NYC’s hardest-working St. Patrick’s Day act might just be The Prodigals, a long-running Celtic punk band that will play four back-to-back gigs in Manhattan and Queens this Friday.
One of those stops will be iconic Irish pub Paddy Reilly’s in Kips Bay, where the band have had a weekly residency for 26 years.
It was right before St. Patrick’s Day in 1997 when Prodigals leader and founding member Gregory Grene lobbied Paddy Reilly’s owner Steve Duggan to get his group its first gig at the venue.
“I knew he was from County Cavan in Ireland, my county,” Grene told The Post. “So I said, ‘Steve, any possibility of a Cavan lad getting his start here?’
“He turned to the woman beside him, and he said, ‘Joanie, what do you think?’ And she was Joanie Madden, who is a very legendary flute and whistle player,” Grene recalled.
“And she said, ‘Sure, Steve, give ’em a go.’ And that was it — without hearing us,” he said.
And for the 26 years since, The Prodigals have maintained a weekly Friday residency at Paddy Reilly’s — named after the legendary Irish singer — expanding to include Saturdays after a post-pandemic reopening.
And of course, the quartet will be playing there this Friday — from 3 to 6 p.m. — as part of a marathon pub crawl that will also include Bantry Bay in Long Island City (11 a.m.-2 p.m.), and the Hard Rock Cafe (7-10 p.m.) and Connolly’s (10:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.), both in Times Square.
But no doubt the Prodigals’ home is — and always will be — at Paddy’s, where they play to a very young crowd, most of whom weren’t even born when the band knocked back their first whiskey there.
“It’s pretty extraordinary,” said Grene, 57, who lives in The Bronx and teaches English literature at Greenwich Country Day School. “The average age is around 21.”
One of their most memorable moments at the pub occurred early on in their residency with Christy Turlington — at the height of her supermodel stardom in the late ’90s.
“She was throwing a party for [then-boyfriend] Jason Patric on a yacht in the New York Harbor, and so we played that,” said Grene. “Afterwards, she came to Paddy Reilly’s to see the band. It was a really fun, crazy, long, long night. Somebody leaked it to Page Six!”
The pub is like a second home for Grene — a photo of his twin brother, who died in the 2010 Haiti earthquake, hangs inside the venerable venue. Each year, The Prodigals hold a benefit at Paddy’s for a foundation that was established in his honor and has built a school in Haiti.
After a pandemic-induced hiatus, Grene, who handles accordion and vocals, is the only remaining original band member. He is backed by drummer Eamon Ellams, 48, guitarist Colin Forhan, 34; and flautist Sean Tierney, 35.
“It’s an iconic place,” said Yonkers resident Tierney, noting Paddy Reilly’s importance in the Irish music scene. “Everybody has played here.”
After announcing it was about to close in January, a new owner, Desi Murray — another Irishman, natch — stepped in; a planned hiatus will begin on Mar. 31, but Murray expects to reopen in May.
So what’s the magic in the Guinness-scented air?
“It’s joy, I think,” said Grene. “We’re very happily merchants of joy. The place has a great alchemy to it. Things happen here in a really lovely way … I mean, I met my daughter’s mother here. So my daughter was born in a way because of Paddy Reilly’s.”