To our family, our dear friends, and our wonderful fans... The happiest of holiday wishes to you - the deepest peace, profoundest joy, and all the love you could ever want. It is our greatest pleasure and privilege to touch and be touched by you, to share with you, and be connected with you all just by doing what we love doing. Your company and support are the greatest gift we could ever receive in this season of giving. Thank you all!!
On what would be a most auspicious weekend, we made our way up to O'Malley's Pub for our 90th engagement there in over 18 years. After having taken a shot at a live-recording session there just over a month ago and throwing up an air-ball, we redeemed ourselves this past weekend... putting one up to beat the buzzer, and it was nothing but net! The recording-session was for the second installment of The O'Malley's Sessions trilogy - Two To Get Ready. And it was all magic - the buzz from the crowd, the unveiling of some new pieces, and even the synchronicity.
Back on November 6th, 2004… the first Saturday of that November… we found ourselves up at O’Malley’s for another memorable evening – the celebration of the release of our second CD and the first installment of The O'Malley's Sessions trilogy, One For The Road. Ten seasons and 62 engagements later… nearly ten years to the day… we were now back up at O’Malley’s in the thick of recording round-2. The weekend was a fusion of some experiences that were worlds apart. Capturing the recording was, of course, thrilling... AND was also occurring in Rachel's imminent departure from the band. Bittersweet turned up to 11.
The new toys went over like gangbusters... Culloden's Harvest - Alastair McDonald's predictably melancholic song about the ill-fated battle and the aftermath; The Rangers of Gonzales - Bruce Clavey's Texas-Irish poem (set to music by Mark) about the Gonzales Ranging Company, their sacrifice at the Alamo, and the Battle of San Jacinto; Geordie - Robert Burns chronicles of the amazing misadventures of George Gordon; Brezhoneg'Raok - Alan Stivell's lament and indictment on the near-demise of the Breton language; and Run Rufus, Run - Dale Ann Bradley's dark, dramatic tale of her moonshine-running, 12-year-old cousin Rufus.
Mike Coakley expertly handled all the extra recording requirements AND the crowd. And it was just great. We expect to get around to the third installment in another 10 years. Shout-outs to Phyllis, Mike and Allie, Kevin and Michele, Teresa and Mark, Bryan and his throng, David and Jaimie, Brian, Mike and Gayla, Marion and Diane, Anna and Amy, Jen, Joanna, and Curtis.
WESTON IRISH FESTIVAL / WATERFIRE KC
When the leaves turn yellow and red, it's the time of the year to head up to Weston for one of the little town's biggest attractions - the Weston Irish Festival. This was their 15th anniversary season, and they had plenty of great musicians around to help celebrate it - Searson, the Screaming Orphans, Barleyjuice, Connie Dover, Rathkeltair, the Wild Colonial Bhoys, the Mickey Finns, Jiggernaut, Eddie Delahunt, the 3 Dollar Band, Bob Reeder, Flannigan's Right Hook, Chance the Arm, the Kelihans, and (of course) Tullamore.
Friday was an off-night for us. We showed up at O'Malley's Pub late Saturday morning (11:00-ish) as we would be opening the Hall Stage in the bottom cellar. The stage was full of rock-band accoutrement that had to be rearranged into the keg-elevator before we could set up Mary's massive dulcimer. Eventually we pulled it off, set it up, and kicked in. The crowd was already in the swing by the time our set began at 1:00... and a great set it was. We wrapped up to clear the stage for our good friends Deanna, Matthew, Richard, Rodger, and Garren (Jiggernaut) - it's always a treat to hear them sing. We had a fairly quick turnaround before our second set upstairs in the top cellar's Pub Stage. We had the occasion to swap sets with the Kelihans so as to be able to finish for the day early enough to get back to KC for another festival! We made it upstairs, gear in tow, to catch the last 15 minutes of a set by Eddie Delahunt - Kansas City's adopted son of Erin's Isle. Once he wrapped up his set, we shoehorned ourselves into the performers' corner and played our second set of the day - which was very much loved by the crowd. We played for an hour-and-a-half finishing at 4:3o, wrapped up, packed up, and handed off the stage to Bob Reeder - the cornerstone of Kansas City's Irish musicians' community. Then we made our general farewells to all and sundry, piled in the van, and sped off to Kansas City.
We arrived at the Country Club Plaza at about 6:00 for our first-ever performance at Waterfire KC - an annual music and arts festival drawing on traditions from around the world and represented by Kansas City performers, and marked by lighted braziers sent floating down Brush Creek. It's a two-day festival (Friday and Saturday), and we earned a set Saturday evening. Rachel B joined us for this performance - always a treat. The evening began with a set of Brazilian jazz by the Sons of Brasil; the lighting of the braziers; a set of incredible singing from Vinson Cole; then some Flamenco music and dance from Ensemble Ibérica; and some operatic performances from Trio Forte. Then we took the stage and gave the audience a taste of the traditional music of Ireland and Scotland. After our set, we dug in for the remainder of the evening for some more great performances - some beautiful singing by Rebecca Achtenberg; a great set by Los Musicos Mariachi Band; some classical music by the UMKC String Quartet; some very tasty English folk music by the William Baker Festival Singers (where Rachel B made her second appearance of the evening onstage); and the Borderline Brass Quintet performing some contemporary classical music to wrap it all up. Most satisfying! Then we made our goodbyes to Rachel B and headed home.
The first weekend of October found us returning to O'Malley's Pub, with not just one Rachel but two of them. Rachel B came along this weekend and brought her drummery with her to the delight of all. This was actually the performance originally slated to record the second of our O'Malley's Sessions trilogy (really? just three?)... but as fate would have it, a couple of the numbers we wanted to include were still not ready so we fobbed off the recording until our November O'Malley's weekend. It was a pleasantly cool weekend, unusually so for early-October - coming in at just over 50°. Friday was a bit on the raucous side... the pub was mostly full by the time we kicked off our set, and filled up presently, staying full for the majority of the night. Saturday early-evening, we met in the America Bowman for a tasty dinner before heading downstairs to play. (If you've never eaten at the Bowman, we HIGHLY recommend it.) Saturday night would be another big night. As we said - we had promoted it as the night for our live-recording, and a big crowd showed up in support. AND we had also hired friend and photog-extraordinaire Kathy Disney to come up and photograph the band for the CD (check back here for the eventual gallery link). Overall it was a really great weekend.
McPHERSON SCOTTISH FESTIVAL
For just the third time ever, the band made the drive out to north-central Kansas for an appearance at the McPherson Scottish Festival and Highland Games. Our last appearance there was in 2006 and, thankfully, not a lot has changed - which is a great thing because it was a great festival in 2006. The Friday evening performance appears to have fallen by the wayside in the past eight years, so the band drove out Saturday morning. With a first set at 11:00 and wanting to arrive by 9:30. we left Mary's at mind-numbing 6:30am and made the 3-hour drive right smartly. It was beautiful all weekend... just about 80°. We arrived to discover that the format of four bands in two tents had also given way to three bands in one tent, and were happy to learn that we would be sharing the Glasgow Tent with friends Al Cofrin and Kristen Jensen (Earl Grey In the Morning) and Dudley-Brian Smith, Bob Smith, and Jan Smith (Smithfield Fair) - whom we haven't seen in years. We arrived toward the tail-end of Al and Kristen's set, said hello to the Smiths, and began setting up. Smithfield Fair took the stage and started into their set and we visited with Al and Kristen, and then took over the stage when SF was done. There was a small handful of folks that remembered us from our 2006 appearance, the rest were completely new faces. Chuck Vetter (the sound-coordinator) and his son Nelson came by toward the end of our set. When we were finished playing and selling CDs, we visited with them, then caught EGITM's second set, and then turned in our own second set. Afterwards, we went on walkabout with Nelson, grabbed some late lunch at Krehbiel's, and brought it back to the tent to catch SF's final set of the day.
We packed it up and headed over to Best Western to unwind a little, clean up, and get gussied up for the concert that evening over at the McPherson Museum. All three of the bands would be turning in sets that evening for the crowd that came out - EGITM kicking it off, Tullamore playing second, and SF wrapping it up. It was a great evening! Then it was over to downtown McPherson for a party at the most exceptional home of Chuck, Taryn, and Nelson Vetter... above Sounds Great Music, the family business. Folks from both of the other bands were there as well, and it was a great evening overall - company, noshing, libations, and a tour of the home. Then it was back to the hotel and bed.
The next morning, we grabbed some McBreakfast and then headed back to Lakeside Park for day-2 of the Festival. We got there an hour ahead of our first set, unpacked, set up, and tuned. We took the stage at 10:30, played a nice, easy-going, Sunday-morning set and turned the stage over to SF. We took in half their set, then walked back down to Krehbiel's for another outstanding lunch, and brought that back to the tent to catch EGITM's only set of the day. They finished up and made their goodbyes so as to get on the road as soon as possible. We played our second set, and made our own goodbyes to SF, as we would be hitting the road before there set was done... which we did. It was really great to see those three again after so many seasons. Shout-outs to Mike and Jarrett, Darrell, Bill, Jan, Joshua, Garrin, Thomas, Joshua, Brian, Connie, Tom, Rachel, Debora, and Stephen.
Chaucer said, "There is an end to everything, to good things as well." And so it is for the current line-up. On the way home, Rachel announced that the six- or seven-week stints away from Kip were too burdensome, and put in her notice that she would be leaving the band. It was hard to hear - given her history and great fit. She graciously agreed to work with the band through the end of the season, and until we got a new fiddler and vocalist up to speed. That's all for now...
Last weekend, we had the pleasure of returning to Oklahoma’s capital city for another go-around at the Oklahoma Scottish Festival. In addition to being one of our more rapidly-developing audiences, the Festival is a real gem. Eric Robertson and Steve Campbell have an uncanny knack for making just the right tweaks and adjustments that improve the Festival year by year (this year, it was doubling the size of the Celtic Folk tent – which made for some hefty crowds for the bands down our way). We tore out of Kansas City around 2:30 on Friday afternoon, and pulled into River West Park just as the Flowers of Edinburgh were beginning their set. We made our hellos to folks – Ed Miller, and Jed Marum and Hugh Morrison
SOUTHWEST MISSOURI CELTIC HERITAGE FESTIVAL
Last weekend, we made our annual pilgrimage down to Buffalo to headline at the Southwest Missouri Celtic Heritage Festival – a wonderful yet modest affair that takes place at the Old City Park and Fairgrounds. The highlights are the Heavy Competitions, the performance by Central High School Kilties, and two stages full of music all day long. Although there is a Friday-night ceilidh, we made the very early drive down, arriving (along with a bare drizzle) just as Sarah Hook was beginning her set. Kevin met us in the parking lot and helped us schlep our gear to the pavilion. We set up and tuned quickly, and took the stage after Sarah wrapped up her set. Our set concluded with the Calling of the Clans and then the Parade. We took that opportunity to lunch it on some fine Buffalo barbecue (buffalo the place, not the meat) while the Kilties dazzled the crowd with their parade routine. The Bonniest Knees competition followed where a dozen be-kilted men lined up onstage and had their knees (and manliness) fawned over and judged. Then we took the stage for our second set., After we played, there was some ceilidh dancing, and then sets by EznDil, and Jon and Heidi Reneau. The day was wrapped up with a musical jam that included all of the musicians PLUS Tom Meehan, Turtle and the Hair, and Deryl Dickerson. As always, a treat to see Kevin and Michelle, and Johnathan; Darryl and Stephanie (and all the weans); Emily; John; Nick; Linda; and Cheryl (and more, of course). Lee and Lee Ann arrived late in the day and we continued our annual pilgrimage over to the Maple Street Grill for dinner with the two of them, Kevin and Michelle, Johnathan, and Amie and Jeff. It was a wonderful dinner (as always) with plenty of great conversation and laughs… and great food! When the time came, we made our goodbyes to all but Lee and Lee Ann, and the pilgrimage continued to their farm. We sat around and visited a while, watched some music videos in their den of entertainment, and the went to bed. The next morning we got up, continued the visiting, had a farm-fresh breakfast, and headed home. A great weekend!
August 30th - September 1st
KANSAS CITY IRISH FESTIVAL
Our eighth appearance at the Kansas City Irish Festival this past weekend kicked off our Fall run with Rachel driving out for what would be a seven-week slew of gigs... and what a weekend it turned out to be. In the run-up to the weekend, and as a presage to how excellent the weekend would turn out, we got an eleventh-hour call from entertainment director David Shaughnessy letting us know our Saturday noon-time set on the Atrium Stage inside Crown Center was moving to the Boulevard Stage – which was quite the escalation. Saturday began with Mark's 9:00 arrival at the Westin Crown Center to watch Kaitlin O’Malley competing at the Feis ("As God as my witness, I’ve never seen so much curly hair"). He missed her set-dances, but got to see her compete in individual competition dancing a reel and a slip-jig… and then headed down to the Boulevard Stage to begin setting up for the set.
The day had started out at a mild 76… but by the time we began setting up, the temperature had climbed into the mid-80s. We set the instruments up in the sun knowing they would shift as they got hotter, and got everything else set up before tuning. Rachel B joined us for the Saturday set, bringing some extra drive and punch with the bodhrán and cajón. We sound-checked, were introduced by Peter and Sean, and off we went. We had a great, albeit sweaty set. The most entertaining aspect of the set, for us, was the lengths the audience went to to avoid sitting in the sun. The sun beat down on Grand Avenue – where the entirety of the chairs were. A couple dozen folks sat in the 6-foot strip of shade on the east side of Grand while another 100 folks took chairs out of the street and carried them over under the shade of the trees on the edge of Washington Square Park – leaving four people in the audience proper who clearly enjoyed being in the sun. So while we were playing to about 120 folks, it looked like we were playing to just four. It was a great set – kudos to the crew there (Chris, Mark, Matt, Shawn, Kent, Derrek, and Darryl) as well as to Marsha (stage-manager extraordinaire) and Sean and Peter (who graciously introduced us). Shout-outs to Mike and Allison; Gayla and Mike; Keith, Jen, Duncan, and Rowan; Kaitlin and Megan; and Jim for supporting us at our Saturday set.
After we wrapped up and packed up, we caught a good bit of the set by Chance the Arm before heading over to the Green Room for lunch and a really great visit with Joseph, David, and Daniel (from Flashpoint); Jonathan (Mary’s former band-mate); Jerry; and Ian. From there, we hooked up with Phyllis and Karen and headed over to the Culture Café to catch a great set by Bill Morris (whom we haven’t seen perform in forever). Then we caught a little of Eddie Delahunt, and then Ashley Davis, before packing it all in and heading out.
Sunday morning had a lazy start as we wouldn’t be performing until 4:00. All the same, Mark was out at the site by 11:00 and set out to visit and listen – first a little of Scarlet Town and Chance the Arm on the Boulevard Stage, then Seamus Kennedy on the Park Stage, then a little visiting with Sheryl Bussell – Queen of the Park Entrance, and then back to the Atrium Stage inside Crown Center where we would be performing later. Bob Reeder did a few numbers and handed the stage over to Jonathan Ramsey. By this time, Mary and Rachel had arrived, and we were in the thick of setting up and grabbing a bite to eat before taking the stage ourselves. We had another great set under the watchful ear of our sound-man Ian. Shout-outs to the many folks who came and caught our Sunday performance – Michelle (grrrr!) and Ana (Lizzie and her friend were too cool to actually sit in the audience); Roger; Jim; Mike and Karen; Joe and Mary, and Vicky; Rob; Kelsey; Scott and Louise; Jean, Holly, and Emily; Mike and his family; Terry and David; Deb; George; and Jim.
All in all, it was a great weekend! The Festival had their second biggest attendance day ever! The music and the dancing was grand, as was the camaraderie! As ever, it was a privilege to perform there this weekend, and an extra big shout-out to David Shaughnessy for bringing us out there yet again, and to all of the staff and volunteers that make Kansas City proud by putting on one of the best Irish festivals in the nation!
Another weekend, another performance at O'Malley's Pub. Okay, it's not exactly like that anymore (there was a day...), but it was a GREAT weekend at O'Malley's, made all the greater by being joined by our original Rachel (Bowerman). The weekend began with a small, composed Friday-evening crowd that waxed to absolutely large-ish and animated-adjacent. It was actually a wonderful crowd - being one willing to listen to the off-tempo material we don't do when it's a big, noisy crowd that's only in the mood for big, noisy songs. Minor sound glitches peppered the evening, but all in all it was a good evening. We had the privilege of joining in the celebration of two anniversaries - the 19th anniversary of friends Jason and SueAnn, and the 17th anniversary of new friends Nate and Ann. And right after midnight, we had a last minute birthday song for Josh. Shout-outs to Bryan, Elizabeth, Suzanne, and Portia; Jason and SueAnn; Big Steve; Glenn and Marianne (new friends down from Lincoln); Nate and Amy; Nick and Patrick; Rel and Trich; Matt and Susan; Jesse, Danielle, Liz, and Josh; and Dana and DeLinda (two of Rachel B's friends).
Saturday's evening began with a carpool-ride out to Weston with Rachel and Bryan. The pub was packed by the time we arrived, and stayed full all night. Glenn and Marianne were already there (from last night). There was a big bachelorette party in 'snug-#1'... about twelve young ladies jammed into a snug designed for eight. And that was just one of four parties over the course of the night - Amanda, with a big bunch celebrating her birthday; Leslie, with another couple fellows, celebrating her birthday; and Billie Jean, with a big party of military folks up in the balcony. It was a busy night, and Mike joined us onstage for a couple numbers, as did Scott. Shout-outs to Bryan, Andrea and Eric, and Scott and Louise; Marion & Dianne; Big Steve; Charles, Marty, Steven, Aaron, Aaron (yes, two of them); Curtis; and Mike, Scott, Rick, Danny, Shawn, and Hector. And kudos to Cheyenne, Holly, Erica, Nick, and Dillon for the expert care they took of the patrons both nights.
TEXAS SCOTTISH FESTIVAL
We turned in another performance a the Texas Scottish Festival this past weekend, our eighth there in as many years. The festival is the largest Scottish music festival in the country drawing about 40,000 in attendance, and this year's show featured a stellar line-up that included Brian McNeill, Rathkeltair, Ed Miller & John Taylor, Clandestine, Jiggernaut, Jil Chambless & Scooter Muse, Cleghorn, Murder the Stout, Jed Marum, Piper Jones Band, Scotland Rising, Kendall Rogers, Margaret Lyle Gravitt & Jim McCrain, Seamus Stout, and Rickey Pittman in addition to Tullamore.
And the beginning of a new era for the band - that of operating as a band from two locations (no doubt old hat for many bands, but new to us). Mary and Mark took a lunchtime flight from Kansas City down to Dallas. Rachel, on the other hand, who now lives out in Norfolk with her flyboy Kip, took some zero-dark-thirty flight that bounced around half the eastern-US until she ended up in Dallas. As it turned out, however, her fiddle didn't arrive on the same flight as did she... so we had to improvise, overcome, adapt. Bob (Harmon) was there to pick all of us up, and we piled in his car and took off. On the drive over to UTA andMaverick Stadium, we reached out to Deanna and Ros (two very-resourceful women in Texas' Celtic-music community) to locate a fiddle to be borrowed, and in minutes Rachel had the blessings from John Taylor and the use of his fiddle for our Friday evening set. We arrived at about 4:30 as David Shaw was completing setting up the sound-gear at the Glen Finnan tent. We got all unpacked, set-up, and tuned - with John arriving in the middle of that and getting his fiddle for Rachel. We took the stage to sound-check, and played an extra-long hour-and-a-half set for the folks who came to the early Friday set. We ended our set as the Opening Ceremonies and the Calling of the Clans began down on the field. Then Ed (Miller) and John began their set for the evening. Somewhere in the middle of that, we headed out to the car, packed up, and headed off to Pappadeaux for a great late-dinner of Cajun food and peach bellinis. Then we drove back to Bob's and bed.
The next morning, we were up bright and early for a 10:00 AM set, off to run through McDonald's for breakfast, and then over to the stadium. We set up and played our morning set for a good crowd, and then turned the stage over to Margaret and Jim. The other Glen Finnan musicians began to arrive, and we visited with all of them in turn. Margaret turned the stage over to Jil and Scooter - who played a great set and handed off the stage to Ed and John in turn. Somewhere in between the Jil/Scooter and Ed/John sets, the Great Musician Melange began (which would last all weekend). We played another set after Ed and John, and then Jed took over. And so we would rotate like this all the way through Jed's 8:00 PM set - the last set of the day on our stage. By that time the Lassies Galore set had begun on the Glen Coe stage... and Rachel and Mary went over to participate and do a couple numbers. But seeing as how Mark wasn't (and still is not) a lassie, he got onstage with Jed, and they did a lot of the duet material we played on their Ireland tour. Afterwards, we all went over to the Glen Coe stage for Fiddle Faddle - the closing jam of the night. There, all the acoustic musicians at the Festival crash the stage and play for two stupendous hours. Then we packed it in, headed back to Bob's and hit the hay.
Sunday morning, we had a slightly later start (by an hour)... giving the opening set to the Kirking of the Tartans service. We took the stage for the first of our two Sunday sets, performed a great set, and then Margaret and Jim came on. For the next six hours, we would rotate through all the musicians twice, with everybody sitting in on each others' sets - a great afternoon. We made a couple more passes around the grounds - visiting with some folks and some vendors, listening to some bands on the other stages, and in search of food. We came back to steal some stage-space from Ed and John, and did half a set with Jed and his son Jamie, then we played our second set - joined by Jil, Scooter, John, and Jed. Jil and Scooter played one more set, then John Taylor hosted a set by himself. In the middle of John's set, Brian McNeill came over from the Glen Coe stage with a parade of patrons and we all conspired for one more big grand jam to end out the day. After making all the appropriate goodbyes, we packed up and headed off to the airport... and flew home as a threesome.
NORMAN MEDIEVAL FAIR
This past weekend, we made our annual pilgramage to the Norman Medieval Fair, the 17th time we've performed there. We got an unusually-early, Thursday-afternoon departure out of Kansas City - hitting I-35, fed, by the time we are usually meeting at Mary's in Raytown. We made it to the home our friend and host, Ron Deluca, by about 10:30, and had a nice visit before turning in.
We began our Friday morning with our typical MedFair routine of running by Homeland for lunch foods, then McDonald's for breakfast, then on to Reave's Park. This year's line-up included Tullamore, Bob, the Incredible Juggler, and Smee, the Singing Executioner on the Unicorn Stage; Brizeus, Barely Balanced, and Black Oak Shillelagh on the Gryphon Stage; the Bilge Pumps, Royal Gauntlet, and the Talents of Avalon on the Camelot Stage; and Arabesque, Fugli, Emerald Flame and the Merry Sisters on the Troubadour Stage. Friday was (unofficially) Kids' Day (a dream-come-true for a Celtic band). The sound-man was just setting up his equipment as we carried our instruments and our own gear to the stage. We said hello to Brian (Bob) and Al (Smee), and to Ann Marie (the director) who took a few minutes to arrange getting our tent located and put-up. Smee led off the stage, then Bob, and then us - which we did four times around over the day... and Saturday and Sunday as well. The day turned out to be fairly lucrative for Kid's Day, and when it was all over, we went out to dinner at O Asian Fusion with Dennis, Jenny and Jay, Tanya, and Ben. Then, after everyone was fat and happy, we went back to Ron's.
Saturday began in the same fashion - with stops at Homeland to McDonald's. It was a fairly chilly day, one that required a stop at Walmart to purchase sweatshirts before heading out to the site. Friends and fans turned out right and left - and would all weekend long. The day was spent, in equal parts, performing, walking around the site and checking out various performances, playing Stretch and Bocce, and hanging out in the tent relaxing and eating. After our final performance of the day, we got a group of us together - the three of us; Ron and Richard; Delbert and Sherri; and Amie, Jeff, and Kaylee (from Turtle and the Hair) - had dinner over at Johnny Carino's. It was a great dinner with a lot of great visiting, at the end of which we followed Ron back to his house for some shut-eye.
Sunday morning saw one last reply of the morning routine before ending up back at Reave's Park. It was still chilly, but only slightly less so. We spent the day trading sets with Smee and Bob, dropping in and watching friends perform, visiting with our favorite crafters, and hanging out with our favorite friends and fans. We only had three sets for the day as Ann Marie had bagged our last set so we could get on the road early to get back to KC at a decent time... but the day had gotten so blustery that the fair was called shortly after our third set ended (such is the risk with outdoor festivals). With the assistance of the handful of folks hanging around, we packed up, loaded the van, and made the six-hour drive home.
We got our uallach on this weekend with our performance at the Kansas City Rogues Gallery Spring Hoolie. The twelfth installment of this tradition was the largest, and brought in many folks who have never been to the hooley before. Mark made it a two-guitar night to minimize on capo-switches for the benefit of moving from one side of the set-list to the other as it made its way around the room. We arrived around four... the Rogues Gallery was already there in conclave (as it were). We busied ourselves with setting up. The Hoolie had long ago outgrown the small room at VFW Post #7397, so the folding-wall divider was left open and it didn't take long for the crowd to spill into the bar. It was great to see so many folks there from the Kansas City Renaissance Festival... while we don't perform there anymore, it IS where we got started, and it's a treat to be able to stay connected to that group of fine folk - both as friends and performers. We played for a couple hours, took a small break while Scott Garten did a few a capella folk songs, did our obligatory solo pieces (Dan's perpetual request/demand), and then finished up the night with another hour-or-so of music. Then we packed it all in and hit the road.
ST PATRICK'S DAY @ O'MALLEY'S PUB
Monday, we were back at O'Malley's Pub for their colossal St Patrick's Day celebration - the biggest in the Kansas City area. This year's bash would feature Tullamore, the Kelihans, and Chance the Arm downstairs on the Hall Stage; and Bob Reeder upstairs on the Pub Stage all evening long. Rachel Bowerman joined us for the afternoon, and we played to a big, animated crowd. There were plenty of friendlies there, even in the early afternoon... Jacob and Megan (celebrating their 14th anniversary); Kim and Adam; Mike and Gayla; Marion and Diane; Randy... and it turned out to be a great set. We turned the stage over to the Kelihans, and packed our gear up. We made our goodbyes, and headed back into Kansas City, stopping for dinner at Kato Sushi (what else would we eat on St Patrick's Day?), and then heading home.
O'MALLEY'S PUB / ST PATRICK'S CHURCH
To say it was a busy St Patrick's Day weekend is the understatement of the year coming from a Celtic band. The weekend began with a special Saturday-afternoon appearance at O'Malley's Pub... a totally off-the-cuff performance borne out of a chance conversation between Mike Coakley and Mark while he was bemoaning the misfortune of the Emma Chase Music Hall - a venue in Cottonwood Falls KS where we've performed the last couple years in conjunction with St Patrick's Day, and which has fallen on tough times. Mike was ready, willing, and able to pick us up for an afternoon-set prior to the evening performance by Chance the Arm. We happily snatched up his offer and turned up Saturday afternoon. They had played Friday night, and their gear was still out on the stage when we arrived. Mark Tetris-ed it into the keg-elevator/missile-silo behind the stage... and with them being a 7-piece band with a drummer, that was no small feat. We played a great set to an audience that started out loud and went up from there. Mega-kudos go out to Dennis Fulks who came up from Hellngone OK to see us for the weekend - what a treat!
Sunday saw us making another visit to one of our favorite 'venues' of our season - St Patrick's Church in the farm-community of Emerald KS. This would be our tenth such outing to perform for their annual fundraiser - a dinner (corned beef and cabbage) and raffle. It was 2004 when Joan Gagnon first contacted us to come play for them, and we fell in love with the event and the community of folks... and with the exception of one year, we've been there every season. We've made a lot of friends there, and eaten a lot of excellent farm-cooking. This year was no exception. There were plenty of people who came to dinner, and there was plenty of great music, singing along, and dancing. When we were done, we wrapped it all up, packed the van, and drove home.
February 28th - March 2nd
NORTH TEXAS IRISH FESTIVAL
Our performance this past weekend at the North Texas Irish Festival was our seventh at the Southwest's banner festival... and it was their 32nd anniversary of the Festival. We flew out of Kansas City late Friday morning and arrived at Love Field in the early afternoon. Super-friend/fan/roadie/shirpa Bob Harmon picked us up and hustled us over to the hotel. We missed out on staying at the Festival-hotel - there was a huge response to the announced line-up that caused an unusual run on the hotel, so we ended up at the Holiday Inn (and we barely got rooms there). Kip is back from deployment in Afghanistan, and accompanied Rachel in from Norfolk, so seating in the Pilot was tight. We dropped off our gear, changed, and then headed over to Fair Park. We arrived with enough time to carry on with a leisurely set-up... checking in to Instrument Check-In, taking our gear over to the Shanachie Stage and setting it up. We were the first band to perform on the stage so we were able to leave our instruments and gear there to acclimate while we roamed around the site and said hello to people. David (Harmon) turned up at some point, and joined the entourage. We returned to the stage and played a nicely-attended set. It was our first time to perform on that stage... theatre-seating, far away from the noise of rock bands and concrete floors... one of the most concert-hall-ish stages at Fair Park. It was a great set, and we were followed by Don Gabbert - who turned in a great set of his own. Afterwards, we visited a while, then packed up. checked our instruments and gear into Instrument Check-In, and headed back toward the hotel. We stopped at In-N-Out Burger for a late dinner on the way, and then hit the hotel and the hay.
The next morning we got up, got ready, and headed over to one of our favorite Dallas restaurants -Henk's European Deli & Black Forest Bakery - for a leisurely breakfast. And then over to the Festival - where the crowds were huge. We had two sets - at 3:30 and 8:00 - on the Cashel Stage, so our day was spent zig-zagging back and forth between the stage and checking out the music. We took a few minutes to detour over to the southeast gate to meet up with Bruce (Mark's brother) who had driven up from Austin for the day to hang out... and then began moseying around the site, taking in the music of BEHAN, Flashpoint, Jiggernaut, Nuala Kennedy, Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy, and Ed Miller. Both of our sets came off nicely (they rocked), and with that we were done performing for the weekend. We continued meandering around, and visiting with folks and listening. Eventually, Bruce headed off for his return trip to Round Rock, and we checked most of our stuff in to Instrument Check-In and headed back to the hotel. Mary kept her dulcimer with her for reasons that will soon become obvious. When we returned to the hotel, the girls (for various reasons) begged out of heading over to the Festival Hotel for getting in on the sessions and socializing, so Bob drove me over there and dropped me off. I spent most of the night hanging out in the lobby, having drinks with Ed and Nora, Craig and Deanna, Jil and Dan, Ros and Paul, Matthew, Rodger, and Albert. It was a great visit that eventually thinned out, and Jil and Dan and I milled about listening in on some sessions. We finally found one Jil wanted to join. I listened for a while and then headed downstairs and caught a ride back to the Holiday Inn.
The next morning, we had breakfast over at IHOP, and then went in different directions. As we had finished performing for the weekend on Saturday, Mary opted out of being at the Festival on Sunday and David took her to the airport. Mark, Rachel and Kip went with Bob to the Festival. After all... it's not every weekend that you get to hang around at the biggest Irish festival in the Southwest and listen to some of the best bands in the Celtic music... on a totally free day. The down side was that the day turned out to be a blustery one, and the temperature shot down to the low 40°s... what folks WERE there crammed indoors, and other folks stayed home. Fortunately, between Saturday being so gorgeous and the impending bad Sunday weather, it seems everybody turned out on Saturday. We listened to the Trinity River Whalers, the Town Pants, the Máirtín de Cógáin Project, the Makem & Spain Brothers, Solas, and some more Ed Miller, before having to pack it in and head to the airport. We thought we would catch a bite to eat on the way... only to find that great intention thwarted as every place we stopped at was closed. We eventually ended up just getting dropped off at the airport and grabbing some food there before flying home.
The DFW Metroplex comprises our second-largest fanbase, and they all turned out this weekend. There are far too many names to remember, let alone list. Suffice it to say - it was great to see you all, to visit with as many of you as we had the chance to, and we hope to see you again ASAP! (That would be at the Texas Scottish Festival in nine short weeks!)
We just can't stay away from O'Malley's Pub - this past weekend was proof enough of that. It was a fairly mild mid-winter's, Valentine's Day weekend... and of course where else would we be than playing at the pub we LOVE to play at? It was a fairly slushy drive - while there was no snowfall, we had just gotten a few inches. Friday night's crowd was a surprisingly big one - punctuated with the appearance of some old-reliables and some brand-newbies. Shout-outs to Michelle (grrrr!); Garry, Lloyd and Bob (down from Cedar Rapids); SueAnne and Jason, and Mike; Gib and Melissa; Rich and Kathleen, and Ron; Marion and Diane, and Mike and Gayla; Big Steve; Andrew and Katie; Amy; Jolene and Bobby, and Suzanne; Adrienne and Sean; Megan; Aaron; Todd; Doyle and Victoria; Jim and Debra; and Emily. And to Aaron, Kristen, Holly, Laura, Steve and Dillon - who ably took care of the crowd. The end of the night was extra-special as Suzanne came up on-stage, took the guitar, and whipped out a few songs of her own... on-and-off accompanied by Mike (Coakley). Bob came home and spent the night in the guest room.
Saturday night was a big night, with a rambunctious crowd. Mark was battling a tired voice and an over-indulgence in last night's audience-generosity (rounds sent up to the stage). But the crowd was eating it up and singing along all night long. The special events of the evening were a pre-arranged song requested by Tom Alger for his fiancee Mary, to whom he proposed afterwards... and the celebration of FOUR birthdays up on the landing with Mary and Rachel. Shout-outs to Dan and Norma; Larry and Sandy; JR and Dana; David and Jaimie; Bob (again); Fred and Angela; Sonya and Kurt; Brian and Amie; Amy, Jake, (both celebrating birthdays), Mikey and Monica (who danced all night); Jessica and Kimberly (the other two birthdays); Tom and Mary; and Jack (who gave Rachel a CD). And kudos to the wonderful bartenders and servers - Aaron, Austin, Kristen, Meredith, Steve, Dylan, Hollie, Big Steve, Mike, and Corey. A great weekend altogether! AND we'll be back up at O'Malley's twice in a month - on Saturday night, March 15th, and again on St Patrick's Day. See you all then!!
And in a shift in business as usual for the band, Rachel - who is on the verge of getting married to Kip - is finishing off the weekend by moving to Southeast Virginia's Hampton Roads. Kip is stationed at Langley Air Force Base and, having returned from deployment, moving out to the area to make a life together is the thing to do. So this begins a new chapter in functioning as a band - namely Rachel commuting to Kansas City for 7-week stretches twice a year for our Spring run and Fall run. Huzzah!
ROBERT BURNS SUPPER
This past Saturday, it was once again our delight to make our way down to Tulsa to perform at the Scottish Club of Tulsa's annual Robert Burns Supper. The black-tie gala is hands-down one of our favorite gigs of our season (let's be honest... every gig is one of our favorite gigs!), and it was the eleventh time we've played for them. For late-January, it hardly seemed like winter at all as we made the four(-ish) hour drive to Tulsa, pulling up to the Homebuilders Association at just about 3:00. Steve and Eric were there with a few others handling various aspects of set-up. Roger arrived as we were loading-in, and we finished setting up with his help. We tuned, sound-checked, and hustled off to change in time to get back to the stage by 6:00.
We began playing an easy-going set to underscore the cocktail-hour, then we wrapped up and took our spot at one of the tables. There were maybe eleven or twelve of them (including three or four VIP tables), with about 100-ish folk there, all decked out in their finest tartans, velvets, and satins. The evening began in earnest with the welcome and the entry of the City of Tulsa Pipes and Drums, who played a rousing set (and loud) set. Then there was some more speechifying, and then the presentation of the haggis - replete with a parade of honor accompanied by piper and chef, whickey galore, and a recitation of the Bard's Address To A Haggis. The presentation signalled the official beginning of the dinner. Table by table, folks got up and joined the buffet-line, and took plates of the most delicious food back to their tables. After folks had gotten a good share of the dining behind them, the ceremonies began. There were introductions and welcomes by both Steve and Eric, a toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns, toasts to the lasses and lads, and toasts to Scotland and the US. The variation this year was a celebrity roast of Rabbie with a stellar portrayal of the Bard by Rick Ewing, and a stunning depiction of a mightily-inebriated Charlie Sherwood by Charlie Sherwood. The last little bit of pomp was the presentation of the Crookit Bawbwee and the Silver Thistle awards, and then we took the stage.
It was a great evening, a fun performance with lots of singing along and dancing, and the now-traditional joining-onstage of the SCOT Men's Choir for the singing of Roy Williamson's Flower Of Scotland, a few Scottish country dances, and the singing of Burns' Auld Lang Syne. We broke down our gear and packed the van, made our goodbyes to all who were still there, and headed to the hotel. Shout-outs to Roger; Charlie and Donna; Eric and Donna; Steve and Aleah; Rick and Chris; Vicki and Michael; Derryl and Mary, and Heather; Richard and Kami; William; Stan; Marlena; and Jamey. Sunday morning, we were up and out early, and made the four-hour drive back home. It was a great weekend overall!
This past weekend, we kicked off our 18th season as a band - longer than every Celtic band in the Midwest - with two nights at O'Malley's Pub. It was a mild Winter weekend on the heels of about an inch of snowfall, and the crowd was big and boisterous. As always, Friday night was a very noisy night, with the crowd's attention floating back and forth from the band (especially when the band was doing toasts) to not-the-band. Nights like that are typically worse on the voice for me, and Friday night was no exception - Mark was feeling it by the end of the night and relying on Rachel and Mary to carry the last 45 minutes. Shout-outs to Bob; Lloyd; Brandi; Mike and Gayla; and Marion and Diane. Saturday night was a very big, busy night. Mark was stuck nursing his voice all night long, so we were pulling out all the stops with Mary and Rachel singing as much upbeat material as we have for them. The evening was surprisingly free of special events given the size of the crowd. Beyond that, though, it was a great night. Shout-outs to Bob; Bryan and Erika, and Wendy; Allie and Dustin; Brian and Amy; Jack and Angie, and Teresa; Dan and Norma; and Tamara and Jennie. Come see us at O'Malley's on February 14th/15th.