IRISH MUSIC FOCUSES ON BURKE'S FAMILY ROOTS
For nearly 16 years, the Shenanigans have been entertaining bargoers and audiences with a mix of traditional Irish music and contemporary songs.
Although band members have come and gone, the Shenanigans are currently composed of two families of fathers and sons: the Burkes and the Kaufmans.
It all started when Bellevue resident Tim Burke attended a conference at Massachusetts Institute of Technology on behalf of his employer, OPPD. While in the Boston area, Burke went to several bars to hear bands playing Irish music. He liked the way they sounded and decided to start playing his own music.
Burke started out playing with his nephew, Greg Flattery, a music teacher at Lincoln Pius X High School. A friend of his heard his music and asked him to play at O’Brien’s Lounge in Omaha one night.
“We only had about two hours worth of music, and he said ‘play more, start over,’” Burke said.
After that gig, they started playing at more bars around town, including Pat and Wally’s in Bellevue.
“They were good supporters of the Shenanigans,” Burke said.
The composition of the band has changed over time. Slattery moved to Milwaukee, and for years it was just Burke and his sons. Later, Bryan Kaufman and his son, Justin, joined.
“We come from a strong Irish Catholic family,” Burke said. “My dad was 100 percent Irish. The whole family network is critically important.
The makeup of the band the past four years has been Tim singing and on acoustic guitar; son Pat Burke on keyboard, Irish drum and singing; son Matt Burke singing and playing the mandolin; Bryan Kaufman on bass guitar and Justin Kaufman on electric guitar. Another of Bryan’s sons, Luke, recently joined the band and now plays the box drums.
“Our claim to fame is great Irish harmonies and that’s something different and unique. Some bands have incredibly good musicians and vocals that are kind of mediocre,” Burke said.
“We have a good mix of instrumentals that are good and our harmonies are really good as well.”
The Shenanigans also play songs from Johnny Cash and John Denver and they usually end every set with “American Pie” and “God Bless the USA.”
“It’s great to engage the audience, and they have fun when they’re engaged,” Burke said.
In 2009, Burke and his family had a chance to rediscover their roots with a trip to Ireland. While abroad, Burke and his sons played at a bed-and-breakfast in Westport. Burke hopes to make a return visit to Ireland so the Shenanigans can play again.
For Burke, the best part about playing in the Shenanigans is spending time with his sons.
“We’re blessed to have our kids be the age that they want to play with us and be with us,” Burke said. “The families have become closer because of this, and that’s probably more important than anything.”
The Shenanigans play anywhere from 10 to 12 times a year.
“The place we play most is at the Dubliner.” Burke said, referring to a bar in Omaha’s Old Market.
They also play at Irish Fest at Holy Cross Catholic Church in September, as well as in bars in Sioux City and Lincoln and a number of fundraisers in the Omaha area.
“It’s been an opportunity to give back to the community, and we’re always excited about that,” Burke said.
All the members of the band have busy day jobs and according to Burke, they play about as much as they want to.
The Shenanigans next show will be on April 17 and 18 at the Dubliner in Omaha.