Be on the lookout for the 2012 Irish in Utah Benefit Concert sponsored by the Hibernian Society of Utah. The 2011 edition held last Saturday at Judge Memorial HS Auditorium in Salt Lake City was that good. You will want to be there in 2012.
For a $20 admission fee, all of which supports Salt Lake City's 2011 St. Patrick's Day parade, we heard Irish music from Utah's premiere Celtic bands, Stonecircle, Slaymaker Hill, and Swagger. And hear, incidentally, would be an understatement for the acoustics at Judge Memorial HS Auditorium are superior to those of any other venue where I have heard these bands play previously. Unfortunately, the lighting and my rookie-ness on my new camera combined to make photography less than optimal.
I had a break in my schedule before last Saturday's performance, so I was the first in line at the ticket window. Then I saw the sign: "No photography or taking of videos." After clearing up that it really was allowed for me to take pictures in spite of the sign on the door, I went into the spacious auditorium and took a seat on the third row right. Almost immediately, I was texting my friends, "this is the best Swagger has ever sounded." Yes building acoustics, or in some cases, a building at all, make a huge difference in the sound quality coming from the stage.
After an introduction from the organizers, the concert opened with Stonecircle. For those who've not read my review of this Stonecircle's Winter Solstice concert, Stonecircle is a brilliant combination of traditional Irish and modern flutes and whistles, guitar, fiddle, keyboard, drum, Bodhran, and mandolin. Oh ... and vocals. I wasn't partial in December, nor Saturday night. Stonecircle's whirling flute melodies such as "The Butcher Boy" and "Road to Lisdoonvarnia" mesmerize me. I was as happy as a leprechaun in an enchanted forest.
An alternative Celtic rock band, Slaymaker played at the First Annual Irish Festival, also sponsored by the Hibernian Society of Utah. We're still waiting and hoping to hear a confirmation of the second annual, but Eric Slaymaker assured us it's only a matter of time til we see the announcement. Slaymaker played a selection of Irish themed ditties: "Larry the Beerdrinker," "Dance of the King," and "The Ballad of Seamus Murphy."
What more can I say that I haven't already said in three previous reviews from their performances at the Irish Festival, Harry O's, and Piper Down? Their music, the lyrics, their energy, and infectious charm make for a winning combination. Saturday was the fifth time I've seen them play, and as far as quality, it was by far the best. Again, the acoustics made a huge impact on the sound quality. Swagger's lineup featured all the usual favorites, beginning with "Morrison's Jig" and "Galway Girl." By the third song, "Whiskey in the Jar," I leaned over to Amy and let her know my feet couldn't tolerate just sitting there any longer, so we made way to the wide, carpeted aisle for a bit of jigging and clapping. As soon as we did this, others poured out of their seats into the aisles for a wee bit of Irish dancing with the Crawford Irish Dancers, who danced on stage to the music of all three groups. We sat down briefly and then dragged our gentleman friend off his comfy chair to join us in the bouncy, clapping Irish-festiveness til the last number, "Paddy's in America."
The day after the Irish fundraiser concert, I saw a friend at a party and he mentioned he'd sat home the previous night instead of hearing one of his favorite bands, Swagger. That won't happen again next year, even if I have to go pick him up myself.