Our very last gig of the year was performing on New Year's Eve at O'Malley's Pub, a not-unpredictable finish to the year. It had been several years (2003) since the last time we rang in the New Year in Weston. The night was a party from the word 'go'. The pub was mostly full when we arrived, albeit lean on the regulars that ordinarily show up for us. So when the regulars started to trickle in, it got very busy. The crowd was into the show the entire night, which we kept laced with as many high-octane songs that we could manage. Mike wrangled a countdown coordinated with the folks in the upper cellar, where Bob Reeder was performing. After the New Year was officially rung in, we went another 45 minutes before calling it quits. It was a great evening overall.
PLAZA PUB / TIPPERARY INN
It was all about pushing the holiday window this weekend as we eked out two more performances prior to Christmas week, this time returning to DFW for our final quarterly appearance of the year at the Plaza Pub and the Tipperary Inn. The weekend began with being picked up by Leah at Love Field and driving straight to the Plaza Pub with only one pit-stop (to pick up music-stands and CD-holders). The crowd started out fair-to-middling but grew over the course of the evening. Ed was his usual incredibly-appreciative self. When the evening was over, it was over to Chez Bob and into bed as soon as possible. The next day began with a fairly late morning, some web-surfing (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, &c), lunch at the Olive Garden (courtesy of Bob) which is quickly becoming its own tradition, and a little afternoon napping before heading over to the Tipperary Inn. The crowd was large, despite it being a few days before Christmas. Toward the end of the evening, there was a brief yet noteworthy moment of elevated tensions on account of some folks who arrived after last-call at a nearby sports-bar (and following a Dallas Cowboys' loss), and who didn't appear to have come for the music. It was nearly like playing behind the chicken-wire at the Double Deuce... but only nearly. The evening ended without incident, and it was back home to Bob's. The next morning saw the traditional send-off breakfast at IHOP, and a just two short hours later, the weekend was over.
MVFS SWINNEY VOLKER PRESENTATION
This past Friday, we had our first-ever school-presentation in our career, turning in an hour-long appearance at Swinney Volker Elementary School for an educational performance on behalf of the Missouri Valley Folklife Society. It was a fun and busy evening, with a spaghetti-dinner and PTA-meeting that preceded the concert and a book-fair that ran in conjunction with the evening. There was a good crowd for the performance, and several handfuls of kids stayed afterwards to visit with us and see the instruments up close.
WESTON IRISH FESTIVAL
We doubled up gigs this weekend with a Friday-evening appearance at the Weston Irish Festival. And what more is there to say about this unique gem of a festival in historic Weston. We joined an impressive list of national, regional, and local favorites that included the Young Dubliners, the Elders, the Clumsy Lovers, Brigid's Cross, the Mickey Finns, the Wild Colonial Bhoys, Flannigan's Right Hook, Ellis Island, Kelly, Connie Dover, Eddie Delahunt, Bob Reeder, and Tom Dahill. We (quite literally) squeezed in an appearance in the upper cellar on a beautiful Friday night, playing for an enthusiastic crowd before giving the stage over to Bob Reeder. Afterwards, there was a lot of visiting outside while perusing some of the merchandise tents and taking in the music of the Clumsy Lovers before calling it a night and heading home. It was unfortunate to miss out on the remainder of the weekend, but you can't be in two places at once.
August 30th - October 13th
KANSAS CITY RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL
Much like last year, we returned for the entire run of the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. With all the time spent in planning the Scotland tour, not much time was left to plan the second half of the 2008 season. So we created a new experience out at KCRF, joining the Limeybirds down at the Seafarer's Beergarden with an entirely amplified show. We'd made the arrangements earlier in the year when we contracted to do the show, and made the technical enhancements necessary to do a low-profile amplified performance. The changes had the desired effect of getting us heard by bigger crowds (not to mention doubling CD-sales - never a bad thing).
In addition to sound reinforcement, performing at the Beergarden presented us with a couple of challenges - putting up the shade-cloth, and reviving the cabana - the oasis of good times behind the Beergarden stage erected on behalf of MentalPause a few seasons back. While Phyllis would end up joining Krista to perform as the SweetTarts on the Town Hall stage this season, she went the extra mile to help whip the cabana back into shape for use by ourselves and the Limeys, and as a respite for an occasional visit. Sharing the stage with the Limeys was a genuine treat. The line-up this year was Laura, Christine, and Jeanine - all lovely, funny, talented ladies and a joy to spend seven weekends with.
Overall, the weather was great, with only a couple rainy days and a couple cold days. The crowds were good, no doubt due to the amplification. Mick McGuire (Mark) was a regular at the Royal Cigar Smoker and did his share to help out with the Pub Sing - which started out a bit rough but settled into a groove halfway through the second weekend. We got to spend some quality visiting-time over dinner with folks we don't get to see regularly. As for family and friends and fans that came out... there were too many friendly faces to name, so the attempt won't even be made - but it was truly great to see everyone.
PLAZA PUB / TIPPERARY INN
To continue on what has been an extraordinarily busy August, we made our famous quarterly appearance in the DFW metroplex - continuing our new commuting habit, flying back and forth on Southwest rather than American. The pro to flying Southwest is that their staff doesn't bat an eye about three people walking onto the plane with instruments (one being a hammered dulcimer) to be put into the overhead bins. The con is that one has to make a point of being online the exact moment advance-check-in begins (24 hours ahead of departure time), because contiguous overhead bin space disappears but-quick and boarding is in order of check-in position. Fortunately, we're hip to that, and everything went on without a hitch. Leah picked us up (at Love Field), making a now-longer drive to the Plaza Pub in rush-hour traffic (perhaps another con). Notwithstanding a pit-stop for some Tex-Mex at Los Lupes, a timely arrival was had and we were set up and ready to go by game-time. It was a great evening with a larger-than-average crowd that included David, Casey, Roz, and Kevin (from Echoes From the Glen); Richard and Kathleen (from the Trinity River Whalers); Patrick, Amy and Matthew; and Robert, Charles, Leah and Bob.
Saturday was a wonderfully lazy day that included some morning lollygagging, a big lunch at the Olive Garden with the Tharp family, Mark, Bruce and Lupita, and Bob, and then some afternoon dillydallying before heading over to the Tipperary Inn for another night of great fun. The crowd was huge and stayed late. Regulars included Becky and Stuart joining Pam and Jim (who was attending in spite of having just been released from the hospital the previous evening - a paragon of dedication!); Mike (celebrating his birthday), Bob, Leah, Bill and Wendy; Pierre, Westley and Phyllis (Mark's brother and sister-in-law up from Houston) who joined Bruce and Lupita (Mark's other brother and sister-in-law up from Austin); Ed, Janice, and Alex; and Noel (a new, enthusiastic fan and friend).
The next morning, it was off for the traditional see-you-next-time breakfast with the Tharps, Pritchetts, Claveys, Mark, and Bob at IHOP before flying home.
J MURPHY'S IRISH PUB
This past weekend marked our inaugural performance in a mostly-new Irish pub in Shawnee KS, J Murphy's Irish Pub. It was an interesting experiment for us, bringing our music back into a KC-metro-area-proper pub for the first time since performing at the Daily Limit in January of 2005. It was also our first test of running our sound through a pub's house-system, which worked splendidly considering nobody had to get blasted out by sitting in front of mains turned up loud enough to throw the sound across the pub. There was an interesting dynamic at play over the two nights - that stemmed from the fact that the new pub has aspiring, and sometimes competing, dual identities... one being an Irish pub, the other being the local sports pub. That provided only a few interesting moments on Friday night such as when Michael Phelps won his jillionth gold medal and a gigantic cheer erupted from the patrons - in the middle of a song. Of course we were ecstatic, albeit briefly.
Saturday night was where it got truly interesting, with Saturday being the first Kansas City Chiefs pre-season game of the 2008 season. We'll just say that the folks who were there for the game didn't want to yield the floor to the Irish music. Which was fine. Scheduled to start at 8:00, we got to start off the evening with a 50-minute break before the Tullies started getting restless. By then, the Chiefs were taking their shellacking back to the locker-room for half-time, so we started up. The remainder of the game (as much as one could call it) was watched on mute. A sizable number of regulars turned out both nights to support us in our first appearance at the pub, including Dan and Norma, Pat and Carol, Mike and Tammy, Lloyd, Dale, Dawn, "Cedar Rapids" Bob, Phyllis, and Scott and Louise..
We returned to our favorite local haunt - O'Malley's Pub - for a hot, sweltering weekend down in Weston's famous cellars. Friday night was surprisingly busy. Regular Terry showed up with what came to be known that evening as the "Catholic harem", and jammed into the snug right across from the stage. They insisted on a toast germane to their religious sensibilities, and Mark graciously obliged them with a toast to his Holy Father, Pope Benedict. Kudos to Sherrie and Danny, and Sherrie's brother Doug, all of whom having, a month earlier, reserved rooms at one of the town's B&Bs after having learned we'd be there this weekend to play. Boys and girls, being a good fan doesn't get much better than that. Another crowd upstage-right included Marlan, Kelly, Bill, Marcia, and Tara, who all seemed to enjoy the show greatly. Marlan whistled the night away, and enjoyed himself so much that he returned Saturday evening with another friend. Also present were die-hards Lloyd, Bob (down from Cedar Rapids - yay!), and Scott and Louise who were celebrating Scott's plenty-something birthday.
Saturday was another big night with a ton of regulars. Dan and Pat were there shoring up the Rogues contingent with a small handful of folks including Russ, Mike and Tammy, and some friends (one of whom was celebrating a birthday). Mark's mother Dawn was joined by Lloyd and Dale (celebrating his birthday). Rich and Kathleen sat in another snug with Tony, and Dave and his date. Marion and Diane showed up, as did Keith Benjamin (whose seemingly-out-of-nowhere appearance seemed incredibly coincidental as the band had brought him a special souvenir from Scotland). Other appearances worth noting included Marlan and Christine, Tommy Lee (not that one), and John Mooney (there celebrating his 21st birthday). Three birthdays in one night. Imagine the odds. It was like Birthdayapalooza..
SCOTLAND TOUR 2008
For the second consecutive summer, Tullamore ventured into the international scene, this time with a 7-concert, 16-day tour of Scotland. Our foursome (including Mary's husband, Kurt) left Kansas City on June 12th, arriving in Edinburgh on the 13th, and immediately launched into tourist-mode.
The tour rambled through Lochgelly, Troywood, Dundee, and Arbroath; Huntly, Keith, and Craigellachie; Elgin, Inverness, and Tain; Fort William, Glenfinnan, and Arisaig; Pitlochry, Dunkeld, and Birnam; Stirling, Falkirk, and back to Edinburgh; Dunfermline, Glasgow, and Irvine; Ayr, Girvan, Newtown Stewart and Wigtown; Castle Douglas and Dumfries; Moffat, Buccleuch, and Hawick; back to Glasgow; and finally St Andrews.
We turned in performances at the Bettridge Centre in Newtownhill, Astley Hall in Arisaig, the Magnum Theatre in Harbourside, the Theatre Royal in Dumfries, the Tower Mill Theatre in Hawick, Gilmorehill G12 in Glasgow, and the Byre Theatre in St Andrews.
We took in such sites as Edinburgh Castle; the Secret Bunker just outside of Anstruther; a tour of the RRS Discovery in Dundee; Arbroath Abbey; Glamis Castle (just from the outside); Dunottar Castle and Stonehaven; Huntly Castle (the outside only); the Speyside Cooperage just outside of Craigellachie; Elgin Cathedral; Fort George; the battlefield at Culloden Muir, Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle; a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train between Fort William and Arisaig; Neptune's Staircase (the series of seven locks at the foot of the Caledonian Canal); the pass at Killiecrankie; the Edradour Distillery; Doune Castle ("You don't frighten us, English pig dogs."); Stirling Castle and the Wallace National Monument; the impressive Falkirk Wheel; Dunfermline Abbey and Palace; Linlithgow Palace; the Burns House Museum and Curling House in Mauchline; a lovely stroll through Wigtown - Scotland's "National Book Town"; Threave Castle and Caerlaverock Castle; a late-night walking tour of Dumfries (guided by our man Robertson Wellen) with stops at the Globe Inn and the Hole In the Wall); Melrose Abbey; Craigmillar Castle; and a tour of Collessie Feeds' Clydesdale ranch. Besides the performances, and all of these wonderful attractions and beautiful sites, there were two high points in the tour that towered above the rest.
One was the incredibly warm welcome we received in the home of Willie and Diane Morrison, in Tain. Willie and Diane are the parents of Hugh Morrison, our friend and fellow musician who now lives just outside of Houston TX. At Hugh's request, Willie and Diane graciously opened their home, and cupboards, to us when we were traveling in the vicinity of Inverness. In addition to a great visit, a hearty dinner, and warm beds, and a brief moment when everyone (Willie included) dragged out their instruments to play some music, there was a lot of loving from Bruce, the Morrison's cute West Highland Terrier.
The other high point was a small diversion to hook up with Ed Miller, and a bus-load of musicians and music-lovers who were taking part in one of Ed's Songs of Scotland tours. We drove cross-country from Fort William to Birnam, unwittingly pulling into the parking lot of the Birnam House Hotel, the very hotel in which Ed and his guests would be staying, just as their bus pulled in. We joined Ed's group for an incredible dinner at the hotel, to be followed by a presentation on the Aberdeenshire music tradition by Tam and Maggie Spiers, and a two-hour session next door at the Tap Inn.
PLAZA PUB / TEXAS SCOTTISH FESTIVAL
Less than one month after performing there, we turned up again for a weekend in Arlington. We flew into Love Field (our first foray into the area flying on Southwest). Leah picked us up at the airport and whisked us off to the Plaza Pub in Arlington (with a stop at her house to pick up some gear on the way). Fortunately, it was an early flight, so there was ample time to set up after arriving. Our contact-list was still a mess and we were performing opposite the opening night of a major Celtic music event (just down the road, no less), so the crowd was understandably small-ish. But it was still a rip-roaring evening that flew by. Bob had arrived early-on in the evening, so when we were all packed up, we rode back to Chez Harmon with him.
The next morning, Leah arrived to pick us up (Bob included), and it was off (with a brief stop for some McBreakfast) to Maverick Stadium at the University of Texas, Arlington for the Texas Scottish Festival. It was our second year there, and the reception was very warm indeed. We ended up back in the Glen Uig Tent sharing the stage with Hugh Morrison & Kendall Rogers, Jed Marum & Friends (including Don Gabbert), Colin Grant-Adams, and Seamus Stout. With David Shaw's technical expertise on-hand, it was one great set after another (and a lot of nice visiting). We spent a good deal of time with Jed, Hugh, Kendall, and Don, and their weekend was all the better for it. There was a bit of conversation with Hugh regarding our upcoming Scotland tour, with Hugh suggesting a visit with his parents who live in Tain. There was also similar dialogue with Ed Miller (who was performing in the Glen Finnan Tent) regarding the chance of hooking up in Scotland, as he'll be over there with one of his Songs of Scotland tours - whose schedule will overlap our tour-schedule. Over the weekend, we also got to hang out with Al, EJ, and Emily (from Clandestine) and rub shoulders with Brian McNeill (both of whom were also performing sets at the Glen Finnan Tent). At one point Saturday late-afternoon (24 hours to the minute before the group's Sunday departure-time), we coordinated with Will to jump on-line and check us in for our flight home... otherwise we'd have never been able to locate enough overhead space for the guitar and hammered dulcimer on the jet. When the evening rolled around, Rachel and Mary headed off to the Lassies Galore! performance - which was noticeably thinner with the absence of Kathleen and Marj (from the Trinity River Whalers), so some 'support' guys were invited onstage (Al, EJ, and Mark). Then after the performance, it was off to late-dinner at TGI Friday's, and home to Chez Bob's.
The next morning, there wasn't time for the usual IHOP extravaganza, so when Leah arrived to pick us up, a pit-stop was made at Rock Island Donuts (the next-best thing to breakfast). Then it was back to Maverick Stadium for one more set at the Festival, a little more listening and visiting, several rounds of goodbyes and hugs, and then a nice leisurely trip back to Love Field where we would bid adieu to Bob and Leah until August (when we return for a weekend at the 'Dallas pubs').
KEARNEY IRISH FESTIVAL
This past weekend found us giving our first performance for the Kearney Irish Festival, the first performance held at the Kearney Amphitheatre - Kearney's new, state-of-the-art, 4,500-person outdoor venue nestled in the picturesque hills of Jesse James Park. The Festival was sponsored by First Missouri National Bank and Form-Tech. The Lucky Charms started off the afternoon's festivities with a long set, followed by oursleves and Bob Reeder (who also served as Master of Ceremonies), with Connie Dover wrapping up the evening. It was a beautiful day, the sky spotted with big clouds, and the temperature was unusually warm (given how mild it has been so far this season). The crowd was predictably small, what with this being the inaugural year of the Festival and the inaugural performance of a new venue... but where they lacked in numbers, they made up in enthusiasm. Overall, it was a great day, everyone was happy with the turnout (patrons, performers, and sponsors alike), and the sponsors are already looking forward to next year.
PLAZA PUB / TIPPERARY INN
The crash of Mark's hard-drive (and loss of their contact-list) prevented us from getting the word out about their quarterly visit to the DFW metroplex, but that hardly put the damper on the good times to be had. Our weekend started with an atypically-earlier flight than we've been accustomed to taking which got us on the ground in Irving nearly four hours ahead of show-time (rather than the ordinary thirty-five minutes). Leah was there to pick us up at the airport and, once the gear and luggage was safely stowed in the van, we were off. We stopped for a nice dinner at Cracker Barrel and still made it to the Plaza Pub with a seemingly luxurious amount of set-up time. Absent the usual Tulla-gram that would give advance notice of the our performance, the crowd was understandably smaller. But the regulars turned out and the evening was most enjoyable.
The next morning started slowly. A visit to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival was our original intent - where we might catch up with our performer-friends we see only occasionally. But with the play-it-by-ear, shoot-from-the-hip manner for which we're famous, we opted, instead, to get some much-needed rest and make the day a more relaxing one. After a lazy morning, we piled into Bob's SUV and headed off to the Irving Mall Cinema to see Iron Man, one of the best comic-book movies ever. Afterwards, it was over to On the Border for lunch, then back to Chez Bob for a siesta, then it was off to the Tipperary Inn for another great night. The Tipp's regulars were out in droves, and were particularly responsive (especially to the news of our upcoming appearance at the Texas Scottish Festival). After a big evening, it was back to Bob's.
But the weekend was far from over. After the trademark mega-breakfast at IHOP, we headed over to Dallas to appear on KNON 89.3 FM's North Texas Polka Radio which is hosted by Rachel's aunt, "Polka Jennifer" Milton. Rachel's grandmother Thea was there as well, but didn't come into the studio. It was a very fun appearance, and we did some live performances on the air. Afterwards, goodbyes were said all around, and it was off to the airport with time to spare. But it wouldn't be long before we were once again in the area...
BRIDGEPORT SCOTTISH FESTIVAL & CELTIC GATHERING
If the Midwest extends as far north as Chicago and as far south as Dallas, then our visit this past weekend to Bridgeport WV for the Scottish Festival and Celtic Gathering would mark our first gig outside of the region in four years. At 870 miles from Kansas City, it is easily the furthest from home we've been (on this side of the Atlantic). It was a spectacular weekend for us, notwithstanding the on-and-off drizzle and humidity. We flew into Pittsburgh where we met Mark's nephew Luke (the lead-singer for Double Shot, Pittsburgh's award-winning all-vocal band) who would be joining us for the weekend's fun. We all piled into a rental and made the two-hour drive to Bridgeport in an hour and forty-five minutes. Once there, we hooked up with Dawn, Mark's mom, who had driven out from Hagerstown MD earlier that day, and who would also be joining us for the weekend.
The next morning, it was off to the City Park to kick off the entertainment on the Main Stage. Over the course of the day, we were joined by the Canadian Celtic rock powerhouse Hunting McLeod, the Washington DC area's excellent pan-Celtic band Iona, and one of Scotland's best singing exports (now a native of Austin TX), Ed Miller. It was a great day of music, and the crowd soaked up every last note. The good times were made even better by a reunion with the Foxes (Dennis, Ellen and Kathy) who drove in from Cincinnati because they just don't get enough of us out Ohio way. Between sets, there were plenty of vendor-tents to visit and plenty of food to eat. We had the chance to visit quite a bit with Ed as well as with Corey, Steve, and Alan (from Hunting McLeod). After the majority of the performing was done, ourselves, Mark's family, and the Foxes high-tailed it down the road to Applebee's for a dinner away from the crowds before returning to the High School for the evening-concert. Ed emceed the show which featured sets by all three bands, Ed, and world-renowned piper Alasdair Gillies. After the concert, it was off to Buffalo Wild Wings to wind down the evening with the company of Ed and the sound-techs. Then it was back to the hotel to crash in Iona's room and visit with Barbara, Bernard, Chuck, Jim, and Cassie for an hour or so before heading off to bed.
Sunday morning, Dawn was up and away early on the road back to Hagerstown. We had already made our goodbyes to the Foxes the previous evening, so all that was left to do was to head off to Bob Evans for a hearty breakfast before beginning the drive back to Pittsburgh. We took advantage of the drive to listen to the Double Shot CD Luke had brought, giving it six enthusiastic thumbs up. Once back at the airport, we made their goodbyes to Luke and headed off to our gate (leaving Luke to sit, forlornly, waiting for his mother to come pick him up).
We continued the tradition of the Rogue's Gallery Spring Hoolie this past weekend with the sixth installment of the annual event. Our die-hard regulars turned out en masse for the affair along with a handful or so of new additions. The format of the gig returned to being unplugged, the result of which being a much more intimate performance. The set-list made it about 2/3rds of the way around the room with only a few surprise-requests before we took a break. During the break, there was a minor presentation by us to the Rogues of some USMC clan badges. After a break and some R&R, the entertainment resumed, with the 'solo performance' component of the evening - Dan's bemusing request that each of us do a solo performance. Mary led off with a performance of the traditional English folk-song A Maid in Bedlam. Rachel followed with her rendition of the White Stripes' We Are Going To Be Friends. Mark wrapped up the solo performances with Andrew Calhoun's modern folk-ballad My Balls, and Jim Croce's I Got A Name. And then it was back to the music. The second set lasted just another hour or so, by which time the evening was a wrap. Another half-hour of socializing followed before everyone was kicked out. Everybody's already looking forward to RGSH-VII.
NORMAN MEDIEVAL FAIR
We returned to Norman this past weekend for another long weekend of friends, fans, and fun at the Norman Medieval Fair. There were a number of differences between this season and the last few, beginning with our Thursday-evening arrival in Norman at the new Best Western, about a mile from the site... the last few years, we had the good fortune to stay with Ron and Donna Deluca (past king and queen), but they were tied up with family business out of state. Friday morning, we arrived at Reaves Park only to find that the amount of shade had been drastically reduced on account of the severe ice-storm that hit in January and destroyed about 75% of the park's trees. While we repeated a year on the Unicorn Stage, there were plenty of new faces. Sandy Lee (Simpkin the Foole) and his sound-system had gone down to the Gryphon Stage while Dirk VanBuskirk brought his rig over to the Unicorn. Returning to the Fair this season (and to the Unicorn) was Istanpitta, the Texas-based early-music ensemble consisting of Al Cofrin, Abby Green, EJ Jones, and Michelle Levy. The two bands alternated sets with Skip Selvey (Harmless T Jester) for the majority of the weekend. Friday evening, we (accompanied by weekend friend/roadie Roger Ruffner) joined Sandy and Mary Kay, and Skip for a long dinner (and dessert) at Applebee's before turning in for the night. Saturday saw even nicer weather than Friday, a massive crowd with a much larger percentage of adults (Friday was 'Kids Day'), and the arrival of the Merry Sisters and their session-in-a-tent ©. Regrettably, it would not be until Sunday that Rachel and Mark would be able to get over to their little oasis of music. It was a great day that ended with a great dinner at Misal of India - with the foursome from Istanpitta, Vicki Farmer, Craig and Alicia Bamford, and a handful of the guys from the Bilge Pumps, which dinner was followed by an utterly indulgent visit to the Marble Slab Creamery (it was, after all, two doors down, so it was virtually an obligatory visit), and an odyssey to Wal-Mart. Then it was back to the Best Western for the night.
Sunday's weather was both the warmest and the windiest of the weekend. The day brought a welcome visit from Delbert and Sherri, their son Jeremy Biggs (who was celebrating his 26th birthday), as well as Jeremy's long-lost sister Kristen (of whose existence we had begun to doubt). Of course, the Biggs family's appearance led to all sorts of fun and games (Stretch and Bocce)... but it would wind up being a wearisomely-long day for us. With our return-trip to Kansas City waiting in the wings, we usually get the early schedule at the stage, giving us the chance to finish our last set and be on the road by 4:30. This year, that slot went to Istanpitta, who had flights to catch (of course flights trump all other requirements). So we were out on the site until 6:00, setting us up to leave at about 7:00 (and get back to Kansas City about 1:00 AM). Something will have to be done about that next season.
LIVE IN CONCERT @ UNITY TEMPLE ON THE PLAZA
Saturday evening was a landmark performance for us as we turned in our premiere concert in the US at the beautiful Unity Temple on the Plaza. We've performed in concert before - on a few occasions (with the Missouri Valley Folklife Society as part of their Metro Artists Concert series), but this was our first exclusive concert-appearance.
Being a self-produced concert, the evening started out earlier that afternoon with us stumbling through the litany of preparations with no semblance of ease or grace whatsoever. We were able to hand off many of the preparations after arriving at Unity Temple and hooking up with a few handfuls of support-staff, including: Ian, Arielle, James, Dillon, and Martin (of the Plaza YOU, UTP's high-school-aged youth group); Charity and Carmen, and Christine, (Mark's daughters); Kelsey (from Rachel's studio); Kurt (Mary's husband); and Gretchen and Sean (Rachel's sister and boyfriend). We finished the sound-check and completed our preparations for the concert (with 20 minutes to spare).
About 175 people turned out for the show, including a dozen or so out-of-towners: Dawn (Mark's mom, from Hagerstown MD); Bruce and Lupita (Mark's brother and sister-in-law, from Austin TX); Joseph and Mary (Mary's father and mother, from St Joseph MO); Bob (from Cedar Rapids IA); Becky and William Grotts (from Parsons KS); Ray and Beth (from Emporia KS); and Scott and Louise (from Maryville MO). Valerie and Mark showed up and manned a table for MVFS. And the Plaza YOUers operated concessions during the intermission as a service-project for the Plaza Uniteens (UTP's junior-high-school-aged youth group).
Steve Denny, a close friend of the band since its inception, hosted the concert, and turned in a gracious introduction. From the first song, the crowd was very friendly, attentive, and appreciative. And we responded with one of our best performances ever. Kurt photographed the concert for us. And Phyllis arranged an after-party at the Tap Room at Waldo Pizza, where at least 75 people went to hang out and visit following the show.
ST PATRICK'S DAY @ JAYHAWK TOWERS / O'MALLEY'S PUB
The Day was ill-served by the weather - the chilly downpour put the damper on our inclination to breakfast at Browne's Market to the pleasant grooves of Dog Tree. So we made a late morning out of it before getting ourselves together and heading off to Topeka to perform in the Florentine Room at the Jayhawk Tower for the Topeka's St Patrick's Day Celebration. There was only a slightest drizzle of rain in Topeka (compared with the stiff rainfall in Kansas City), but it was still sufficient to shorten the Parade, and hurry it to an early ending. Consequently, the post-Parade celebratory crowd arrived at the Jayhawk Tower early, and we kicked off our first set early. After an hour or so, we took a break. Hot on their heels were the Pipers of the Plains, Topeka's own pipe and drum band. After a thunderous set from the band, they turned the show over to the O'Shea Sisters - the young, lovely duo from Lawrence whose music could best be described as "cowboy meets Celtic". After a generous half-hour from them, we took over the show for our second set.
From there, we packed up and high-tailed it to O'Malley's Pub, where we joined the likes of Bob Reeder, Ellis Island, Flannigan's Right Hook, and Connacht Town, whom Mike and Corey had rounded up to provide music for the Pub's big St Patrick's Day bash. We to took the stage in the upper cellar at 8:00, and played until midnight (with one break). With St Patrick's Day being on a Monday, there weren't as many no-holds-barred partiers as there were the previous year (when it was on a Saturday, and the Pub was a madhouse). The Pub was still overflowing, but the crowd was very focused on the music and having a great time (rather than merely getting hammered). Kudos to all the regulars who attended - Gene, Dale, Marion and Diane, Phyllis and Wendy, Damian and Seán, Fred and Linda - they all helped to make it a great evening.
March 14th, 16th
IRISH AMERICAN CLUB OF SHAWNEE / UNITY TEMPLE ON THE PLAZA
It would be a profound understatements to say that the long St Patrick's Day weekend was a busy one for us.
The whirlwind ensued as we returned, this past Friday evening, to perform for the group that gave rise to their international touring career, the Irish American Club of Shawnee. But it wasn't to the usual stomping grounds of Old Shawnee Town... this time it was to the Shawnee Civic Center. For the fourth year running, we had the privilege of performing for the annual mixer. As always, Damian Stack was among the honored visitors from Listowel, this time being accompanied by Seán Moriarty. Access to the room was limited to just one hour before the event began, so the music started a little on the late side. After an hour, we set their instruments down to have a bite to eat, and the program began, in earnest, with recognition of (and presentations for) the Club officers, local dignitaries, and the visiting Listowellians. By the end of a second set, most of the crowd had packed it in. A small handful followed the evening with a visit to the Ribbon Room for a little comedy, and then over to the Court of Appeals for a nightcap.
Sunday morning found us over at Unity Temple on the Plaza, performing prelude-music for the Palm Sunday service in anticipation of this Saturday evening's concert there. From there, it was into the van and driving (like the fabled bat out of Hell) to Emerald KS to attend (as visitors this time, rather than performers) the annual fund-raiser dinner and raffle at St Patrick's Church. When we arranged to appear at Unity Temple, we did so knowing we would have to take a pass on the fun of the annual dinner, so we handed over the performance to Dog Tree (the humorously-named phoenix that rose from the ashes of Shenanigans), featuring Victor Dougherty, Richelle Basgall, Rachel Bowerman, and Chris Carr (and, occasionally, Tara McCullough). We arrived with about 30 minutes left in the dinner's agenda (and scooped up the very last of the exceptional corned beef). Much to our satisfaction, Dog Tree ran long, and we were treated to a show as enjoyable as the meal (if not more so).
ST PATRICK'S IRISH FEST
This past Saturday evening saw our return, once again, to NKC's St Patrick's Parish for their annual Irish Fest. The new line-up this season featured Jody Watson kicking off the evening with some rousing bagpiping, then a set from us, some ceilidh-dancing by the Clanna Eireanne Irish Dancers, a set by the new kids on the block - the Shortleaf Band (who get two thumbs up for having revved up the quality of their performance by an order of magnitude over the last few months), and a second (final) set by ourselves. The corned beef and cabbage dinner was excellent and the atmosphere of the Festival was boisterous and fun-filled. And as always, sound-tech extraordinaire Lane Turner was present to ensure everyone sounded perfect. Kudos to regulars Scott and Louise, and Charles and Kristine, who always brighten our outings with their presence.
February 29th - March 2nd
NORTH TEXAS IRISH FESTIVAL
The first milestone of our twelfth season came in the form of our debut appearance, this past weekend, at the North Texas Irish Festival, the largest Irish festival in the Southwest. We had a set each of three days the Festival ran, and had the pleasure of sharing a couple of stages with headliners Ed Miller (with John Taylor & Rich Brotherton) and Seamus Kennedy, and regional favorites Jigsaw, Shift, Beyond the Pale, Bounds Street, the Trinity River Whalers, BEHAN, Jim Flanagan, Spriggan, Amberhawke, and the Irish Rogues. It was a beautiful weekend, by and large, and the Festival set record attendance.
The weekend started out with an early-afternoon flight to DFW, where we were picked up by Leah and Bob - who ordinarily serve as our chauffeur and host when we visit the area. However, this weekend we would be staying at the Radisson Dallas and commuting by way of the shuttle. So Leah got to make do with just hanging out. The first stop was at the Radisson to check in and drop off luggage, and then over to Fair Park. John Hebley picked us up and whisked us over to the instrument check-in, where we unloaded our instruments and gear and set off to wandering about the Festival. After some window-shopping and some catching-up, we grabbed our instruments and gear and headed off to the Star & Harp Pub Stage to tune and set-up for their 9:30 (PM) set, and catch as much as they could of Beyond the Pale. We took the stage shortly after 9:00 and had a leisurely sound-check courtesy of the very-capable sound-tech, Dustin. The crowd was surprisingly large (considering that we were performing opposite the Scottish headliner Battlefield Band) as was the response. At the end of the hour-long set, we visited with a couple handfuls of folks who stayed around to meet them. Our visits were so long, in fact, that we ended up getting the bum's rush out of Fair Park by the security personnel (who wanted to go home). It was back to the Radisson, courtesy of Leah and Bob, who dropped us off and headed home. There were no sessions Friday night, so we had a very-late dinner at Vanessa's while visiting with Bob Hayes (with whom we would hang out on-and-off over the course of the weekend). Then it was off to their Sleep-Number beds (ahhhh).
The next morning saw breakfast with Richard Jones and Kathleen Jackson (of the Trinity River Whalers) at the German-styled Black Forest Café and Bakery. It was an Epicurean delight, one which warranted a nap from Mary once we all returned to the hotel. Rachel and Mark went on to the Festival, and did a lot of visiting, listening and shopping. The late set-time (7:00 PM) allowed Mary to get a serious nap in before heading over to the Park and catching up. We followed a very entertaining set by Seamus Kennedy on the In The Tradition Stage where, once again, the crowd was much bigger than expected. It was this set that was attended by handfuls of friends that Mary and Mark had made while performing at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival, and the reunions afterwards (some of months, some years) were many and heartening. After the performing day was over, it was back to the hotel, and then out on the town with Richard for another late dinner at Café Brazil. After dinner, it was back to the hotel to wander around and visit with the fifty-or-so folks in the bar or sit in on one of the six sessions in the hallways or meeting-rooms before heading up to one of the party-rooms on the ninth floor for yet another session. Mark peeled himself away at about 2:00 AM, and the girls followed about forty-five minutes later.
The next morning was, understandably, a slightly later one. We went out to a nearby Panera's for breakfast with Richard. On returning to the hotel, Mark shuttled off to the Festival fairly quickly (having packed prior to breakfast), leaving the girls to finish their packing, check out, and head out to Fair Park one or two shuttles later. The weather had gone overcast and breezy and the temperature dropped 10°, but it was still very pleasant. This would be the day for finalizing purchases and for making sure all the bands we wanted to listen to had been gotten to. We went on at 4:00 (PM) back on the Star & Harp Pub Stage, following a kicking set by Beyond the Pale. Yet again, the response from the audience was incredibly enthusiastic (we've been spoiled by this festival). Afterwards, there was a meal at the Hospitality Room, some loose-end visits and purchases, about 30 minutes of the Whalers' final set, about 45 minutes of Altan's surprise-visit set, and then off to the airport with Leah and Bob. It was an incredible weekend overall, and we counted ourselves lucky to have connected (or reconnected) with every friend, fan, and fellow-performer there. This entry has been fairly devoid of names, but only because they are too numerous to list (and remember). Suffice it to say that from Adam to Wahid (they didn't meet anyone whose names began with X, Y, or Z), the list of friendly faces would look more like the credits for the Lord of the Rings. You all know who you are.
Thanks for a great weekend!
Epilogue: After goodbyes at the airport were said, the remainder of the trip turned into what could only be described as an episode of a poorly-written, one-dimensional sitcom... the plane (on its incoming flight) was delayed a half-hour; it sat on the tarmac, after being boarded, another 20 minutes prior to taking off; the travelers waited at KCI's luggage carousel for another 20 minutes; and we waited for the Blue Bus to economy parking another 20 minutes. By the time Rachel and Mark finally got home, it was 2:45 (AM).
Our lead-off weekend of the year at O'Malley's Pub could hardly have gone better. The February weather was cold but hardly interfered with the prospect of being out. We returned to using the in-ear monitors rather than Mike's new EV wedges, and (to be honest) it truly helped with tailoring the mains for a better sound. The Friday crowd was a little on the thin side until about 8:30 when it began picking up. We played until about 10:00, and a good number of folks went home while we were on our break. The crowd that remained was an attentive one, and the rest of the night was quite enjoyable. Regulars included Jason; Lloyd; Gene; and Scott and Louise. Kurt showed up fairly late in the evening and was persuaded to take Mary home with him.
Saturday was (predictably) a far bigger night from the word go. There was crowd of friendlies there by the time we arrived... Dan and Norma; Pat and Carol; Mike; Ray and Beth; and Carl, Cindy, and Clay (formerly one of Rachel's violin students and his folks). The night started big and got bigger. We played an extra-long first set (until about 10:30), and the pub was still fairly busy when we put a wrap on the night. Friendly faces also included Marion and Diane; Mike and Tammy; Gayla and Mike; and Larry. New faces included JoAnne; Gunther (Saturday's birthday boy); Sarah and friends; and Adam, Steve, and the rest of the Lincoln crowd.
Our next appearance at O'Malley's will be as one of the four bands in their St Patrick's Day gala that will include Flannigan's Right Hook, Ellis Island, and Connacht Town.
PLAZA PUB / TIPPERARY INN
This past weekend saw our first visit to Dallas of the season, and it was nearly perfect. We arrived at DFW a bit late and hit the ground running. Leah was ready with the van, and we were off as soon as all of the gear came off the carousel. A hurried drive and a stop at Taco Bell got us to the Plaza Pub with about 25 minutes to spare before having to start. Of course, there was no way that we were going to make the 8:00 pm start (mental note - Plaza Pub gigs should run from 8:30 to 12:30), so we set up as quickly as possible and launched into song. The crowd was downright huge in comparison to the crowd that was there in November, bigger than one would've imagined possible. Familiar faces included Ed, Devin, and Kyle; Bob; Rickey and Charles; Craig, Terrie, and Sahara Rose; Marita Beth, Leah and Jay, and Tony (who brought Madeline Mary and another two handfuls of folks). New faces included Ron, Joanne, and Patrick; Mark; Bill; Mike; Robert; and Shannon. We told you it was a big crowd.
Saturday started out with a nice, healthy dose of sleeping in, which was followed by an episode of The Soup. After a little more channel-surfing, everybody got themselves together and it was off for an early lunch at the Olive Garden with the Tharps and the Austin Claveys (Bruce and Lupita) who'd driven up to see us that evening. A lazy afternoon nap followed lunch, and then everybody piled into the car to head over to the Tipperary Inn for what turned out to be the best night we've had there. The regulars included Thea, Kathy and Jim, Jenny, Peter, and Christopher and Erin (Rachel's Texas kin); Bruce and Lupita; Bill and Wendy; Leah, Will, Robert, Josie, and Kay-Lee; Bob; Charles, Rickey, and Misty; Steve, Joe, Dave, and Michelle; Eric and Deirdre; Patrick and Beth; Becky and Stuart; and Charlotte, Donna, and Jim. New faces included Lloyd, Sarah, and Tanzie; Cody, Mary, and Judy; and Pierre. And kudos to Jaime and Christy for the incredible job they did taking care of us and the crowd.
With an atypical Sunday afternoon departure, everybody got to sleep in again before marshaling for the customary IHOP farewell-breakfast (which included Mark Whitlock). Then it was off to the airport with Leah. Truth be told, the Dallas audiences are incredibly friendly and accessible... they are why we look forward to our quarterly appearances there with such great anticipation.
ROBERT BURNS SUPPER
After having been away from the gala for a couple years, we returned to Tulsa this past Saturday as the featured entertainment for the Robert Burns Supper. The annual black-tie event for the Scottish Club of Tulsa, it was our inaugural performance of our twelfth season. Held at the fashionable Radisson Hotel Tulsa, the dinner featured a moving presentation on the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, a tribute to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns, some toasts to the lads, the lasses, Scotland, and the USA, piping by the City of Tulsa Pipes and Drums, lots of dancing under the direction of Nicki Phillips, and all the whiskey and haggis you could want. We had the pleasure of sharing a table with long-time friends Roger Ruffner, and Christopher Merle and Melissa Tatum (who was awarded the Silver Thistle, a service award for outstanding contributions to the Club). Also seated at the table were Jerry and Debbie Bryan and Richard and Kami Hoar. An after-party ensued, which managed to get chased out of the party-room that the Club had booked on account of being too loud (hello... it's a PARTY-room...), and winding up in the same ballroom where the Supper was held. It was a truly enjoyable evening, a most welcome return to Tulsa, and a great way to kick off the season.