For an Irishman living in California, the opening of an Irish pub near your house is a gift from God and a taste of home. "I was there while the paint was still wet on the walls," said Steve Twigger. "It was like being in Heaven." Patrick Murphy was the manager of O'Brien's. "On opening night a beach bum walked into the bar," he recalls. "We said sorry we're not open just yet, we'll open the doors at 6 p.m. He said he was just dropping off a good luck gift for the bar and just wanted to say hello." The beach bum was Twigger and the gift was a framed Guinness poster and to this day is still hanging on the walls of O'Brien's on Main Street in Santa Monica. "In other words Twigger was looking for free booze," Murphy said. Because it was an Irish pub frequented and managed by real Irishmen, weekend jam sessions started popping up and a band that included Twigger on guitar and Murphy on vocals started to gel. "On St. Patrick's Day, 1996, we had our first proper show," Twigger said. Although he played guitar, he'd mostly worked in rock bands, not Celtic folk groups. "I learned 44 songs," he said. "Well, I learned around 20 and faked my way through the rest. "The crowd went crazy and we never really looked back." Gaelic Storm was born. In addition to playing the traditional Irish pub and folk tunes, they soon began writing their own as they traveled around the country. "It's been our goal to expand the genre and overlap it with mainstream music - or at least bring it out of the pigeon hole. "Just as 'jam-band' music has grown in popularity, people enjoy the musicianship, seeing real people play real instruments, not just music coming out of a box in the corner." An appearance in the movie "Titanic" boosted their efforts. A growing national interest in Irish and Celtic hasn't hurt. "It's still going strong all over the country," Twigger said. "New Irish festivals are still popping up." Their latest set, "Bring Your Wellies," refers back to the posters for the band's first gig at O'Brien's. Wellies are rubber boots.