Fergus “Fergie” Carey -- publican, supporter of all things locally theatrical, and, of course, Irishman -- recently added radio show host to his list of jobs when he and fellow Dublin expatriate Sean Timmons started their weekly Craic Radio music program on Inauguration Day.
Craic, a Gaelic term for that which is fun, airs on PhillyCAM’s WPPM-FM (106.5) from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursdays, and online at Phillycam.org. It features the duo's yin-yang personal caches of musical memories from home and here, up-to-date playlists of modern indie Irish acts (e.g. Brave Giant, the Dove & the Wolf, Gypsies on the Autobahn), and songs and interviews with Philadelphia’s finest musicians. “If you have mighty craic, you’re having a blast,” Carey says.
With a voice like a hippie Peter Ustinov, Fergie talks about how he and Timmons -- a talent buyer for Mole Street Productions whom Carey calls “a great guy, better than I” -- came up with the concept of doing a radio program. “The shows we like repeat themselves. We should see if we could do our own program.”
As luck would have it, Gretchen Clausing, the doyenne of Philly public access television, was looking for content when she and PhillyCAM launched a radio station. New and open, PhillyCAM welcomed “two Irish guys, two longtime Philadelphians who love music and love the scene.”
“When we play Irish, it’s mostly new music that’s captured us, separately or collectively; not the usual stuff,” Carey says.
Then again, there are Carey segments such as “Discovery/Rediscovery” that focus on U.K. acts known in the U.S. as one-hit wonders (e.g. Madness, Kate Bush, T. Rex, Sparks) but who had countless smashes on British and Irish charts. And there's Carey’s “Concert of Note” which, so far, has included shows with native Irish rockers Thin Lizzy and Van Morrison, as well as something as recent and local as January’s "The Last Waltz 40" tribute show to The Band at the Kimmel. “It’s deeply personal and highly subjective what we air,” Carey says with a chuckle.
The focus on locals in conversation and on Craic’s playlists is a lovely draw, and such insiders as Tin Angel’s Donal McCoy, Weathervane Music’s Brian McTear, and smart folkie Jon Houlon have been featured.
“We’ll go to them with Sean’s portable equipment or they’ll come to us, like [Mike] 'Slo-Mo' Brenner did at Fergie’s,” Carey says, pointing out Thursday’s guest, the Philly-area pedal steel guitar whiz. “I’m always running into musicians at my bar, whether hanging or playing. Songwriter Kalob Griffin, you should be my guest. Trumpeter Matt Cappy, who played with Michael and Janet Jackson, you should be my guest. I gave the Districts gigs at my bar when they were too young, so we’ll get them on soon.”
The same conviviality Carey is known for as a barkeep in his eponymous Sansom Street Pub - his longtime business partner Wajih Abed, 71, died Saturday, Feb. 4 - is what makes Craic Radio personable and warm. In a big small city such as Philly, there’s an intimacy between chatty musicians and their favorite barman. And Carey has a knack for finding good storytellers and kindred spirits.
“These musicians do so many different projects and are so interesting," he says. "Sean and I are both huge music heads and fans, so Craic is great fun.”