December 9th-10thWe put the wrap on our 15th season at the location where we've spent more hours performing than anywhere else in that time - O'Malley's Pub. It was a lively lively weekend - all weekend long. Friday night was a great night with a very friendly crowd that included folks from Nebraska and Iowa, and folks celebrating birthdays and a 15th anniversary (which called for the the singing of Bill Staines' Roseville Fair. Shout-outs to birthday-boy Matt, Maura, Dan, Lindsay, Luke (from Omaha); Bob (from Cedar Rapids); Lorna and Terrie; Monica and her table of friends; Matt and Denise; Bob and Jill, and Kim and Adam; Jack and Angie, Maggie, and Margaret ; Steven; and Alicia and Brian.
Saturday night was an equally festive evening with a ton of friendlies. Rachel found a new fan-club among a very animated group of shirtless bachelor-partiers who were at the pub for the long haul (and who filled our guestbook up with all sorts of compliments and phone-numbers - for Rachel, of course). The prominence of the party and the reason they were there called for the obligatory songs of humorous and tawdry love, and toasts at the expense of marriage. More shout-outs from the weekend to Mike and Carrie, Karen, and Scott and Louise; Jason and SueAnn; Kathleen, Ron, and Morgana; Michelle (grrrr!!) and Bob; Marion and Diane; Steven; Kyle and Jessica (all the way from Canada); Martin (The Bachelor), Ben, Mark, Patrick, and Stewart; Patrick and Danielle; Russell; and Adam. A perfect end to Season 15.
It was a mild late-Fall weekend that found us heading up to O'Malley's Pub for what would be another one-two visit... Friday night - the party-crowd... Saturday-night, the Celtic-music lovers. It was a great weekend with no particular standout moments - birthdays, anniversaries, things like that... just a really boisterous crowd on Friday, and a great responsive crowd on Saturday. If anything, the weekend was particularly marked by the absence of the Kansas City Rogues Gallery - our throng of retired Marines and other rowdy rascals. Ordinarily the Rogues would be prominently situated in the second and third snugs. But this weekend they were home with Pat - the biggest-hearted rascal among them all - who's laid up battling cancer. Pat has been such a presence in our world since all the way back to the McGuire Brothers days. It's beyond obvious when he's not there, and this weekend his absence was sorely felt. Our warmest thoughts go out to Pat, his wife and family, and his compatriots.
October 21st-22ndThis past weekend was a most enjoyable mini-tour for us. It began with hopping on a plane and jetting down to one of our favorite destinations - the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, being picked up by roadie-extraordinaire Bob Harmon and whisked over to Arlington and Six Strings & Coffee Beans, a non-profit coffee-house and acoustic-music outreach-ministry hosted by Advent Lutheran Church. Our appearance at the monthly shindig was coordinated with Dave Olson back in June when we were performing at the Texas Scottish Festival. Also already-coordinated was David Glass' presence with recording equipment to capture the raw-material for what will become a live-concert-recording CD. We drew a standing-room-only crowd and put on a great show. And friends and fans too numerous to name turned out in droves - from just-months-old TSF fans to decades-old fans from the Scarborough Renaissance Festival days. After the last note, the last handshake, the last hug, it was a quick drive over to the No Frills Grill for a late dinner, and then back to Chez Bob.
SIX STRINGS & COFFEE BEANS / SHEPPIES HOUSE CONCERT
After a short night's sleep, it was up and at 'em early for the 4-hour drive down to Houston for the second half of the weekend two-fer - a repeat performance at the home of Ros and Paul Shepherd with their Sheppies House Concert Series. It is always a pleasure to perform house concerts, especially for Ros and Paul... and with Ros' birthday being just two days away, another specially-arranged performance was in order - last year's was Dougie MacLean's Caledonia, this year's was Rod Stewart's I Am Sailing. As always, the Sheppie's audience is a populous one, and the living room overflowed into the dining room and up the stairs. It was a great concert and evening, with visiting well into the night. Shout-outs to Rob, Pamela, Elaine, Laura, Christine, Jan, Scott, Harry, Julie, and Ken. The next morning brought an exceptional breakfast with Paul (Ros was sleeping in), and then a trip to the airport and flight home from Houston.
October 14th-16thFor the sixth time in twice as many seasons, we found ourselves up in Weston this past weekend for the Weston Irish Festival - the biggest little Irish festival in the country... and what a big show it was! It never ceases to amaze how much great entertainment and thousands of patrons Mike, Cory, and Sean can squeeze into the 3000-some square-feet and half-acre that comprises the O'Malley's footprint. This season's line-up was another stellar one, with Tullamore joining international greats the Screaming Orphans and Enter the Haggis; national favorites the Elders, the Mickey Finns, and Connie Dover; and great regional and local favorites Eddie Delahunt, the 3 Dollar Band, Flannigan's Right Hook, Bob Reeder, Reverse Cowboy, the Kelihans, Dogtree, St Andrew's Pipes and Drums, the Brennan Irish Dancers, and the Driscoll School of Irish Dance. We missed out on Friday night's fun, but kicked off Saturday on the Hall Stage - deep in the bowels of the pub - to a bursting-at-the-seams crowd. We stuck around and caught half of the next set from Reverse Cowboy before heading upstairs to the Pub Stage to catch the second half of a set from the Master - Eddie Delahunt. We squeezed in a second set after Eddie. Then caught a little of a set back downstairs from Flannigan's Right Hook before heading off to dinner. Here's where the names of friends and fans would ordinarily be listed - but they were far too many to remember and there's not enough electronic space to write their names here!! And next season's show can't come quickly enough!
WESTON IRISH FESTIVAL
October 7th-8thIn an unusual turn for us, our visit to O'Malley's Pub this past weekend was only our second of the year (not counting St Patrick's Day - where seemingly everybody plays at O'Malley's at one point or another during the day). We'll even that out a little with appearances in the schedule for November and December, but it has been a fairly thin year for us playing Weston so far. But once we're up there - watch out! There was even some concern about performing at O'Malley's just one weekend before the Weston Irish Festival... but there we were on Friday night unpacking our gear. It was the quintessential O'Malley's weekend - with the 'nattering nabobs' (as Scott is so fond of saying) on Friday, and the die-hard fans on Saturday. It being a weekend in the middle of the run of the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, many of the regulars were absent. We had the opportunity to test-drive and polish a few of our newer numbers in advance of the upcoming Irish Festival... and, as always, took the opportunity to rope Mike into joining them onstage for a few pieces. Just the typical (great) weekend at O'Malley's to which we've become accustomed to having.
September 14th-15thThe next event in our fall line-up was this past weekend's Oklahoma Scottish Festival. After a successful appearance there last year, we returned as one of the headlining bands - alongside Jiggernaut and Needfire. New faces Jed Marum & Hugh Morrison joined the line-up that included the Flowers of Edinburgh, Celtic Cheer, and Boru's Ghost. Roger was on-hand to welcome us when we arrived Friday afternoon, and helped us load-in for our early-evening set following Celtic Cheer. After our set, we packed up and hung out to catch Jed and Hugh's set. Then everybody (we, Roger, Jed and Hugh, and Sarah) headed over to Olive Garden for a nice dinner. Then it was over to the hotel and to bed.
OKLAHOMA SCOTTISH FESTIVAL
The next morning, we were out at River West Festival Park before the Festival even opened (Celtic Cheer was already sound-checking) so they could get set up for their first set. Bob, David, and Dan were up from Texas and would be hanging out with us the remainder of the weekend. We would trade sets in the Edinburgh Tent all day with Jiggernaut and Needfire. One of the sets included an impromptu (read 'unrehearsed') performance of The Lakes Of Pontchartrain for Michael (one of our Oklahoma fans). While the weather was great all day, a storm-front was bearing in on Tulsa, and arrived just as we were finishing their 7:00 PM set. Twenty minutes into Jiggernaut's set, the plug was pulled and the Festival staff sent everyone home. On the way back to the hotel, the gang (we, Bob, David, and Dan) stopped at the Oriental Buffet for dinner. Once at the hotel, we rounded up Jed and Hugh, and crashed one of Jiggernaut's rooms to jam all night long (or until the hotel-cops came and shut the jam down). Then off to bed.
We had a fairly leisurely start on Sunday morning with a first set at 11:30. Most of the day was spent hanging out with Jed, Hugh, and the kids from Jiggernaut and Needfire. Then after the last set, we packed it in and made the 4-hour drive home. It was a pleasure to hang out with such entertaining musicians as Hugh and Jed; Malia, Rachel, Laura, and Dave (Flowers of Edinburgh); Brad, Ed, Magen, Jacob, Kevin (Needfire); Deanna, Richard (and Janell), Garren (and cousin Bret), Matthew, and Rodger (Jiggernaut); Audra, Russell, John, Leah, Dustin, and Eric (Boru's Ghost); and Bob, Brian, Carl, David, Bryan, Julia, and Tim (Celtic Cheer)... as well as reconnect with friends and fans Eric, Steve and Kory (thanks for having us back down); Charlie and Donna; Allan and Denise; Bruce; Sherri and Delbert; Mary, Derryl, Rachel, Heather, and Ayannah; Mike and Cheryl; Eric and Troy; William; Sean Patrick; Dennis; Michael; Larry; Grace; Christen; and Goran. Kudos to Nathan and Cody for the expert work at the sound-table.
September 10thWe returned to Buffalo, MO this past weekend for an encore appearance as the headliner at the Southwest Missouri Celtic Heritage Festival. It was a beautiful weekend, and the bandwe made an early morning drive of it, arriving at the Old City Park and Fairgrounds around 9:00 - just as Tom Meehan was taking the stage. Friends Kevin and Michelle Church and Mike Moran were already there to welcome the band and help unload the van and transport equipment to the pavilion. Tom gave way to Sarah Hook who turned in a lovely set before handing the baton off to Emily Wyatt McIntyre who was just delightful. We then took the stage for the first of our three sets, and afterwards grabbed some lunch and listened to Nancy Daily Green. We turned in two more sets, sandwiching a set by Jon Reneau. We chipped in a couple of numbers for the jam that wrapped up the Festival, and then it was off to the Maple Street Grill with Kevin and Michelle, Mike, and Lee and Lee Ann for some genuine, southern-Missouri comfort food. After dinner and goodbyes, we followed Lee and Lee Ann back to their Springfield home, stayed up late talking, and then crashed. The next morning, goodbyes were said and we were off and on our way home.
SOUTHWEST MISSOURI CELTIC HERITAGE FESTIVAL
September 2nd-4thThis past weekend, we ended our six-week hiatus and kicked off our Fall run with our fifth appearance at the Kansas City Irish Festival. In the seven short years since their humble, rained-out beginning at Berkley Park, the folks down at the KCIF office have done a noteworthy job of developing the Festival into one of the top ten Irish festivals in the country. The initial shift in location to the Crown Center complex was an arrangement of pure genius for both the KCIF-folks and Kansas City. And the gradual expansion north of Pershing and into Washington Square Park has provided much-needed space for the 90,000+ that attended this past weekend.
KANSAS CITY IRISH FESTIVAL
The festivities unofficially started early with a Friday evening dinner at McCoy's Public House with some of our favorite North Texas Irish Festival folks - Sheri, Bobby, John, Sandi, and Marsha. They were up to participate in the Festival's confab of Celtic festival organizers, and wanted some face-time with their favorite Kansas City Celtic band.
We performed mid-afternoon sets, both Saturday and Sunday, on the Atrium Stage inside Crown Center. Saturday's weather wasn't exactly kind to the Festival. When, in the middle of our set, the audience grew by about 100 people, we guessed (correctly) that the bottom had dropped out of the sky (our backs were to the window). Still, Saturday was a very successful day - after the rain let up. And Sunday's weather was beautiful, and an attendance-record was set... especially among friends and fans of the band - far too numerous to name, but we truly appreciate all of you for being there.
July 8th-9thOur visit to O'Malley's Pub this past weekend was about as lively as they get... notwithstanding our 'luck' in drawing the Second Saturday performances each summer when the pub features another band on the Courtyard Stage. It was a hot one, even hotter in the bar. The regulars were out and in rare form - both Friday and Saturday. Friday night saw Michelle (grrrrr!); Scott and Louise (down from Maryville); Rich, Kathleen, Mike, Ron and Brenda (a party unto themselves); Steven, Adam, Kendrick (who can go toe-to-toe with the Rogues Gallery on Finnegan's Wake); Gerry, John, Marty, and Mike (KCQ's barbecue-team); Paul and Maria; Jim and Kelly; Justin, John and Paul; and Bill and Ed. Saturday's even-livelier bunch included Dan and Pat; Adam and Kim; Scott and Louise (they just can't stay away); Marion and Dianne; Mike and Gayla; Bill and Kathleen; Adam, and Steven (back again!); Jason; Cassidy; Tyler; Char; Carlos; Bryan; Kevin and Celeste; James; Jim and Kelly; George; and Rob. A great weekend overall - as EVERY O'Malley's weekend should be!
June 3rd-5thWhen the calendar page flips to June, it means you'll find Tullamore on the plane heading for Dallas for the Texas Scottish Festival - this time their 25th anniversary. Bob picked us up at Love Field, and headed back to Irving with a stop at On the Border along the way. While we weren't performing Friday evening, we WERE going to be making a visit, but Mary opted out to stay at Bob's and study (Master's program and all). So Bob headed out to Arlington with Mark and Rachel in tow to spend the evening at the Festival. We had literally just walked onto the site when Ros Shepherd hailed Mark and offered to buy him a beer... and who is Mark to decline such a generous offer. There was a great deal of catching up during the tail end of a set by Seamus Stout and the calling of the clans. Then it was time for the set by Brian McNeill, Ed Miller, and Friends. Afterwards it was back to Bob's. After dropping Rachel off, Bob and Mark headed off to the Irving School District to print up some flyers we'd be handing out over the weekend for the Scotland Tour 2012 we'd be announcing over the weekend. And finally to bed.
TEXAS SCOTTISH FESTIVAL
The next morning, we did what would probably end up being the wisest thing we've done since we began our string of appearances at the Festival - we went to the grocery store and bought all sorts of great refreshing food for lunch. And then rewarded ourselves by driving through McDonald's for breakfast, and then on to Maverick Stadium. We found themselves in the enviable position of moving from the Glen Uig Tent (where we've performed the past four years) to the big Glen Coe Tent where we'd share the stage with Alex Beaton and Margaret Gravitt. It was great to be able to mix it up with Alex again, having joined him onstage several years ago for a couple seasons in McPherson KS, and a genuine pleasure to just get to hang out with Margaret, Keith, and Jim. It would be a fairly hot weekend with the mean temperature each day in the mid-80s, and the highs each day in the high-90s. We turned in three very well-attended sets. When the 'regular' performances were wrapped up, it was over to the Glen Garry Tent so the girls could turn in a couple performances of Tae the Weaver's Gin Ye Go and Back Home In Derry (joined by Emily Dugas on the djembe) for the Lassie's Galore show - delivered by all the fine female performers featured at the Festival. Then it was over to the Glen Finnan Tent where Rachel would turn in the last appearance of the day on our behalf at Fiddle Faddle, a jam-session led by Brian McNeill and John Taylor featuring all of the fiddlers at the Festival. After dragging Rachel away, it was over to T.G.I.Friday's for a late dinner, and then back to Chez Bob's and bed.
The next morning, it was back to the Stadium for one more early-afternoon set before taking a pass around the grounds to say goodbye to everyone before piling into Bob's SUV and heading off for Love Field. It was a super weekend, made even more so by the friends and fans whose mere presence brightened each day... Alex and Jeanine; Margaret, Keith and Jim; Ed, Scooter and Jil; Brian; John; Hugh, Kendall and Kevin; Jimmy; Linda; Haily; EJ, Al, Emily and Greg (Clandestine); Deanna, Matthew, Rodger and Richard (Jiggernaut); Ros and Paul; Phil and Michelle; Dave; Charles; Ricky; Eugene; Noel; Jerry and Marcus; Allison; Katrina, Bob and Jenny; Jimmy and "Wee Piper"; Pat; Eric and Rob; Jeff and Anastasia (down from KC); Dene and Patti; Ken and Denise; Kevin; Devin; Chester and Dana; Sheryl; and Judy. And kudos to Dave, Daniel, Andre, David, and David for their fine work behind the sound-boards. Here's looking forward to next year.
May 7th-15thAfter taking a couple years off from international touring, we ventured back across the Atlantic... along with 47 friends, fans, and family... and with the expert assistance of Hammond Tours... for our first bus-tour of Ireland. While the tour's 9-day schedule was necessarily shorter than the 16-days of the previous two, we were content that 47 people were willing to spend a week of vacation with us. The 51 of us (in total) arrived in Shannon and hit the ground running. Upon our arrival, we met up with our driver/guide John Costelloe - a knowledgeable, witty, affable, and gracious gentleman who'd single-handedly make the week an unforgettable one.
IRELAND TOUR 2011
Our travels took us through Lehinch, Ennis, and Limerick; Dingle, Tralee, and Listowel; Galway and Cong; Castlebar, Sligo, and Ballyshannon; Donegal, Enniskillen, and Mullingar; Tullamore and Naas; and Dublin. We turned in performances at John B Keane's Pub in Listowel, the Abbey Centre in Ballyshannon, the Mullingar Arts Centre in Mullingar Town, and the Moat Theatre in Naas. And it seems our group hardly missed an opportunity to spend an afternoon or evening (or both) in whatever pub was close by... Dolan's Pub in Limerick, John B's in Listowel, the Thatch Pub in Ballyshannon, the Olde Castle Bar in Donegal, the Hairy Lemon in Dublin, O'Donahue's in Dublin... and EVERY one of them was the BEST pub in Ireland!
We took in such sites as the Cliffs of Moher, Limerick Castle and Treaty Stone in Limerick City, the storybook village of Dingle, the Slea Head Drive out on the end of the Dingle Peninsula, the Burren in Co. Down, the incredible Ashford Castle just outside of Cong (where our group spent a night in magnificent luxury), the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery in Knocknarea, the town centers in Sligo and Donegal, Triona Design and Woollen Mill in Ardara, the 6th-century monastic settlement on Devenish, and the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre. In addition to the performances, and all of these picturesque landscapes and attractions, there were several stand-out moments on the tour.
The first such moment was the second evening of the tour. The evening begin with an exceptional dinner for our group at the Listowel Arms Hotel. From there, it was a short walk to John B Keane's Pub for our first performance of the tour. A communications breakdown had prevented us from performing a concert at St John's Arts Centre, so close friend Damian Stack worked with Billy Keane (the son of John B) who opened his pub up for a session. It was a very low-key, informal session... an excellent way to kick off the performing aspect of the tour. Being a session, a few of the local musicians dropped by. One of those musicians was Mickey MacConnell, the singer/songwriter from Bellanaleck (Co. Fermanagh) who penned the protest song Only Our Rivers Run Free. It was a pleasure and honor to meet Mickey, and even more so to receive compliments from him. After sets from us and the 'locals', Jennie Nichols got in the act singing a song a cappella, as did LeeAnn Harkness in getting out her fiddle and joining the band for a few numbers. There were a couple requests, and then a couple more sets. Then all the musicians collaborated on a couple numbers - Will Ye Go, Lassie and John B's traditional closer of the night, the Black Hills Of Dakota. It was a very rewarding evening all around - from the great dinner, to getting to see Damian again in his home town, to meeting Billy and getting a taste of his generosity and graciousness, to meeting Mickey and having the good fortune to visit and perform with him.
A special acknowledgement needs to made, at this point, to Lee Worman and Hugh Morrison - two friends and fellow musicians who joined us in our performances throughout the tour. Lee has been a close friend of Mark and Mary since meeting at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival in the early 1980s, and a friend of the band throughout its entire 15 years. He and LeeAnn were two of the first registrants on the tour, and the demand for him to join us onstage for a number or two was made as soon as he let us know he had registered. Hugh has been a close friend of the band since meeting at the Texas Scottish Festival in 2007. He arranged for us to enjoy a night's hospitality at his family's home in Tain during our 2008 tour of Scotland, and shortly afterward we arranged for him to accompany us as a guest-artist on our next tour, whenever that would be. The participation of Lee and Hugh in the tour made for many great personal moments for us, and that's all there is to say here. Big thanks to Lee and Hugh! And now back to the stories.
The second moment was our group's stay at Ashford Castle. Not knowing how the bus-tour would go and whether we'd be doing another bus-tour in the future, we decided to include a castle stay in the itinerary. Ashford Castle was the ideal castle for several reasons... its location in relation to the tour's itinerary, its size and capacity to receive our entire group, its reputation as the top-rated castle in Ireland (and 3rd in all of Europe), and the fact that it's so damned beautiful! The journey from Listowel was arranged such that our group would arrive in the very early afternoon, so we could take advantage of all of the amenities the Castle had to offer... and that we did. Many strolled around the grounds and gardens, some went the equestrian route, and yet others went for the falconry. That evening was another group dinner to end all group dinners in the banquet room in the castle - a perfectly delicious dinner. Afterwards, many of our group went to the lounge where the chanteuse and her accompanist conducted a very classy evening of karaoke. Others walked the half-mile into the tiny village of Cong to spend the evening in the Crow's Nest Pub (a.k.a the Quiet Man Pub after the John Ford classic that was filmed in and around Cong). It was the day of a lifetime... and after the tour, it was the general consensus that the stay at Ashford Castle was, hands down, the high point of the tour. So all you folks reading this and considering the Scotland Tour in 2012, keep this in mind... Dalhousie Castle.
The third moment occurred the following evening in Ballyshannon, the evening of our second performance. The home of the world famous Ballyshannon Folk Festival, the town has a thriving music scene, and quite a few turned out for our concert. Our group was staying at Dorrian's Imperial Hotel that night - a very lovely hotel that, in its prime, was likely the gem of Co. Donegal. But Ben Dorrian has a second business - proprietor of the Thatch Pub (pronounced 'tatch') - and it was into this pub the majority of the group would squeeze after the concert. Named for hundreds-years-old thatched roof, the pub wound its way back through three rooms and into a courtyard. Ben was ever the gracious host, and kept the pub open as long the group required. It was a wonderful evening in general, and the magical moment came when Jack Phillips sat down at the piano in 'the big room' and regaled the group with several songs from a musical he has written, the Us & Them Reunion. Whether comical, ironic, sardonic, or just downright clever, each song thoroughly entertained the group... and it was a great opportunity for the band to sit back and relax, and take in the experience of enjoying the camaraderie and being entertained with the group.
A fourth moment came the next day as, after departing Ballyshannon, John gave the group his personal tour of Co. Donegal. The tour included a stop of special interest at the Triona Design Centre and Woollen Mill. Having been given the heads up, by John, of the group's impending arrival, they shuttled the group inside and warmed them up with tray upon tray of Irish coffee. Then they gave the group an enjoyable account of the woollen mill and its role in Irish life and the Irish economy since its inception, and a demonstration of one of the age-old looms upon which they still weaved their wool. They then innocently led the group to the showroom and left them there with their Irish coffees. Oh what to do next...?!? While the majority of the group was shopping, at the suggestion of Kevin Church, Mark went out to the bus and grabbed his guitar and brought it back in. Getting the Mulhern family back together again, the band sang them their rendition of the Scottish traditional song The Work of the Weavers, a song that transcended the four generations there. As the great-grandfather's eyes welled with tears, it was obvoius how truly touching a moment it was. After a while he requested the band sing one more song for the youngest child, and the band performed Robbie Burns' Tae the Weavers Gin Ye Go. After the poignant moments, the group went back into the showroom and proceeded to relieve Triona of a few thousand dollars worth of merchandise. Who says you can't mix business with pleasure?
The final moment occurred the next evening on the way home from the band's final concert in Naas. To create the proper context for this moment requires much to be said about the tour's driver/ guide John Costelloe. When the band arrived at Shannon Airport and the group first met John, he was all business... pleasant business... but all business. He didn't lose a second in getting the group corralled, all of the bags identified and tagged, setting the group up for their departure from the airport, getting the bus loaded (bags AND folks), and getting on the road. Moments later, though, his pleasant-but-efficient-businessman facade came down, and his gracious, thoughtful, clever, impish charm began to radiate... and radiate is as good a word as can be used to describe the impact he had on the 51 people who would be travelling together, by bus, for a week. The more he radiated, the greater the level of failte and hospitality there was among the group. He informed, teased, shared, joked, scolded, enlightened and even pleaded over the course of the week, all to the immense satisfaction of the group. He made some thoughtful suggestions on how the tour might go more smoothly, spurring some on-the-fly alterations to the itinerary... and he used his wealth of insight from decades of experience in Ireland's tourism industry to insert unplanned-yet-perfect stops in just the right places that utterly magnified the enjoyability of the tour. By the end of the week, there was not one among the group that did not regard John as a friend, and his contribution to the tour as indispensable. This was the John the group came to know and, yes, love as an ambassador of all that can be said to be great about Ireland. So... Friday evening, the group left Dublin (where they had already arrived and checked in) en route to Naas for the band's final concert. John didn't need to go along - he had driven his allotment of hours for the day, and a relief driver/guide was taking the group to Naas and back. John went because he wanted to be part of the evening with the group. After the concert, on the way back to Dublin, John shared at length about his experiences around Dublin throughout his life. As the bus came to the edge of the older part of the city, he regaled the group with an impromptu performance of Pete St John's The Rare Ould Times, a poignant song that suited John nearly as much as it did the city of Dublin. It was a beautiful and enduring moment, after which the group presented him with their gift to him - a collector's bottle of Tullamore Dew.
After a free day in Dublin, John took the group to Dublin Airport on Sunday morning and, bidding them safe home, sent the group on its way back across the Atlantic bound for home.
April 23rdWe returned to the VFW Post #7397 for the 9th annual Kansas City Rogue's Gallery's Spring Hoolie. The Hoolie is the brainchild of one of the band's biggest fans - Dan Robertson, USMC (ret) - who conceived of the idea eight years ago, that idea being a subtle confluence of all-request-show, anything-goes, and any-reason-for-a-party. The set-list goes around the room as the requests are made for the benefit of those who aren't intimately familiar with the band's repertoire. And then... well... whatever happens happens. It was a great evening with a turn-out of 60-70 folks, so the folding wall was opened and the gang spilled out into the main room at the VFW. When it came time to turn in the obligatory solo pieces of the evening, Mary played the tune Greensleeves, Rachel sang Dale Ann Bradley's Run Rufus, Run, and Mark performed Bill Staines' River and Francis Scott Key's Defence of Fort McHenry (which was a big hit with all the veterans in attendance). And as has been its wont, the Hoolie ran its length and then some... until they were forced to pull the plug. Only then was it over.
April 1st-3rdThis past Thursday evening found us beginning our annual expedition to Oklahoma for the 35th annual Norman Medieval Fair for what would be our 11th appearance there in the past 12 years. Our Thursday travels came to an end at DeLuca Villa, where friend and former-King Ron DeLuca would (for the first time since 2006) play host to us for the weekend.
NORMAN MEDIEVAL FAIR
Friday morning, with a hearty McDonald's breakfast inside them, they turned up at Reaves Park to learn that Dirk VanBuskirk had 'retired' as sound-man for the Gryphon Stage. Mark joined the effort to help Chris get sound set up, and was subsequently joined by Ken (Cannizzo). Between them all, there was amplification at the stage by the time the Rogues kicked off their set. The weather (always a dicey prospect in Norman in early-April) was already great (low 80s), and would remain so all weekend (though it would get fairly windy come Sunday). Throughout the weekend, we would share the stage with the Rogues and Black Oak Shillelagh. When the day was over, we were joined by Randy, Ken, Nelson and Jeania, and Skip for some Tex-Mex at Chelino's. Then it was back to Ron's for some visiting, and then off to bed.
The next day would be the best day of the weekend - with a great temperature, a mild breeze, and gigantic crowds. Considering how things had gone the previous morning, we got out to the park earlier than we had on Friday... which ended up being prudent move as the sound-gear had yet to arrive... and Mark and Ken again conspired to set the sound-gear up when it was finally dropped off. It seemed ALL of our friends and fans turned out on Saturday, so naturally the bocce set and stretch-stakes came out and gauntlets were thrown down. Our sets went well, and it was a downright lucrative day. Afterwards, we went out to dinner at Johnny Carino's, and were joined by Craig and Terrie, David, Ted, Christopher, Nathan, and Skip. Then it was back to Ron's for some more visiting, and then off to bed.
Sunday would end up being the hottest day of the weekend with some pretty stiff wind... suffice it to say that we ended up inhaling a lot of dust and hay. But the wind didn't have much of an impact on the sets, which came off nicely. We made our goodbyes over the course of the afternoon, so by the time the Last Huzzah ended, we were ready to jump in the car and take off. After a small pit-stop to change and eat, it was back in the van and back to KC.
March 17thWhat would St Patrick's Day be without a performance by Tullamore at O'Malley's Pub?!? To avoid finding out, we turned in a handy, 3:30-7:30, late-afternoon performance. As a testament to the adage that it's always 5:00 somewhere, the pub was mostly full by the time our set started. It was a predictably lively and noisy crowd, and they only got livelier and noisier as the evening wore on. By the time the 3 Dollar Band began their 8:00 set, it was a madhouse. They were up for it, and were far into a great set by the time we called it a night. And all through the evening, Bob Reeder kept it going in the upper pub. Friendly faces for the afternoon included Marion and Diane, and Mike and Gayla; Jason, Lloyd, Jheri, Garrett, and Michael John; Megan and Jacob - who were there celebrating their 11th anniversary; Gerry - who was there celebrating his 86th birthday; and kudos to Dawn who was there, all the way from Binghamton NY, visiting her incredibly talented brother Mark (in the band!). The early set time allowed us to get our business over and done with, catch the other performers, dine, AND get some real sleep. A great day overall!
ST PATRICK'S DAY @ O'MALLEY'S PUB
March 11th, 13thThe weekend run-up to St Patrick's Day began with our return to Waxy O'Shea's and a great night with the fans who turned out from everywhere. First, there were the typical KC friendly faces - Dan and Norma, Pat and Carol, and Sean; Jason and SueAnn, and Michael Sean; Lloyd, Mike and Karen, Rachel and Chris, and Jennie; Linda, Jim, Cynthia, and AJ (who danced for the crowd during some tunes); Jamie and Lydia, and Michael Kendrick; Lonnie; and Steve and Marcia, Mike and Julie, Mike and Linda, Nancy, and Bill (who resurrected his Jolly Tinker-ing and sang St Brendan's Fair Isle). Then there were folks in from out of town - Scott and Louise from Maryville, and Bob from Cedar Rapids. Then to top it off, Fred and Linda, Mary, and Joan (from the Irish American Club of Johnson County) paid the band a surprise visit with Damian and Tom in tow, all the way over from sweet Listowel. All three of us were fighting off colds and verging on being hoarse, but we weathered the night to the delight of the audience. It was a great night all around!
WAXY O'SHEA'S / ST PATRICK'S CHURCH
A couple days later, we found ourselves running down the highway to the east-central-Kansas farm-town of Emerald for our seventh annual pilgrimage to St Patrick's Church to entertain for their Dinner and Fund Raiser in honor of their patron-saint. There's not much to be said that hasn't been said six times over already - a very friendly and good-natured crowd, a great corned beef dinner, and a selection of pies whose delectability excels that of all pies known to man. Being in town for the Waxy O'Shea's performance, Bob made the drive to Emerald to join us in the day's festivities. As usual, the parishioners loved having us there, nearly as much as we loved being there.
March 3rd-5thOur appearance at the North Texas Irish Festival was their fourth in as many years... and it was our most enjoyable appearance by far. The weekend began with a Friday afternoon flight on Southwest into Love Field where Bob Harmon was waiting to pick us up. Once everything was loaded in the car, it was over to the Radisson Central (the host hotel for the Festival) to unpack and get all gussied up for Friday evening's set, then on to Fair Park. We arrived, checked in, and made our way over to the Star & Harp Pub Stage just as Nine-8ths Irish was setting up to sound-check for their set. Performing at the Star & Harp would end up being quite the blessing for us as we would end up sandwiched between Tommy Sands and Ed Miller for much of the weekend, a fairly enviable position. We played a warmly-received set, and then turned the stage over to Tommy and his very talented kids Moya and Fionán, who turned in a lovely set. An hour of visiting followed the completion of Tommy's set, and then it was back to the Radisson for some very late dinner and a little more visiting. And then off to bed.
NORTH TEXAS IRISH FESTIVAL
Our Saturday set wasn't until late-afternoon, so the morning included breakfast with Kathleen and Richard at the Original Market Diner, then a visit to Dallas' Northpark Center for Rachel to make a jeans run, and then off to Fair Park. The Irish Rogues, one of Dallas' longest-running Irish bands, was wrapping up the last few numbers of their set when we arrived. Around all the socializing going on, we managed to catch the majority of great sets by Ed Miller (& friends Scooter Muse, Jil Chambless and John Taylor) and Tommy & Family. We even managed to catch a good bit of a rousing set by Seamus Stout while getting set up for our own set. After our set, we packed up and dropped all our gear off at the musician's check-in before heading off to catch some of the sets by McPeake, Altan, the Rogues, and the Elders before heading back to the Radisson for another late dinner and a night of sessioning and socializing (read 'drinking').
The next day started out with a tiny amount of apprehension as we found ourselves sandwiched between Drowsy Maggie and Cathie Ryan on the Trinity Stage - one of the two main stages indoors. It would be our first appearance on one of the main stages and, as such, was very well-attended - no small relief for us. We caught the lion's share of Cathie Ryan's excellent set while we were breaking down for the last time. And then, because we had a late flight back to KC, we had the opportunity to catch a bit more music by Jed Marum & Friends (Kendall Rogers and Hugh Morrison), Dervish, and Clandestine. From there, it was piling into Bob's SUV, off to Love Field, and back to Kansas City.
It was a truly an incredible weekend, and we consider ourselves fortunate to have, on an ongoing basis, the honor of performing for such a great show and in front of such a great audience. And rather than say "they were too numerous to name", here's some of the friends and fans who helped make the weekend so rewarding... Mike, Bob and David, Mark, Guy, Brent and Suzanne, Bill and Wendy, Tony and Dorothy, and Kent; Chris and Melissa, Charlie and Donna, Rick and Sharon; Richard and Kathleen, Ros and Paul, Katrina and Bob, Phil and Michelle, Stu and Becky, Ricky, Charles, and Joe, Mark and Rhea, Eugene; Joe and Heather, Jimmy, Jo, and Drew, Bryan, Becky, Steve, John and Audra; David and Michelle, Brian and Beverly; Lee, Jessica, Alan, Ed and Janice; Dean and Patty, Gail, Mary, Mike and Ellen, Adam, Dustin and John, Greg, Timothy, and Brian, Marc, Ginny, Ian, and Jackson, David, Bill, Paul, Sonny, Richard, Cora and Rosanna; and last, but not least at all... Ed, Scooter, Jil, and Dan; Tommy, Moya, and Fionán; Hugh, Jed and Louisa, Kendall and Lisa; Craig and Deanna; Al, Emily, Gregory, and EJ; Randy, Michael, Marj, Rodger, and Steve; Randy, Nelson, Cory, Keith, Ken and Denise; Kelly, Mike, Gordon, David, and Julian; Ian, Brent, Steve, Norm, Joe, and Tommy; Betsy, Kristy, Gordon, and John; Sarah, Dana, Alexis, and Nick; Don, Red, Eric, and Christy. We hope to return for the Festival's 30th anniversary next year.
February 7thWe returned to Waxy O'Shea's this past Saturday night, and it was a great night. The crowd was plentiful and very outgoing (noisy?). And it really showed why we love playing at Waxy's. The pub itself is a great pub - very nicely laid out, and very good-looking! The food is great, and the staff is the best! And after moving the performers from the dining room into the bar area, we have a lot more intimate contact with the crowd, and it adds to the enjoyment for both the crowd and for us. The bar-section was packed... surprisingly so for a Saturday in February... though the balmy 35° weather may've had something to do with that. And on top of the appreciative throng, Mark had the opportunity to visit with Lee about the possibility of making an appearance at the Branson location. We'll see how that pans out!
January 29th-30thJanuary ended in high style, much the same as it has these past several years that the band has been working with the Scottish Club of Tulsa. Saturday night was the night of their Burns Supper 2011, the night when the Club can be found putting on the Ritz in celebration of Scotland's national hero and bard, Robert Burns. It was our eighth appearance at annual black-tie gala (they love the Club as much as the Club loves them), so it was with anticipation and excitement that we made the four-hour drive to Tulsa. It was your typical 60° January day, so the drive, load-in, and load-out were plenty pleasant. Roger drove down from Pryor and helped us set-up, but was unable to stay for the Supper. The set-up was done just as Miss Demeanor and the Minor Convictions (Julie, Norman, and Rachel) were taking the stage to set up and sound-check. We left to get ourselves presentable and, upon returning, took our place at a table to be joined by Allan and Laura, and (eventually) Julie, Norman, and Rachel - who played through the cocktail hour. The evening proper began with a handful of sets by the City of Tulsa Pipes and Drums followed by some opening remarks by Steve Campbell and Eric Robertson. The Selkirk Grace was proffered by Charlie Sherwood, and then the tables proceeded through the buffet line. The supper was, as usual, incredible... as was the haggis and whiskey... and while folks were eating, they were treated to a recounting of the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns as well as the customary toasts... to the Lassies, the Lads, Scotland, the President, and the USA. After a couple presentations and a few more formalities, we took the stage and played the night away. Friendly faces that night included Dan and Anita; Charlie and Donna; Derryl, Mary, Heather, and Aiyanna; and Rick, Steve, Eric, and Bruce. Some time over the course of the night, Roger returned from his previous commitment, and shared in the remaining festivities. There was dancing and to spare, and everyone was well worn out by the time Flower of Scotland and Auld Lang Syne were called for. The incredible evening ended with Roger helping us break down and load out, and we were off for an arduous drive to Springfield. We arrived at the home of Lee and LeeAnn at about 3:30 AM, and after the welcome, brief pleasantries, and bringing the instruments inside, we made short work of getting to sleep.
ROBERT BURNS SUPPER / CHRIST CHURCH UNITY
We were up bright and early the next morning after four luxurious hours of sleep, and on our way over to Christ Church Unity. We would be playing in the church's two morning services before performing an afternoon concert. We met up with minister Sue Williamson and sound-man John Merrifield, and began setting up while visiting with the praise band (also setting up) - Bill, Richard, Terry, Darcy, and Cindy. It's always a treat to be a contribution at Unity's services. After the services, Martin and the YOU (Youth of Unity) held a potato-bar for the congregants who would be sticking around for the concert.
We hurried through our meal, set up the remainder of our gear, and sound-checked... and the concert was on. It was one of the band's best concerts ever. Friendly faces at the concert included Lee and LeeAnn; Kurt; Mike; Kevin, Michelle, and Lauren; Martin and Kelly; Kathy, Paul, and Sam; and new friends included Terry, Adelle, Lean Jeanne, Douglas, Sharon, Cathy, Betty, and Simone. A small group went out after the concert to try out a new Japanese restaurant - Sakura. And after dinner, while Kurt and Mary drove back to Kansas City, Mark and Rachel stayed another night for a lovely visit with Lee and LeeAnn, and headed back to Kansas City on Monday morning, well-rested. A great weekend altogether.