Local band Corktown Popes to rock out in Dec. 28 show

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published December 13, 2019

 Accordion player Paul Goodmen rounds out the style of the Corktown Popes’ sound. The local rock band with an Irish twist will perform Dec. 28 at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit.

Accordion player Paul Goodmen rounds out the style of the Corktown Popes’ sound. The local rock band with an Irish twist will perform Dec. 28 at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit.

Photo by Maria Allard

 Farmington resident Jason Kuehn practices Dec. 10.

Farmington resident Jason Kuehn practices Dec. 10.

Photo by Maria Allard

METRO DETROIT — It’s a chilly December evening, and the Corktown Popes have gathered inside their second-floor rehearsal space in Ferndale.

Under a winter ski hat, singer and acoustic guitarist Terry Burns belts out an original tune at the microphone, while drummer Ron Pangborn keeps a backbeat. The melodic riffs from Jason Kuehn’s Telecaster guitar fall in sync with Dave Uricek’s bass lines. On a bar stool a few feet away sits Paul Goodmen playing an instrument not often found in a rock ‘n’ roll band — the accordion.

“Paul adds a lot of flavor we otherwise wouldn’t have,” Burns noted.

“He’s the magic sauce,” Kuehn said.

The five talented musicians were going through their set list while preparing for their upcoming show Dec. 28 at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit. The Corktown Popes have been slated to open up for reunited alternative rockers Rhythm Corps, who disbanded in the early ’90s. The concert promises to be jam-packed with music that inspires, rocks, entertains and brings back a piece of the ’80s. Burns guaranteed a few surprises during the evening.

The Corktown Popes also feature mandolin player Steve Taylor, of Lake Orion, and Thomas Donohue, of Pittsburg, on uilleann pipes, a version of bagpipes. The Corktown Popes soon will mark 10 years as a band. In 2010 — after being away from the music scene for 15 years — Burns, of Royal Oak, decided it was time to get back in the groove. There was a certain sound the frontman had in mind for starting a new group, but describing it was somewhat challenging.

“The idea I came up with was a rock band that was Irish,” he said. So Burns called up his friend Kuehn and shared his vision.

“He got it right away,” Burns said. “He knew exactly what I was talking about. After a little bit of silence he said, ‘I’m in.’ We found each other at the same time.”

“We’ve always been big fans of Celtic music, but I never thought of doing it,” said Kuehn, a Farmington resident who once played with the local band Robb Roy. “We’re more of a rock band with an Irish accent than an Irish band that rocks.”

The Corktown Popes have withstood several lineup changes while maintaining their core mix of rock ‘n’ roll, Irish vibe and strong musicianship. Burns and Kuehn are the primary songwriters.

“We just wanted a project when you feel alive,” Burns said. “You’re going to give everything. You’re in the moment.”

“The band has the most consistent energy,” Kuehn said. “I think we always have a good time.”

For the past decade, the Corktown Popes have attracted fans by playing shows around metro Detroit, including gigs at the Loving Touch in Ferndale, Noel Night in Detroit, and Arts, Beats and Eats in Royal Oak. Seeing the band live is like meeting up for a Guinness beer with your best friend.

The band has also garnered followers through YouTube, with videos for “I’m Not Lucky,” filmed at the New Dodge Bar in Hamtramck; “Tonite It’s Joy”; “The Gist”; and “45th Parallel.” To date, the Corktown Popes have released three CDs: “The Body and the Blood,” “Live Catechism” and “And Also with You.” The latter is the only CD currently available.  

“As far as our rhythm section, Ron is our go-to guy,” Burns said, adding that Pangborn has toured with Sheryl Crow, Was Not Was, Matthew Sweet and Freedy Johnston. Pangborn, a Grosse Pointe Park resident, knew at age 8 that he wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll after he saw the Beatles appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964.

“The matching clothes, the girls screaming, the cool instruments,” he said. “It was the coolest thing in the world.”

It was a similar scenario for Kuehn.

“When I got my first Beatles record, I wanted to do that,” he said.

Uricek, a Berkley resident influenced by Jimi Hendrix and the Mothers of Invention, is the newest band member who joined this year.

“It was St. Patrick’s Day and I texted Terry and said, ‘Let me know if you ever need a bass player,’” Uricek said.

“Guess what? We did,” Burns said. That was pretty much the audition for the bassist, who also has performed with Tosha Owens and Wayne Kramer from the MC5.

Prior to becoming a Corktown Pope, Goodmen honed his accordion skills touring with polka band DynaBrass.

“I started playing accordion when I was 8,” said Goodmen, of Port Huron, who listens to all genres of music. “My parents were Polish. We listened to polka music all the time.”

The Corktown Popes’ music is available on Amazon, CD Baby, Pandora, Spotify and iTunes. The band is working on new music to be released in 2020.

St. Andrew’s Hall is located at 431 E. Congress St. in Detroit. Doors for the Dec. 28 show open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are general admission. For more information, call (313) 961-8961.