RUNA in Pastorius: On the Road Again

When the pandemic hit, the Irish supergroup RUNA found itself off the road for about a year and a half. Now, they’re back, touring the country, playing a wide variety of outdoor festivals and indoor venues, and making up for lost time.

You’ll see them Wednesday, July 6, in Pastorius Park, another stellar offering as part of the park summer concert series.

No one is happier about the band’s busy-ness than Shannon Lambert-Ryan, RUNA lead singer, bodhrán player, and step dancer.  

“We started last August with the Milwaukee Irish Fest and did a few others throughout August, September, and October,” she says. “They were all outdoor gigs. In addition to Milwaukee, we played the Peoria Irish Fest in Illinois, the Kansas City in Missouri, and the Michigan Irish Fest. And we were in Bethlehem (at the Celtic Classic), sort of our ‘home’ gig. And then up to New England for a festival in Mystic Seaport as well. So, we had a nice run of gigs, but all of them were outdoors until February, when we played our first indoor shows. 

“We felt fortunate to be out for the festivals in the summer, but wary at the same time. That was when the Delta surge had just gotten started. Aside from when we were on stage, we were masked all the time. And when traveling, eating outdoors or in the car, all that kind of stuff.”

As good as it was to be on the road again, the band managed to remain busy during the down time, wrapping up a holiday album, released in December 2020. They’ve also been working on a regular (non-holiday) album. Much of their pandemic recording has been conducted remotely, with the group’s musicians recording their parts and sending it back to the band’s singer-guitarist and Lambert-Ryan’s husband Fionán de Barra for mixing.

There are pros and cons to that approach, Lambert-Ryan explains. “When you are working together creatively and you’re in the same space, you get an idea of the energy and the vibe of things that work much more quickly than when you’re doing them remotely,” she says. “Remotely is a lot more clinical, and you listen to each other better together than when you’re working remotely. So, there are pros and cons both ways, but we’ve certainly felt ridiculously lucky for the technology that’s available now, and that we’ve been able to continue to connect and continue to be creative, because if those things weren’t available, we’d have to make very different arrangements or wait longer periods of time (to be together).”

Much of what will appear on the new album, when it’s finished, are tunes that the band is currently performing, and some brand-new material that just hasn’t been recorded yet.

You’ll hear many of those tunes next Wednesday in Pastorius. Get ready for some excitement. The band’s joy in being able to perform for live audiences is contagious. At all the band’s performances, Lambert-Ryan says, the energy has just been “explosive, because we’re all just so excited to be there.” At this point in the pandemic’s evolution, audiences are just ready to hear—and respond to—live music. 

“You take those things for granted until they’re not there,” she says. “I think everybody is ready to be together and in the same space, with that same energy. I think that just encapsulates that sense of excitement everybody’s been having. And so, when we go out to a show and people are happy to be there, having a good time, that’s just everything to us. The ante is upped for everyone in a big way. No one is taking it for granted.”

The show begins at 7:30 next Wednesday evening (July 6) in the park, located a couple of blocks in from Germantown Avenue, at Millman Street. Photo by Tim Reilly.