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From the Hollidaysburg Area Women's Club

Johnstown Magazine March 2013

The Michael O'Brian Band
Bio & Reviews

The Michael O’Brian Band consists of Michael Zerbee and Brian Anderson. They met in the mid-seventies and have performed together in rock bands since 1976. Then, in 1998, they had the opportunity to hear live Celtic music and were inspired by the amazing spirit of the music and decided to perform Irish music themselves.

The band spins an audience-participation show heavily laced with humor, parodies, tongue-twisters, toasts, jokes and Irish pub songs with occasional ballads and rebel tunes. The emphasis is always for the audience to enjoy their time with the band and to keep the show up-beat and lively...and the audience involved. They are not a band that plays background music nor dance music, although they will do some more contemporary renditions that may cause the audience to spontaneously jump out of their seats.

The music is simple with Michael’s guitar work as the foundation, and Brian adding the flute, penny whistle and Bodhran (Irish drum). The final touches are the rich vocal harmonies. What really makes the act is the cohesive chemistry between the performers. An interesting chemistry, some twenty years in the making, that says to the audience: “These guys are having a good time. Let’s join the fun”. The audience always becomes an important part of the show.

The Michael O’Brian Band Grand Tour of Ireland occurred in July of 2014 where they performed in Dublin, Galway, Killarney, Belfast and Derry.

Although you will most often hear their performance in Pubs (Irish or otherwise), their brand of entertainment appeals to all ages and has been seen at a variety of events including: numerous Firemen Conventions, Spyglass Ridge Winery Celtic Festival in Sunbury, Johnstown Folk Festival, Johnstown Ethnic Festival, Erie Irish Festival, Thunder in the Valley, State College Arts Festival, Blair County Arts Festival, Allegheny Portage National Historical Site, Holiday Valley Resort in New York, Fire & Ice Festival in Somerset, Apple Cider Festival Glendale Lake. Some Pubs they like to frequent are The Phyrst in State College, Molly Maguires in Altoona, Mullhany's Harp & Fiddle in Pittsburgh and others far too numerous to mention here.
They've recorded 6 CD's (all live to try to capture some of the essence of the show).



We're on Barry Loius Polisar's Tribute Album: "We're Not Kidding!". A tribute to Barry (the man who has written more children's songs than we can count, (including "I Wanna Be A Dog"). This 2-disc set features artists from around the world covering Barry's songs. Sixty songs have been compiled by Aaron Cohen of The Radioactive Chickenheads and re-imagined and performed by musicians in genres as diverse as hip-hop, folk, rap, jazz, klezmer, rock.....and, of course, IRISH!. Your can hear our version of Barry's song "Potty Training" here:


“Only their name is better than the music”

By Mike O’Brien (no connection to Michael O’Brian Band)
Somerset Daily American Staff Writer
June 6, 2003
(article reprinted with permission)

If ever there was a musical band that shared your birth name (give or take a letter), what kind of music would you hope they play?

Would it be polka music? Speed metal? Gospel? New Age pan flute arrangements?

Now, perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but the two-man band known throughout the region as The Michael O’Brian Band happens to specialize in the timeless art of Irish pub music, the very same type of music that my ears have listened to and appreciated ever since I was a wee one.

How’s that for the luck of the Irish?

Starting when I was just knee-high to a grasshopper, I can clearly remember the Saturday evenings when my parents would bring my older sister Katie, my younger brother Danny and me to a place called Brittingham’s Pub near our home in suburban Philadelphia. It was there that the clans of Murphy, McMullen and Burke (to name but a few) would gather to listen to another duo of Irish singers by the name of Timlin and Kane ply their trade and cast spells of old Ireland upon any open ear.

Even now, I can still recall the crisp sound of Dad’s college ring knocking in time with the music against a long, crowded table as he sand along with Jerry and Tom on stage while Mom kept us kids quiet and happy, with endless plates of cheese and crackers and bottomless glasses of soda. Like a form of osmosis, the music of those nights and the history it contained must have seeped into my young head and has continued to echo there ever since.

So it’s déjà vu all over again last Saturday night at Ace’s Bar in Johnstown, only this time “my” band took the stage as my parents and I took our seats to once again enjoy a particular brand of humor, music and stories that can only be classified as live Irish culture. The only difference between the nights of long ago and the nights of now is that I am no longer relegated to drinking soda at such events. ….

…..As the dozens of pairs of ancient Hibernian hands clapped in unison, palms turned red as the faces, which emitted whoops and whistles at the conclusion of each well-played song.

After their set was concluded, I went up to the stage to say hello to Mike and Brian and ask about getting one of the band’s T-shirts they had on display. I am a fan of theirs, after all, and there is a picture on the wall by the bar at my home with me mugging between both kilted gentlemen on stage at another recent show.
“So is there a discount on the T-shirt price for guys with the same name as the band?” asked I after a round of handshakes.

As it turns out, there is no such discount, but it mattered little anyway because I probably would have given them all the money in my pocket just to own a unique (at least to me) T-shirt.

The front of the shirt shows a caricature of Michael and Brian in kilts and the name of the band above their heads. The back of the T-shirt simply reads:
“Irishmen For Hire: Singing, Dancing, Story Telling; Experienced Drinking Partners.”

After seeing that shirt, I realized that at least one of two things must be true: Either that they had picked a most appropriate name for their band and/or else my parents had picked a most appropriate name for their middle child.

So if you ever get a chance to catch the Michael O’Brian Band live,… all means do it; you will no doubt enjoy yourself even if your name isn’t O’Brien, or even O’Brian for that matter.

(Mike O’Brien is the staff photographer and a writer for the Somerset Daily American. He can be reached at


"Dear Michael & Brian,

Thank you for your fabulous performance. The students really enjoyed you. They were talking about you for days.

You really should perform for more schools. Your performance was age appropriate and very entertaining.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
Susan Pfuhl
Neshannock Memorial School"

From the Disc News page, Altoona Mirror:

"If you didn't get enough Irish entertainment this past St Patrick's Day, you can bring the area's premiere Irish pub party to your living room stereo, courtesy of the double-disc live set "live at Irwins," by Altoona's Michael O'Brian Band.
Recorded in January of last year at Irwin's Tavern in Altoona, "Live at Irwin's" is a two-hour party of Irish pub music and Celtic folk favorites. Brian Anderson and Mike Zerbee blend traditional tunes and instrumentation, lively banter, frequent humor and several pints of Guinness into and upbeat, frollicking party that will have you clapping and singing along.
Nearly every song is a highlight, as the two performers encourage audience participation, often with funny results. Listen as tongues become tied and confused during the hilarious rendition of "Sara Sara", or hear the performers and the audience race against the bottom of the beer glass on "Barley Mow." THe CD includes the familiar favorites "Whiskey in the Jar," "The Unicorn" and "Irish Rover," plus the light-hearted "Tribute to the Armed Forces."
Anderson and Zerbee keep the mood good-natured and witty onstage, and the festive atmosphere escalates as both performers and Irwin's audience feed off each other's energy.
"Live at Irwin's" will make the ideal soundtrack for finishing up your leftover corned beef and cabbage, and also makes a good refresher disc to help you practice up for next year's St Patty's Day celebrations."
---Jim Price, for the Mirror