Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jig Not On the Grassy Knoll ... Irish Music Festival: Part 1

To say that the First Annual Irish Music Festival on Sunday at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah was fantastic would be an understatement. Yes, it was that good.

A few of us arrived moments before the announcer came onstage to welcome everyone to the festival. We quickly evaluated the VIP section we'd bought tickets for and discovered it was a green fenced cage with a poor view of the stage and not nearly as much shade as we'd hoped.  If you bought beer in the cage, you had to stay in the cage. Since none of us were into human bondage, we escaped and set our blankets up front and center on the sloping grassy hill. That said, the VIP debacle was our only misfortune at the festival, and not a big one in the least (once we got out).
California Celts
From the heart of the Mojave Desert, The California Celts made their entrance from the top of the hill, well behind us, wearing kilts and playing bagpipes as they wound their way to the stage.  The half of me that's Irish got chills from the sounds of the bagpipes playing.  No, it wasn't from the breeze ... at that point there wasn't one, and it was plenty warm.  The love of bagpipes must be in my DNA.  When the Celts stood on stage, the sounds went from bagpiper to Celtic Rock in seconds. This transition was so seamless and so surprising, but absolutely amazingly wonderful!
This happy little cloud kept us from sunburning
Random dancer in aqua shirt
The Celts played songs like "You Take the High Road and I'll Take the Low Road," with a rock beat.  Many songs began with an Irish brogue and then flowed right into an electric rock rhythm.  Toward the end of their performance, we sang along with another Irish tune, "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean."
The Wailing O'Sheas
The Wailing O'Sheas featured two guitarists and a woman (her name was Susan) who was phenomenal on her 5 string electric fiddle.  One of the guys in the band explained, "We don't ever play anything the same way.  We just let Sue do her thing."  I found myself coveting her vintage Irish-looking boots.

Irish dancing lads rock to the Wailing O'Sheas
The group's repertoire mimicked Floggin' Molly and Dropkick Murphy.  They completely played up the Irish Punk Celtic Rock genre. I'd probably cancel all my plans to hear them again. Their lively, energetic music was non-stop and you could envision the Irish dancers whirling and tapping.  When they played "Devil's Dance" I could wait no longer and got up on the hill to do a jig. Another brave soul joined in. Unfortunately, jigging on a hill has its limitations, among them fear of falling, so my dancing was short-lived, until much later.
Too bad he's married ...
Throughout the grassy seating areas, kilted men were everywhere. I even saw some men with what looked like Levi Docker's kilts.  No I am not making this up.  Seriously.  I should've taken a picture, but the guy in the red kilt really called to me so I got him instead.
Webber Academy of Irish Dance
Webber Academy of Irish Dance took to the stage with the tapping, whirling, and snappy moves I was trying unsuccessfully to do on the grass.  Oh so cute.
Webber Academy of Irish Dance
The Heathen Highlanders played Amazing Grace, then we all sang along to the songs for the US military, ie the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard. 
The Heathen Highlanders
Slaymaker Hill began with an Irish ballad, then wowed the crowd with whirling melodies. At one point, they added the Dubliners' fiddler out for a dueling fiddlers number. The band featured a multitude of intriguing instruments ... Whistles, Octave Mandolin, Mandolin, Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitars, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Bass Guitars, Fretless Bass, Irish Trombone, Drums, Percussion, and Bohdran Fiddle.

Slaymaker Hill
After Slaymaker Hill, the announcer got up and announced that the VIP area had run out of Guiness.  Tragic. But he promised they'd get more from somewhere, since the festival was over two hours from conclusion.  Most all in our group brought their own beverages and food.  I had the "food court" Caesar, which was acceptable considering I hadn't eaten all day, but my friend ordered an Irish sandwich which looked rather tasty.
Mr. Guiness chatted up the ladies and ran out of beer
Crowds kept on streaming in all afternoon

Crawford School of Irish Dance
Crawford School of Irish Dance
The Crawford School of Irish Dance wowed the crowd with their beautiful costumes and exceptional Irish dancing.  If you can dance like that, you can throw away your treadmill and Thighmaster.  Of course, that assumes your feet will hold up.

Utah's own Swagger
The much anticipated performance of Swagger was next.  Swagger began three years ago with the band leader's pleas to play at Piper Down, a local Salt Lake City bar.  His wishes were granted and the rest is history. The group has gone on to countless performances at Piper Down and elsewhere, and they released their first CD on Sunday.  Their tribute to their "sponsors" in spirit anyway, was Piper Down, "You've got to pay the piper to play your favorite song."  Their tune "Whiskey Before Breakfast," which they dubbed "the breakfast of champions" was humorous to say the least.

Eckerd Hill Jr HS with Swagger
I didn't really think of Swagger as a "make out" band, but apparently, some did.  About this time, the crowd was becoming, well, acquainted.  In fact so much so that some of the couples nearby us probably should have considered getting a room.  I'd say my friends were embarrassed and shocked, but realistically, they were amused and fascinated by the speed with which some of our neighboring concert-goers made friends.  The English sea shanty "What Can You Do With a Drunken Sailor," invigorated the crowd, who sang along with the band.

The Crawford School of Irish Dance performed again, and then the Utah Pipe Band, formed in 1937 by the Barclay family, marched to the front of the amphitheater.  It was a spectacular sound with the very large group of bagpipers.
Utah Pipe Band
The anticipation was building for the group everyone really came to see: The Young Dubliners.
To be continued ...

Disclosure: Ticket price for the festival was $20. I received NO compensation for this review.

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