Pay the Devil got together in the winter of 2011 and has been playing around the Milwaukee area ever since. Playing original tunes in a variety of styles alongside an assortment of bluegrass and old-time standards, sea shanties, folk, Irish traditional, and country music, this five-piece made up of a guitar, mandolin, banjo, upright bass, and washboard (spoons and assorted other hillbilly percussive instruments) puts on a fun live show filled with foot-stomping, thigh-slapping music, and enough hollering to go around. Our favorite descriptions we have heard are “Shantygrass”, “Riotgrass”, and “Horse Shit and Gun Music”.
Banjo Ivan moved to Milwaukee in 2010 and met Guitar Ivan playing in the Milwaukee Hurling Club. They began racing together on a sailboat and talking about music. So it began that a few times a month they would get together and play some music. One day Guitar Ivan brought his cousin Guitar Mandolin Matt along. He has been part of the group ever since.
All the while Washboard Jeremy was working in Banjo Ivan’s home town of Erie, PA, where he met Banjo Ivan’s father. When washboard Jeremy got accepted to a fellowship program at Marquette University he was told to look up Banjo Ivan when he got there.
The band, as it stands now, played for the first time just before Thanksgiving in 2011, and has been playing together ever since. With a love for playing unamplified music outdoors they have played Brady Street, Reservoir Park, The Summerfest Grounds, and on lots of back porches. Sometime between then and now Pay The Devil started playing what most would consider to be “real” shows also. They have delighted crowds large and small on notable area stages including Chill on the Hill, Milwaukee Irish Fest, Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, The Up and Under, Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co., Frank’s Power Plant, The Jazz Estate, Yield Bar, and many others. Keep checking back for schedule updates, or become a fan on facebook to get notices of impromptu shows and sessions.
Like a lot of the stuff we do the name Pay The Devil is nautically based. In the wooden ship world “paying a seam” means to fill the gap between wood planks with hot tar or pitch, rope, or cotton. The longest seam is the bottom most seam, between the keel of the boat and the first plank, down in the bilge. This seam has been referred to as “the devil” as early as 1865. The bilge, or the bottom of the ship, is the hottest, darkest, dirtiest, and all around worst place to be. Paying the Devil is the worst job on board.
Telling a sailor that “there’ll be the devil to pay” was a way of warning him that they were dangerously close to receiving punishment for their behavior.
Got all that?