the band’s T-shirts they
had on display. I am a fan of theirs, after all, and there is a picture on the wall by the bar at my home with me mugging
between both kilted gentlemen on stage at another recent show.
“So is there a discount on the T-shirt price for
guys with the same name as the band?” asked I after a round of handshakes.
As it turns out, there is no such
discount, but it mattered little anyway because I probably would have given them all the money in my pocket just to own a
unique (at least to me) T-shirt.
The front of the shirt shows a caricature of Michael and Brian in kilts and the
name of the band above their heads. The back of the T-shirt simply reads:
“Irishmen For Hire: Singing, Dancing,
Story Telling; Experienced Drinking Partners.”
After seeing that shirt, I realized that at least one of two
things must be true: Either that they had picked a most appropriate name for their band and/or else my parents had picked
a most appropriate name for their middle child.
So if you ever get a chance to catch the Michael O’Brian
Band live,…..by all means do it; you will no doubt enjoy yourself even if your name isn’t O’Brien, or even
O’Brian for that matter.
(Mike O’Brien is the staff photographer and a writer for the Somerset Daily
American. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Michael & Brian,
Thank you for your fabulous performance. The students really enjoyed you. They were talking
about you for days.
You really should perform for more schools. Your performance was age appropriate and very
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
Neshannock Memorial School"
Disc News page, Altoona Mirror:
"If you didn't get enough Irish entertainment this past St Patrick's
Day, you can bring the area's premiere Irish pub party to your living room stereo, courtesy of the double-disc live set "live
at Irwins," by Altoona's Michael O'Brian Band.
Recorded in January of last year at Irwin's Tavern in Altoona, "Live
at Irwin's" is a two-hour party of Irish pub music and Celtic folk favorites. Brian Anderson and Mike Zerbee blend traditional
tunes and instrumentation, lively banter, frequent humor and several pints of Guinness into and upbeat, frollicking party
that will have you clapping and singing along.
Nearly every song is a highlight, as the two performers encourage audience
participation, often with funny results. Listen as tongues become tied and confused during the hilarious rendition of "Sara
Sara", or hear the performers and the audience race against the bottom of the beer glass on "Barley Mow." THe
CD includes the familiar favorites "Whiskey in the Jar," "The Unicorn" and "Irish Rover," plus
the light-hearted "Tribute to the Armed Forces."
Anderson and Zerbee keep the mood good-natured and witty onstage,
and the festive atmosphere escalates as both performers and Irwin's audience feed off each other's energy.
at Irwin's" will make the ideal soundtrack for finishing up your leftover corned beef and cabbage, and also makes a good
refresher disc to help you practice up for next year's St Patty's Day celebrations."
---Jim Price, for the