DJ Irish could find a beat before he could talk.
“Apparently at 6 months, my mom and dad came into the bedroom in the middle of the night, and they heard this loud noise,” says the DJ born Kelly Charles O’Neill. “I had rocked my entire crib to the other side of the room, just bumping.”
O’Neill, whose roster of residencies around town includes dates four times weekly at Excalibur’s Octane Lounge, was born in Kansas, but had lived in Nebraska, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana by the time he graduated from college. And, by age 2, he already was indulging his love of percussion via congas made out of Quaker Oats boxes.
“It drove my dad crazy because I was constantly tapping on everything,” O’Neill says. “But then we found out it was going to get me a full-ride (college) scholarship.”
O’Neill landed his first paying drumming gig, in a “country, Christian, Southern-rock band,” at age 14. As he continued performing, O’Neill discovered that, while programming music between sets, his drumming skills translated well to juggling the varying rhythms of DJing.
During college, O’Neill began to DJ at fraternity parties and music festivals. After graduating, and in pursuit of a longtime dream, he flew to Las Vegas to seek a job as a professional drummer.
O’Neill supported himself by, among other things, working at a guitar store and an electronics store. Then, by chance, he met a woman at a Starbucks who happened to know the House of Blues’ entertainment director.
Long story short: O’Neill was hired, spent three years there and, along the way, added to his roster of gigs dates at an assortment of venues.
Currently, his residencies include Octane Lounge at Excalibur, 3850 Las Vegas Blvd. South, at 8:15 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays and 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and Carnaval Court at Harrah’s, 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. South, at 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Wherever he works, O’Neill enjoys playing to the crowd, whether their requests are for Latin, house or even country.
“Most DJs in this town, they may play only one request a night,” he says. “I average 20 or 30, because if you’re not giving the crowd what they want … then what are you doing?”
— By JOHN PRZYBYS