December 27th-28thThis past weekend we wrapped up our 17th season... it's hard to believe. And where else than at the place that has afforded us more performances than all of the rest of our performances combined...O'Malley's Pub. It was a pretty cold, mushy weekend - snow on the ground, but nothing falling. Friday night started out slow, then rocketed to crazy busy inside about 45 minutes. Not fun-crazy... paid-rehearsal-crazy. Shout-outs to Bob; PJ; Jenny; Justin; Marion and Diane; and Mike and Gayla. Saturday night was a much friendlier night... just about as big, but an audience whose noise worked with us and not against us. And we brought Lindsay up for the Volga Boatman's Birthday Dirge. Shout-outs to Bob; Bryan, Erika, Elizabeth, Kat, Jonathan, and Wendy; Michelle (grrrr!), and Heather and Ted; Jason and Kaya; Robb; Mike and Allison; Nancy; Lindsay; Joe; Jerry; Kristen; and Carl. AND to Mike (who gave us a raise) and Cory! Happy Season 17 folks!
December 21stThis past Saturday evening's performance at ChrisFest was an absolute blast... from the moment we were recruited to the moment we played our last note, packed up, and headed to the hotel. ChrisFest was a surprise birthday-party for longtime-friend/fan Chris Merle thrown by his wife and longtime-friend/fan Melissa Tatum. Of course Chris was insisting on "no big plans", so Melissa was anxious... because these were BIG PLANS. To begin with, this was a performance in Tulsa (despite the fact that they live in Tucson)... then there was the rental of the GAST - the German American Society of Tulsa and a handful of canopies... a logo, printed cups and bags... catering and beer... not to mention one of their favorite bands. BIG.PLANS.
It was our greatest pleasure to play for this kind of event, for this event in particular, for two such dear friends. We made the four-hour drive down to Tulsa - which had just endured a fairly stiff sleet-storm... and while the trees were very bowed with ice, the roads were mostly clear - the temperature had been in the upper 60°s all week long, and the roads were still warm and the ice wasn't sticking to them. We arrived to a flurry of preparations and the waiting company of Roger - who did some last minute errand-running for us down to Guitar Center and back. There were a number of presentations, a number of themed displays, and a great dinner... and then we played. At the end of the night, we loaded out, made our goodbyes to the couple of honor, and headed off to the Southern Hills Marriott for the night. And then headed home the next morning - which drive home included a stop (at Rachel's request) in Nevada MO at Pecans and More.
November 9thWe were back in Texas this weekend for another concert - this one at the Open Door Coffee House a coffee-house and acoustic-music outreach-ministry and benefit hosted by Trinity United Methodist Church in Arlington. Over the past couple years, we've been in an on-going scheduling-conversation with Craig VanWinkle (who doubles as the entertainment director at the Texas Scottish Festival), and finally found a weekend that was unbooked for both of us.
OPEN DOOR COFFEE HOUSE
We flew down late Saturday morning, was picked up by chauffeur-extraordinaire Bob Harmon, and taken promptly to the Olive Garden - one of our favorite dine-with-Bob restaurants. Afterwards, we went by his house, crashed for a while, and then piled back in the car for the drive over to the church. The sound was mostly set up, and we set up our own gear and got mostly tuned before stopping to sound-check. In the middle of that process, Craig arrived and we took a little to time to visit with him, and then completed our sound-check and tuning. After we were done, acclaimed Seattle-based singer and songwriter Larry Murante arrived, and set up and sound-checked. We chatted with Larry until show-time. Larry opened the concert with a great set, and then we performed a long set. We had hoped to live-record the concert, but didn't have enough of our new pieces polished. We DID have a few new pieces ready to test-drive though - one of them in particular a piece called The Rangers of Gonzales. The song originated as a poem written by Mark's brother Bruce - which Mark then set to the melody of the traditional Irish song Skibereen, and then arranged. Of all the new pieces we've been toying with, we most wanted to have that one polished as it is a Texas song through-and-through... and it was very well-received - as was the entire concert.
After the concert, a group of us - band, Harmons, Tharps, Sadlers, and Craig and a few friends - went over to Fuzzy's Taco Shop for a quite-the-late-dinner. From there, it was back to Chez Bob's for the night, and then home the next morning.
October 19thThis past Saturday evening was our Highlands & Islands concert with our friends and fellow-performers, the Bilge Pumps. Notwithstanding all the time our two bands have spent together since 2000 performing at various venues in Oklahoma, this was our first (planned) concert together. The concert was actually conceived this past April at the Norman Medieval Fair, and the doubleheader concert was the second time the Pumps have performed for Mike Jones and the historic Ritz Theatre.
HIGHLANDS & ISLANDS
We made the five-plus hour drive down to Shawnee, and arrived at the Ritz to find Mike and the Pumps already getting set up. We made our hellos to everyone, brought in our instruments and gear, and then joined in the set-up. We ran through the pieces we'd be doing together for a big joined set, then got a bite to eat before getting dressed for the concert. The audience was a very modest group (in size only) as demonstrated by this Venn diagram.
We kicked off the concert with a tasty, Celtic-y, hour-long set intended to make everyone in the audience believe in good music. That was followed by a short intermission. Then the Bilge Pumps crashed down on the audience's senses for another hour plus to make everyone get back in touch with their inner pirates. Then we joined them in one last mini-set to wrap up the night with an unforeseeable mix of taste, talent, and whatever the Bilge Pumps are. That mini-set included Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes; The Dark Lady; The Final Trawl; Seven Bridges Road; The Mary Ellen Carter; and Please Don't Take Me Down. After the show, the CD-selling, autograph-signing, and goodbye-making, we broke-down and packed up, clowned around a little, took some pictures, stopped by Chili's for a very late dinner, and then headed over to the Comfort Suites and crashed for the night before driving home the next day.
October 11th-13thThis past weekend was our ninth year at the Weston Irish Festival, the biggest little Irish festival in the country. What started out in 2000 as a rainy, one-day festival that drew 1,500 people has turned into a three-day, three-stage festival that features many of the greatest acts in Irish music and regularly draws over 10,000 people. This year's line-up was no exception, including Barleyjuice, the Blaggards, Rathkeltair, the Screaming Orphans, the Elders, Connie Dover, Jiggernaut, the 3 Dollar Band, Chance the Arm, Eddie Delahunt, Flannigans Right Hook, Bob Reeder, the Kelihans, the St Andrew Pipes & Drums, and the O'Riada-McCarty-Manning Academy of Irish Dance.
WESTON IRISH FESTIVAL
We didn't play on Friday, so we were out all-the-earlier on Saturday as we'd be opening up the music on the Hall Stage. The Pub was already full by 1:00, and the crowd was loud and responsive. We wrapped our set up, got everything off-stage, and made room for good friends Jiggernaut. We caught their entire set - always a treat - and then came out of the pub to get something to eat and listened to Chance the Arm. We caught some of Rathkeltair's set, and then headed in to the Pub Stage to catch the bulk of Bob Reeder's set... and then squeezed ourselves into the same space that Bob occupies, and turned in our second set of the day. After we finished, we were followed by the Three Dollar Band. Then we loaded out and headed home.
October 1stLast night's joint-concert with the Tannahill Weavers may very well have been our biggest event of the season... perhaps bigger than our Scotland Tour this past Spring. En route from their performance at the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival in La Veta, CO, to a house concert in Flossmoor, IL, the legendary greats stopped in Kansas City for their first performance here in over a decade.
LIVE IN CONCERT with the TANNAHILL WEAVERS
The 'Tannies' are one of the Scottish super-groups that grew out of, and spurred on the resurgence and popularization of Celtic music in Scotland... and have been going strong for four decades. As Celtic bands go, they are Mark's personal favorite. Our personal interaction with them began in mid-2007 when Mark reached out to Phil Smillie - who not only plays flute, bodhran, and whistles for them, but also produces their CDs - on the prospect of producing our upcoming CD (Wild and Wicked Youth). Phil agreed, and since then we've had a fairly regular interaction with him and the band.
So in one of his emails in June, Phil mentioned that they'd be driving through Kansas City on the way from one gig to another, and asked about getting together for a pint or two, and tossed out the notion of a double-header concert. Mark made the rounds with the movers and shakers of the Missouri Valley Folklife Society - the organization that, once upon a time, had a flourishing presence in Kansas City, bringing the best of Celtic musicians to town. A plan was hatched, and we hammered out the details for a concert at Unity Temple on the Plaza.
It was an uncharacteristic Tuesday-evening performance that drew a modest 200 attendees. We performed a first set - one Mark intentionally planned to be short so as to give the lads time for a big old set. Then after a short intermission, they took the stage and held the audience captive for about 75 minutes. They did a couple of numbers for an encore, and then we joined them for a joint-performance of Auld Lang Syne. After a good amount of visiting with the concert-goers, we all wrapped up our instruments and gear, packed our vehicles, and then walked across the street to Tomfooleries with a group of about 20, and spent another hour and some visiting, and then had to break it up - with work and a long drive coning up all too quickly. It was one of the great moments that will be long-remembered for us.
September 13th-15thIt was another-weekend-another-festival as we drove down to Tulsa this past Friday afternoon for our fifth appearance at the Oklahoma Scottish Festival, Oklahoma's premier Celtic music festival and Scottish Highland games. The Festival is one of our perennial favorites due, in no small part, to our interactions with the directors, Eric Robertson and Steve Campbell (aka Will Rubright and Dick Hardagain). They had a great line-up this year that included Celtica, Seven Nations, the Wicked Tinkers, Murder the Stout, and Cleghorn, on the Rock Stage; and Ed Miller, Jed Marum, As the Crow Flies, and the Flowers of Edinburgh, on the Folk Stage.
OKLAHOMA SCOTTISH FESTIVAL
We arrived around 6:00 on Friday just as the Flowers of Edinburgh were winding out their set, and said hello to everyone. Ed Miller (one of our favorite performers and friends) was up next, and we gave him our mostly undivided attention (it IS a festival after all). After his set was over, we unpacked our instruments and gear, and set up and tuned while As the Crow Flies played their set. Then Jed Marum took the stage, and was joined (on and off) by Mark. The two would be doing a tour of Ireland in November, and they used a few of his sets this weekend to polish the material they'd be doing. After Jed's set, we took the stage and wrapped up the music for the evening at the Folk Tent. Then it was over to the hotel and to bed.
The next morning, we were up early (we like to drive on to the site, and they like to cut that out after the gates open), hit a McDonald's, and sped over to the Festival. The Flowers were just sound-checking when we arrived and got all set up. Shortly afterward, the Harmon brothers (Bob, David, and Dan - some of our most stalwart friends/fans) arrived from north-Texas. We performed a set, then turned the stage over to Ed, and visited with the Harmons while Ed played. Sets from As the Crow Flies and Jed preceded our second set of the day, and then the other acts rotated once more and that was the day. We wandered around the site a few times, visiting with the dozens of Oklahoma friends and fans we saw, and taking in some of the rockers - we hadn't seen Seven Nations in a few years, so it was great to see them again. But we had just seen Celtica and the Wicked Tinkers and it was great to see them again... and we see Cleghorn and Murder the Stout almost all the time, and it was still great to see them too... evidently time doesn't really matter. After the show, we went, with Ed, Jed, the Harmons, and Roger, back over to a Thai place we found last year called Lanna Thai for a great dinner... and then back to the hotel and bed.
Sunday morning, we got all packed up, grabbed some McBreakfast©, and headed over to the park once more. Jed had the opening set... the girls wandered the grounds while Jed and Mark devoted this set to thoroughly working their material for the tour. Then we headed over to the Rock Stage and turned in a performance there where, by then, the Harmons had turned up. In the meantime, all of the other acts cycled through the Folk Tent twice, and we came over and closed out the tent at 5:00. It was a beautiful day, and when it was all done, we made our goodbyes, and made the four-hour drive home.
September 7thOur Fall run continued this past weekend with our appearance at the Southwest Missouri Celtic Heritage Festival and Games (which carries the distinction of having the longest name of any festival at which we perform). It was the fourth time we've been down to Buffalo MO to headline the Festival, and the second time we've shared the stage with our nearly-homonymously-named cohorts in musical crime, Tallymoore. We got up early and made the drive down to Buffalo, carrying our gear up to the pavilion just after Sarah Hook began her set. We met up with all our local friends and fans, said hi, unpacked, and set up all of our stuff. Sarah wrapped up and Tallymoore took the stage for a great set, then it was our turn. Then we grabbed some lunch while the parade and other festivities were going on. EznDil took the stage after the festivities, and then turned over the stage to Tallymoore again. Then it was. time for our second set. Sarah did one more half-hour set, then we had a jam with all the musicians. Afterwards, we packed the van and followed Lee and LeeAnn to our favorite local haunt, the Maple Street Grill for a great dinner we shared with Kevin and Michelle, and Jeff, Amie, and Kaylee. After dinner, we bade farewell to the five, and followed Lee and LeeAnn back to their home in Springfield. We stayed up up for a while to visit and wind down, and then went to bed. The next morning, we slept in, the got up, visited for a while, were schooled on the biological proclivities of ducks, went out with Lee and LeeAnn for a great breakfast at Anton's Coffee Shop. Then we piled in the van, bade farewell to Springfield and Buffalo for another year, and headed home.
SOUTHWEST MISSOURI CELTIC HERITAGE FESTIVAL
August 30th - September 1stThis past weekend, we performed for the seventh time at the Kansas City Irish Festival. It was the 11th season of the Festival, the last 10 of them being held at Crown Center, and in that short time, the Festival has rapidly climbed into the list of the biggest Irish festivals in the US with last year's attendance topping 97,000 attendees. The line-up this season was as great as ever, with an offering of international and national headliners, and regional and local favorites that included Skerryvore, We Banjo 3, David Munnelly & Mick Conneely, the Elders, the ollam, Damien Dempsey, the Clumsy Lovers, Whiskey of the Damned, Ashley Davis, Rattle & Hum, Seamus Kennedy, Burning Bridget Cleary, Chance the Arm, the 3 Dollar Band, Eddie Delahunt, Flannigans Right Hook, Bob Reeder, and another dozen great acts.
KANSAS CITY IRISH FESTIVAL
We missed out on Friday night's fun, but arrived all the earlier on Saturday - showing up at the Atrium Stage inside Crown Center in the middle of the opening set from Scarlet Town. We got our instruments out, set them up to let them acclimate, listened to the rest of the set while visiting with some folks, then headed out to make a pass around the site. By the time we got back, Fraoch was already a few songs into their set. We listened to the rest of their set, and caught a little of the next set from Ian Gould before heading off to tune and make ready for our set. The audience was great and we delivered for them, then handed off the stage to Bob Reeder. Afterwards, we had dinner at Milano with Al and Lisa Franz, then wandered around and caught a little more music, then headed home.
Sunday morning was an early start for us as we'd be the opening act on the Miller Lite Stage, our first performance on the stage in seven appearances at the Festival. There was a fairly hard rain overnight, and there was plenty of 'mopping up' to be done to have the stage be ready. And even though it was still going-to-church hours, we drew a good crowd. We handed off the stage to Eddie Delahunt, and then set to roaming around the Festival once more... catching even more music, hanging out in the Green Room and visiting with the other musicians, and then catching more music... before heading home.
(In the run-up to the Festival, David Shaughnessy had solicited some 'video-postcards' from the bands to be put up on the Festival's website... a sort-of 'hi-come-on-out-and-see-us' welcome to folks. For your amusement, here is ours...)
August 17thSaturday evening was another special one-night-only engagement for us at O'Malley's Pub. Columbia MO's Man In the Ring performed on Friday evening, but was unavailable for Saturday, so Mike asked if we could step in and pick up the slack and we obliged him. It was a lovely Saturday evening, and the crowd was big and fun, with a couple of birthdays that spiced the evening up and a bachelorette party. Shout-outs to Jim and Chris; Phyllis and Karen; Mike and Allison, and Jan; Bill and Kathleen; Robb; Mike and Gayla; Wendy; Roger; John; and Joshua.
July 13thThis past weekend was a really great weekend for us. It involved a performance at Changing Winds, a benefit concert for a couple of our close Norman friends and fans - Scott and Heather Balliet. The recent spate of tornadoes in central-Oklahoma has taken a toll on many families in this area, including the Balliets, long-time attendees of the Norman Medieval Fair, whose home was destroyed in the May 20th storms. A group of performers from the Fair wanted to come up with a way to offer help and hope, and put together this benefit concert. Even Norman's Performing Arts Studio came on board, kindly donating their space at the Santa Fe Train Depot. We were joined by Tynear, the Dr Rev Mr Cheeks Miller, Black Oak Shillelagh, and the Bilge Pumps for an excellent concert. There was no price for the concert, but a freewill donation was accepted... and there was a raffle and contest-prizes given away... and all of the bands' merchandise sales also went to the Balliets. We spent the night at the home of Ron Deluca, and then drove back to Kansas City the next morning with a warm feeling inside.
CHANGING WINDS BENEFIT CONCERT
June 8th-9thWe spent this past weekend turning in our sixth appearance at the Kansas City Scottish Highland Games. It had been a couple years since we were last out at E J Young Park in Riverside, but it seemed like it was just yesterday as we drove down Argosy Parkway Saturday afternoon and pulled into the Park. We'd be performing in the Pub Tent, so we found a handy parking spot and unloaded our gear, said hello to a dozen friends hanging out by the tent, and took a quick stroll around the site. Bob Reeder was a couple of songs away from the end of his set, and handed the stage off to Wylde Nept (down from Cedar Rapids IA). We took the stage next, and turned in a well-received set, and then turned the stage over to the Waxies - a really great band from Grand Rapids MI. We had been thinking about ducking out for dinner until we heard a couple of their songs and had to stay for their entire set. After they were done, the Cutthroat Shamrocks took the stage and played another great set. THEN we were off to Westport and dinner at Ghengis Kahn, and then home. Sunday, we closed out the Games. We showed up about 1:30 in the middle of Wylde Nept's set, and proceeded to get our instruments set up and tuned. Then Flannigans Right Hook turned in one of their stellar sets, and then we were up. After our set, we packed up, floated around what few crafters were left and packing up, and headed home.
KANSAS CITY SCOTTISH HIGHLAND GAMES
May 3rd-5thThis past weekend found us winging our way once more to the DFW Metroplex to perform in our seventh consecutive Texas Scottish Festival. It was a great weekend all in all. The weather was downright perfect, the Festival continued to settle nicely into its new early-Mary schedule, and we had the pleasure of joining the acoustic headliners in the Glenfinnan Tent. We caught a just-before-noon flight down to Dallas' Love Field. Bob was there waiting for us, and would be chaffeuring us around all weekend. Once we were loaded (our instruments and bags, that is), we headed off in the general direction of Irving and Arlington, stopping at On the Border for a late lunch along the way. From there, we spun by Chez Bob, dropped off luggage, put on our finest going-to-Meetin' clothes, and headed over to Maverick Stadium for the Friday night opening of the Festival. We opened up the evening with an hour-and-a-half of music at the Glen Finnan Tent, which was followed by the Calling of the Clans and opening ceremonies, and then a set by Brian McNeill and Friends. After the evening was over, we headed over to Pappadeaux's for a late dinner, and then back to Bob's for a short night of sleep.
TEXAS SCOTTISH FESTIVAL
The next morning, we ran by the grocery-store to pick up food for lunch, and then to McDonald's for some breakfast before heading back to the Festival. Once again, we kicked off the entertainment at the Glen Finnan Tent before turning over the stage to Margaret Lyle Gravitt & Jim McCrain, Jil Chambless & Scooter Muse, John Taylor, and Brian McNeill. The afternoon turned into a veritable mix-'n-mash of performers with everybody joining each other's sets until it was nearly indistinguishable who's set was whose without the program. The band ducked around the corner for a a late lunch at Sherlock's, and then returned in time to catch Brian's last set. The girls joined in on the Lassies Galore set that featured all of the ladies performing at the Festival, and that set was followed by Fiddle Faddle - the big musical jam of the night. Then it was back to Bob's for a good sleep-in.
The next morning, we stopped by the grocery-store once more and McDonald's before showing up for the final day of the Festival. We showed up in the middle of the Kirking of the Tartans service. Then Margaret and Jim performed while we set up and tuned. Then we played our only set of the day. The rest of the day was spent hanging out, drinking beer, wandering around the site, and crashing the stage while Jill, Scooter, John, and Brian played. Then we packed up, made our goodbyes, and took off... stopping for a late lunch at TGI Fridays before heading over to the airport. A few hours later, we were home... and looking forward to next year.
April 20th-28thAfter taking a couple years off from international touring, we ventured back across the Atlantic... along with 31 friends, family, and fans... for our first bus-tour of Scotland. Much like the 2011's bus-tour of Ireland, this tour would have a 9-day schedule. The 35 travelers (in total) arrived in Edinburgh early Sunday morning, met up with guide Maggie McCann and driver Andy Anderson, exchanged pleasantries, got the lay of the land, piled onto the bus, and kicked off what would be an unforgettable week.
SCOTLAND TOUR 2013
The tour took our group to Bannockburn, Stirling, and Glasgow; Kilmarnock, Ayr, and Alloway; Falkirk, Dunkeld, and Pitlochry; Fort William, Drumnadrochit, and Inverness; Craigellachie, Elgin, and Nairn; Aviemore, Perth, and Dunfermline; and Edinburgh. We performed at the Scotia Bar in Glasgow, Hootananny in Inverness, and the Nairn Community & Arts Centre in Nairn.
We had the pleasure of visiting such sites as Stirling Castle and the National Wallace Monument in Stirling, the Burns Cottage and Memorial Garden and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, the Falkirk Wheel in Falkirk, Neptune's Staircase just outside of Fort William, the Clan Cameron Museum in the small hamlet of Achnacarry, Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, the Glenfiddich Distillery and the Speyside Cooperage in the rolling hills and valley along the River Spey, the Culloden Battlefield just outside of Inverness, and Dunfermline Abbey in the southwest of Fife. Besides the performances and all of these incredible sites, there was a handful of extraordinary moments on the tour.
The first of these moments occurred about 45 minutes after boarding the bus and setting out. We were en route to Stirling Castle, and had come into Stirling and were beginning the winding climb through the streets of Stirling up the hill to the Castle. Coming northeast on the Corn Exchange Road, we attempted to turn onto Spittal Street when our progress was stopped by car illegally parked in a no-parking area... one specifically located to enable extra-long vehicles (like tour-buses) to be able to negotiate the turn. Andy Anderson, our driver, spent about 10 minutes see-sawing the bus back and forth trying to eke out enough clearance to complete the turn to no avail. He delivered the verdict to our guide, Maggie McCann, who began to get off the bus to find a policeman... or a tow-truck... or something. Before she did, though, Mark whispered to the two of them the notion that a group of, say, ten able-bodied and fairly-indifferent American men stood an exceptional chance of bouncing the car far enough down the hill to provide enough space for Andy to squeeze the bus by. We all had a good chuckle at that idea... and then we demanded Andy open the bus-door... and, upon his doing so, two handfuls of American rustlers, cut-throats, murderers, bounty-hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con-men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse-thieves, bull-dykes, train-robbers, bank-robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists piled off the bus, surrounded the offending car, bounced it to get it going and rolled it about fifteen feet down the hill (it actually went further and faster than we anticipated... kinda scared us). We hustled back onto the bus to the laughter and applause of the entire group (including driver and guide), and off we went. The Castle paled in comparison to that epic moment (not really), and it went miles to knit the group together in minutes.
The second of these moments took place the next evening... after returning from a day of touring down to Burns country - Alloway and Ayr - we all freshened up and regrouped for a group dinner at the hotel restaurant. We like the group dinners on account of the opportunities they provide to mix it up with new folks and knit the group together. Dinner was delicious, and afterwards, we all piled on the bus and headed over to Stockwell Street and the Scotia Bar - the oldest pub in Glasgow. Founded in 1792, the bar has seen more than its share of patrons and performers. One of the more famous of the latter were the Humblebums, a mid-1960s trio featuring Gerry Rafferty, Billy Connolly, and Tam Harvey. The pub was rich with history and atmosphere, with its low, beam-splayed ceiling, woodwork and red-leathered snugs, and the plethora of framed art and photos that chronicled its 220-year history. The group poured in, and over the course of the night would mix it up with the locals to the good time of all. We struggled a little to cobble together a working PA from the pieces the bar had, and what they could dredge up from friends on very short notice. We played for a few hours and had a few guest-performers - the special one of note being our good friend and fellow folksinger, Hazel Lewry, who can ordinarily be found tooling about the West Indies with her hubby Bill in their sailboat, but was coincidentally in Glasgow the same weekend we were. After we were done, we broke everything down, packed up our instruments, and everyone dashed through the rain to the bus and we headed back to the hotel and sleep.
A third moment was the Traditional Scottish Evening we enjoyed the next evening at the magnificent Atholl Palace. This was our second group-dinner of the tour, and it was an extraordinary banquet. The evening began for most of us in the Stagshead Bar with cocktails... or two (or, for some, three). A bagpiper came in, struck up a march, and piped us into the grand dining room. We fell into groups of seven or eight and sat down at lavishly set tables, each setting adorned with a glass of whiskey (among other things). The banquet began in earnest with the attendant bringing out drinks and an appetizer course of Smoked Tay Salmon Paté. On the verge of the presentation of the second course of Haggis, Bashed Neeps, and Chappitt Tatties, the piper piped in the chef and attendant bearing the haggis which they paraded around the room for the reverence of all, and then proceeded with a recital Robert Burns masterpiece Address To A Haggis, complete with bodily injury to the haggis. Then there was a main course of extravagantly-prepared Breast of Chicken Crowdie, a dessert of Blairgowrie Strawberry and Vanilla Bavardis, and a serving of coffee and sweetmeats. After dinner, the bagpiper returned with an accordionist and two dancers, and the remainder of the evening was spent dancing and some heavy watching. The dancing began with the dancers doing a couple of highland dances - a seann triubhas and a Highland fling - accompanied by the piper, and then the accordionist played for some Scottish country dancing (more akin to our square dancing or contra dancing) that got everyone (who was willing) up and sweating it on the floor... then back to the highland dancing, and then more country dancing... to the end of the night. It was a great night!
The last of these moments took place the next evening at our second performance at Hootananny in Inverness, the "Capital of the Highlands". Hootananny is a live acoustic music venue that features music six nights a week... and they've built a solid, regular audience of people who've come to expect great live music. We came into Inverness after a l-o-n-g day of traveling and sightseeing, checked into the Kingsmill Hotel. We'd all been given a turn-around time to unpack, clean up, refresh ourselves, and get back to the bus before heading over to the pub (albeit being just a mile-and-a-half walk). When we arrived and went in, it looked like your typical great pub. There was a good amount of open room that our group took up. We set up our instruments and electronics, and sat down for dinner while their sound-guy (who had just arrived) began setting up the pub's sound-gear in earnest. By the time we took the stage, the pub was a wall of people... it was amazing. Not there to see us... just there to see whoever was there playing... and that kind of loyalty from their audience was really energizing. They hung on every song and stayed late, and when we finished up, many of them visited with us - including two different groups of Americans, from Boston and Baltimore, who were in Scotland vacationing. Another fun coincidence was running into a handful of folks whom we've performed with on a handful of occasions, the lads from Albannach and Brother, who are also in Scotland for a couple weeks touring as the collaboration Bronach, had performed earlier that evening and had come in to blow off some steam and catch what Hootananny had to offer. It was great to catch the Albannach boys again, and meet the gang from Brother. After the evening wrapped up, we caught a cab back to the Kingsmill to call it a night.
Finally, we'd like to acknowledge everyone on the tour... our guide Maggie, who led the tour expertly, graciously, charmingly, with always the amazing trivia or riveting story... Andy, our driver, who lent his gritty sense of humor and rough charm to the tour... and our hands-down wonderful friends and travelling companions Bob, David, and Dan; Delbert and Sherri; Mike, Thea, and John; Ron and Taylor; Charles; Vicky, Dot, and Marcus; JR and Dana; Mike and Allison; Jack and Angie; Ferg and Ben; Melissa and Gib; Becky; PJ; Michael and Karen; Nancy and Bill... and last, but certainly not least, Michelle and Kurt.
April 5th-7thThis past weekend, we turned in our 16th season at the Norman Medieval Fair - a fair we've done every year we've been a band save one, and one of our all-time most-favorite ones. It was as beautiful weekend as it could be given that it all weekend long the wind came sweeping down the plain. We left Kansas City about 5:30, grabbed some Chipotle in Olathe, and high-tailed it for Ron Deluca's house, making the drive in about six hours. We arrived, brought our stuff inside, visited with Ron until we were all pooped, and hit the hay.
NORMAN MEDIEVAL FAIR
Saturday morning, we got up, dressed and packed our stuff, grabbed one of Ron's coolers, went by Homeland to grab groceries for lunch, hit McDonald's, and headed over to Reaves Park. We arrived at the Unicorn Stage to find the Harmon brothers (Bob, David, and Dan) waiting for us. Four Part Disharmony was just beginning their set. They were followed by Liam Selvey, following in his father Skip's footsteps and performing as Harmless T Jesterson. And so we would cycle, four times each day. Friday was Kid's Day... always a mixed-bag for Celtic band... but it was still a great (albeit fairly windy day). We spent the day (as we would the entire weekend) floating around visiting with the folks in Brizeus, Barely Balanced, and Black Oak Shillelagh (who were performing on the Gryphon Stage): and the Bilge Pumps (over on the Camelot Stage). After the performing day was over, we went over to O Asian Fusion with the Harmons, and EJ, Al, Dave, and Rosalind. And after getting full on sushi, we went back to Ron's to crash.
Saturday morning's routine was a repeat of Friday morning's, and we ended up arriving out at Reaves Park around 9:00. It was an even better day than Friday as far as temperature, although it was a little windier. In between sets today, we took the time to play bocce and stretch with some of our friends who came out to visit. After a great day, we packed up and headed out to Johnny Carino's with Ron, Tanya, the Langs, the Biggs, and the Harmons (again). After an exceptional dinner, it was once again back to Ron's and to bed.
Sunday morning, we did our morning routine once more before landing ourselves out at the Fair. This was the windiest day of the weekend... truth be told, Mark insists he inhaled at least two pounds of hay and dirt over the course of the weekend. It was also our short day - our schedule each day ended with a 6:15 set to wrap up performances on our stage... but with a 6-hour drive home, Ann Marie cut us loose after our 4:00 set was done. By then, the Harmons had already said goodbye and were well on their way back to Texas. We packed our gear, loaded the van, and made a huge round of goodbyes before piling in and heading north. Early, early Monday morning, we were home and in bed.
March 30thSaturday night was a special one-night only performance at O'Malley's Pub. Flannigan's Right Hook had performed on Friday evening, but that was the only night they were available, so we stepped in to save the day for Mike and Cory. It was a great night. The weather was fine, the crowd was big and responsive, and a birthday punctuated the evening. Not a lot to say other than that. Shout-outs to Garry; Mike and Allison; Kim and Adam; Scott and Louise; Alana; Chris; Phillip; Nathan; and Grace.
March 23rdThis past Saturday, the tradition of the Kansas City Rogues Gallery's annual Spring Hoolie continued (notwithstanding some freakish Winter weather), making it the 11th iteration of the event. We all met up over at Lenexa's VFW Post #7397 around 4:00 to begin setting up, and folks were beginning to traipse in as we were completing our sound-check. Throughout the course of the night, about 100-ish people showed up, equally dividing between the room where the performance was and the main bar. And as we have continually done for every year but the first, we passed our song-list around, allowing folks to choose what they want to throw against the wall to see if it sticks (which was most of the time). It was an awesome party, and we found ourselves wondering if might be appropriate to begin looking for roomier digs. We wrapped up, packed up, and headed home. Shout-outs to everyone (no, we're not going to name you all).
March 16th-17thThis weekend featured a trio or St Patrick's Day performances, beginning with return-trip to the Emma Chase Music Hall. Emma "A-Cookie-in-Every-Jar" Chase, the "woman that history forgot", is the Kansas prairie's ideal woman commemorated in both the Music Hall and its sister-business, the Emma Chase Café. The Music Hall features weekly bluegrass sessions and regular performances from local and regional performers. We got hooked up with the Sue Smith and the Music Hall at the recommendation of our friends Beth and Ray Cole, who pointed us in the direction of Cottonwood Falls nearly two years ago. We headed down to Emporia late Saturday morning, and arrived at Ray and Beth's house. We had a great visit with them, and then followed them out to Cottonwood Falls, pulling into the Café and checking in with Sue. While dinner was on the stove, we drove down to the Music Hall and set up our instruments, then came back and enjoyed her special dinner of corned beef and cabbage, and topped it off with pie. Then it was back to the Music Hall to tune, sound-check, and then perform a really fun concert. Shout-outs to Dale and Evan; Doc and Tracey; Jane; Charles; BJ; Diane; Mark; and Michael. Afterwards, we wrapped up and followed Ray and Beth back to Emporia, visited for another short bit, and then went to bed.
EMMA CHASE MUSIC HALL / ST PATRICK'S DAY @ ST PATRICK'S CHURCH / O'MALLEY'S PUB
The next morning, we woke up early, had an early breakfast with Ray and Beth, and then hit the road for the hour-long drive to Emerald KS for what would be the ninth time we've played for St Patrick's Church and the annual fund-raiser and dinner they hold to celebrate St Patrick's Day. Folks from all over come out in support of this benefit (and for the fine, farm-fresh cooking), and it is always a great time. It's an honor to return as often as we have, and we're beginning to feel like part of the family. Shout-outs to Ina; Howard; Laurel; Leanne; Siobhan; Connie; "Dancing" Nancy; Jane; Kim; Connie; Brookelyn; and Carol.
We broke down as quickly as possible, loaded the van, and hit the road for another almost-two-hour haul to O'Malley's Pub in Weston, where we'd be taking the the middle set (of three on the Hall Stage). St Pat's is a serious deal for Mike and Corey, especially when it's on a weekend, so they had arranged for three bands (Connacht Town, Tullamore, and the Kelihans) and Bob Reeder for entertainment all day and all evening. We arrived very close to the end of the early set from Connacht Town, and got all of our stuff set up in the middle landing while they were finishing and clearing off. We went down, set up, sound-checked pretty quick, and were off to the races. We played a great set to a huge and lively crowd, and then handed off the stage to the Kelihans who wrapped up the evening. Bob kicked things off upstairs on the Pub Stage at about 3:00, and played on and off most of the night. Shout-outs to Krissy; Erik; Tim; Carrie; Alex; Mike and Gayla; and Marion and Diane.
March 1st-3rdFor the 6th consecutive season, we turned in a set of performances as feature performers at the North Texas Irish Festival. It's an honor and a privilege to be one of the regulars at this great Festival - we love the event, the audience, and our fellow performers... and it's a pretty sweet gig to have on the annual calendar.
NORTH TEXAS IRISH FESTIVAL
The weekend began with a Friday afternoon Southwest flight (ALWAYS) down to Love Field. Our local roadie/chauffeur-extraordinare, Bob Harmon, was there to collect us and hurry us over to the Doubletree where we dropped off our suitcases. With instruments and gear in tow, we headed down towards Fair Park, stopping for a late-lunch on the way at On the Border (one of our restaurant-faves... gotta love the Guacamole Live!). Afterwards, we headed on in to the Festival, first checking in at Instrument Check-In, and then heading over to the Star and Harp Pub Stage. Scatter the Dust was just beginning to sound-check as we arrived. We leisurely set up our instruments, electronics, and merchandise, and tuned while listening to the band. We took the stage at 8:00 and turned in a great performance for a mostly full audience (not bad for Friday evening), and then turned the stage over to Brian McNeill. We had a great time listening to, and singing along with Brian as we broke down. After a little more wandering, we dropped all our fear off at Instrument Check-In and headed to the hotel. Following up on last year's great meal there, we ran by In-N-Out Burger for a late dinner before hitting the hotel. Mary and Rachel went to bed, and Mark stayed up and had a couple beers with folks at the bar.
The next morning, we hooked up with Richard Jones who ran us around for an outstanding breakfast at the Allgood Café (where it's ALL good). After breakfast, we headed back over to the Festival where we had the entire day to ourselves. In addition to making a couple of passes around the Festival site, we caught some Flashpoint, some more Brian McNeill, some Barra MacNeills, some Ed Miller, some BEHAN, and some Brock McGuire before we headed over for a sweet Saturday-evening set on the Trinity Stage (one of the two main stages). It was a treat to have such a great set, and we made the most of it... playing our best material to a crowd of about 300. Afterwards, we packed up, took the gear over to Instrument Check-In, and headed back to the hotel. By the time we arrived, most of the sessions had started in earnest. Mary hung out a little and went to bed, and Rachel floated around between a few... while in the meantime, Mark drank a few beer with the folks hanging out at the bar and listened in on a couple sessions. Then we all hit the hay.
The next morning, we hooked up with Richard once more for another great breakfast at Café Brazil, and then back to Fair Park for one more day. We arrived, went right over to the Cashel Stage where Don Gabbert had just begun performing. We set up while listening to him, and then played our own set to wrap up our weekend of performing. We did some last-minute visiting, then listened to our old friends Tinsmith, made a huge round of goodbyes, piled into Bob's SUV, and headed off to the airport. Four hours later, we were home and looking forward to next season's visit. Shout-outs to the couple-hundred DFW friends and fans who turned out!
February 15thFriday evening, we had the good fortune of returning to the Kansas City Irish Center to perform the feature concert to conclude their Winerfest 2013. The Irish Center is Kansas City's hub of Irish activities, programs, music, and educational opportunities, and it celebrates, supports, preserves and promotes Irish heritage and culture. WinterFest is one of two annual mini-festivals they have annually to spotlight Irish music in Kansas City. It began the previous Saturday with an afternoon/evening event that featured Bob Reeder, Gerald Trimble, Scarlet Town, the 3 Dollar Band, Eddie Delahunt, and Ceili at the Crossroads... and ended with Friday evening's feature concert for a standing-room only crowd (which really is just a little over 100) including about 70 of the band's die-hardest regulars (no, we're not going to name you all). It was a great evening, and we look forward to our next concert at the Irish Center.
February 1st-2ndThis past weekend, we turned in our first performance of the year at O'Malley's Pub, our local haunt. We had some worries that the attendance would be low give the poor weather at the beginning of the week. Friday night started out an a great note. Kevin and Michelle were up to celebrate their anniversary, and we took the opportunity to meet them for dinner at the American Bowman prior to our set. We were also joined by Mike (who was up from Rolla) and Chel (who came up to Weston with Rachel). It was a great dinner, and then it was over to the pub. The pub was full by the time we began our set. The only damper on the evening was that Mark was fighting off a very sore throat... which, by the time the evening was over, was fully blown. Otherwise, it was a great, boisterous night with a very friendly, lively crowd. It was our pleasure to see Kevin and Michelle; Mike; Chel and Desmond; Ann and Mark (we played at their wedding!); Chris; Stephen and Kendrick ("What's a wake?!?"); Sarah and Gabe; and Jason, Mike, and Rusty. And the crowd was capably cared for by Allison, Laura, Tyson, Holly, Stephen, and Aaron.
Saturday evening was a real roller-coaster ride! Mark nursed his (blown) voice all day long, and was up to half-voice by the time the evening began. The pub was only about three-quarters full when the band started playing. Our strategy was to have the girls sing as much of their material as we could manage - notwithstanding that a lot of their songs are classy (artsy-fartsy) by bar-standards. And we had enrolled Mike (Coakley) in the possibility of helping out with a mini-set should the need arise. All of that being the case, as Mark began stretching out his voice, it strengthened up, and he was able to make it through 11:00 before things started getting sketchy. In the meantime, the crowd got (inexplicably) huge... like Weston-Irish-Festival-huge... but still into the music (which, in our previous experiences, is atypical of the huge crowds). It turned out to be quite the night! It was our pleasure to welcome back Dan and Norma, and Larry; and to also see Mike; Mike and Allison; Joe, Willow, Suzanne, and Gene; Cherish; Francis, Grant, Adam, and Stephen; Shannon and Tara; Ryan, April, and Christine; Jeff and his crew; Susan; Sue and Buddy; Greg; Marla; and Kenny. Saturday night's sea of patrons were expertly served by Holly, Laura, Meredith, Stephen, Tyson, and Ray. It was a great weekend overall, and we're looking forward to our return on St Patrick's Day!
January 26thThis past weekend, we had the pleasure of putting in yet another performance at the Scottish Club of Tulsa's annual Robert Burns Supper. It was our 10th appearance there - for a group that we love to perform for, and who loves to have us down. We drove down Saturday morning, arriving at the Homebuilders Association in the early-afternoon to meet Steve, Eric, and Michael. Roger would arrive on our heels and help us set up, which process was much simpler than in previous years on account of being able to plug into the system the Club had set up to manage their own sound-needs (please forgive the tech-talk). After we set up and sound-checked, we headed over to the hotel to change and spruce up prior to the start of the evening.
ROBERT BURNS SUPPER
We were back by the start of the evening, and played a set of low-key music during cocktail-hour... slow ballads and some planxtys. When we finished, we took our seats at our table, and the City of Tulsa Pipes and Drums entered, marching and bagpipes a'skirl. They performed a roaring set - 20 minutes of tunes of all sorts... fun, exciting, and moving - and then marched themselves out. After a short break, the traditional procession of the haggis began, with a the retinue of Rick piping, and Steve, Eric, Charlie, and the chef attending. After a pass around the room, they ended at a table in the center, where they laid the haggis and Charlie launched into an animated recital of Burns' Address To A Haggis. After the stabbing, the whiskey-drinking, and the recital was completed, the recession went about, and then the banquet began - buffet style. When all were re-seated and the dining began, so did the ceremonies - beginning with honoring the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns; then toasts to the lasses, to the lads, to Scotland, and to the Heads of State; and finally the presentation of the Crookit Bawbwee and the Silver Thistle awards. When all the ceremonies were observed, we took the stage... and after a little troubleshooting, began our performance. We had a great time, especially when the room would get up and do some country-dancing... Strip the Willow, and so on. The evening wore on to the end, and we were joined onstage by Steve, Eric, Donna and Charlie, Rick, David, and Steve and Katherine for a rousing performance of Flower Of Scotland. Then after a few more numbers, we closed the evening out with Auld Lang Syne. We ran about 10 minutes long, so we had exactly 20 minutes to completely break down and load out - which we accomplished with the help of Roger and a few club-members. Then it was off to bed. It was our pleasure to see Roger; Charlie and Donna; Eric and Donna; Steve and Aleah; Derryl and Mary, Heather, Rachel and David, and Aiyanna; Rick and Chris, and Bill; Vicki and Michael; Bruce; Sandy, Damon, and Trish and David (our table-mates); Richard and Kami; David and Sabrina; Steve and Kat; Matt; Ann; Tom; and Schuyler.
Sunday morning, we were up and out early, and off to Springfield. We arrived at the farm-home of friends Lee and Lee Ann. After a small tour of their plastic tunnel, we headed off to Haruno's - where we were met by Kevin and Michelle, whom we had arranged to join us for lunch. We had a great visit with them (over a l-o-n-g wait for food), and then Mark and Rachel hit the road back to Kansas City (to get her back in time for a recital) while Mary tarried and drove home with Kurt (who came down just for the dinner). A great weekend overall!
January 19thLast weekend, we kicked off our 17th season (zoinks!) with a performance with Sheppies House Concerts (the series held in the Houston home of Ros and Paul Shepherd). This was our third performance for these two dear friends, whom we originally met (years ago now) at the Texas Scottish Festival in Arlington.
SHEPPIES HOUSE CONCERT
The weekend began with a morning flight to Houston where, upon arriving, we were picked up by Laura McEntire Hunter. En route to Chez Shepherd, we stopped at SPECS (what a store!) and Walgreen's AND got a mini-tour of south Houston. The house was set up for the concert by the time we arrived. We had ample time to relax, chat, have a beer or two, and even get in a small nap before folks began arriving. They were fairly packed in by the time the concert began. Performing for this group of music-lovers has, over the three concerts we've done for them, become less like performing and more like hanging out with (and showing off for) a bunch of friends. It was a great concert (if we do say so ourselves... and we do). And folks stayed and visited until the wee hours. Then it was time to stumble off to bed.
The next morning was a late one, and we woke to the aroma of a sumptuous breakfast - eggses, baconses, sausages, puddingses (black and white), tomatoes, mushrooms, salmon, toast, coffee - with Ros, Paul, and Laura. Afterwards, we lounged around and conversated the afternoon away. Paul burned a copy of the concert-video to a DVD, so we sat and watched (and critiqued it) while it transferred. Then it was time to get up, pack, make our goodbyes, and head off to the airport courtesy of Laura again.
It was our great pleasure to see Ros and Paul; Laura; Jim; Jan and Jim; Alison; Beth; John; Fergus; Jay; Robin; Heather; Diane; Ed; Vizi and Sam; Sia; and a few dozen more too numerous to remember clearly. We're looking forward, hopefully, to our fourth concert there!