IN the 19 years since he's been living in the States, Young Dubliners frontman Keith Roberts has missed playing exactly one St. Patrick's Day. Three years ago in Miami, the band was booked for an outdoor gig. "It lashed rain and we didn't get to play," Roberts recalls.
On Saturday, the Dubliners will be playing in San Diego. However, Roberts wants the L.A. faithful to know the band has not abandoned them. When the group headlines the Key Club on Friday, he promises there will a countdown to midnight, a la New Year's Eve.
But for those who either can't make it to the Key Club or don't want to drive down to San Diego, Roberts filled us in on where he'd be hanging in L.A. when everyone's favorite color turns green if he wasn't playing.
"The first [pub] I went to is Molly Malone's on Fairfax. That has been a legendary spot for years," he says. "It became a real rock venue, which I loved. It was a good rock place to be hanging out in and still feel at home, and that's what an Irish pub is supposed to be. It's more about the attitude and the fun you have in there than whether or not there's a shillelagh hanging on the wall."
However, Molly's is just one option. "Probably where I would go would be in Santa Monica, there's O'Brien's and Finn McCool's. They're both on Main Street in Santa Monica and I think on St. Paddy's Day they will be absolutely bananas," he says.
And what makes them so special? "These are two classic examples of the two different styles of an Irish pub. O'Brien's is all about the owners. They've got good food and music in the back, and it's a fun place to be. Finn McCool's on the other hand, when I first came here, was Merlin McFly's. It was a brilliant bar with karaoke every Sunday. But the owner of that bar always liked to reinvent herself every now and again, so it became a country/western bar for a long time. Then all of a sudden it became Finn McCool's and it's a very authentic-looking Irish pub."
His last pub of choice: "A bar called the Irish Times on Motor in West L.A. It's in a very upscale, suburban area, then you come around the corner and here's this Irish pub," he says. "Again, it's all about the attitude. On Friday a lot of the Irish meet there for their sort of end-of-the-week pint and their chance to sort of tell each other the sort of war stories of the week."
For those looking for something other than a pub crawl, Roberts suggests the Celtic Arts Center in Studio City. "They've been putting on Irish plays for years and folk bands and more traditional stuff. That's a great place to really feel connected to the theater again, 'cause I grew up in the theater back in Dublin," he says. "They've got this little theater and then a little tiny pub off the side of it. So you can go watch a play or see a band or whatever, then you become sort of the part of set, they serve you a drink and everybody's just hanging out with the actors."
* The Young Dubliners, the Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. 7 p.m. Friday. $25. (310) 274-5800.
* Molly Malone's, 575 S. Fairfax, L.A. Doors at 6 a.m. Saturday. $5 cover before 2 p.m.; $10 after. (323) 935-1577.
* O'Brien's Pub & Restaurant, 2941 Main St., Santa Monica. Doors at 6 a.m. Saturday. Free before 3 p.m.; $10 after. (310) 396-4725.
* Finn McCool's, 2702 Main St., Santa Monica. Doors at 9 a.m. Saturday. $10 cover. (310) 452-1734.
* Irish Times, 3267 Motor Ave., L.A. Doors at 10 a.m. Saturday. $12 cover. (310) 559-9648.
* Celtic Arts Center, "The Celtic Shakespeare," 4843 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Studio City. 8 p.m. Saturday. $15. (818) 760-8322.
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Parades and festivals
* Los Angeles St. Patrick's Day Parade, Pershing Square, downtown. 11:30 a.m. Friday. Free. www.lafd.org/stpats.htm.
* South Bay St. Patrick's Day Parade & Festival, Valley Avenue at Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Parade at 11 a.m. Saturday). Free. www.stpatricksday.org. Irish dance, music, food and a children's carnival.
* Canoga Park Fifth Annual St. Patrick's Day Community March & Celebration, 21622 Sherman Way, Canoga Park. 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Free. (818) 346-7480. Family-friendly event with storytelling, leprechauns.
* The Fenians, House of Blues Anaheim, 1530 S. Disneyland Drive. 8 p.m. Saturday. $22.50 to $25. (714) 778-2583. The O.C. Irish quintet, whose music ranges from traditional folk to originals, has become a staple at the House of Blues, with this year marking its sixth annual soiree.
* St. Patrick's Day Feast Cooking Class, California School of Culinary Arts, East Campus, 530 Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. $95. (626) 683-1354. Chefs teach students how to prepare a traditional Irish feast including corned beef and cabbage, colcannon and, to make sure the class stays in the St. Paddy's Day party mode, a green beer Bailey's Irish cream cheesecake.