Spent a couple of hours Saturday at O'Malley's in Weston with my best friend Mike listening to the Wild Colonial Bhoys, a Celtic singing duo from Minneapolis. It was a fun show. This coming weekend one of my favorite groups, Tullamore, will be playing there so I'm planning a return trip Friday night. I can't remember when I first got into Celtic music, but it was sometime in my early teens. My exposure was pretty limited, mostly just listening to the Thistle and Shamrock on NPR and what I could hear once a year at the Renaissance Festival. It wasn't until I moved to California and had access to some decent stores with a wide selection of music that I started broadening my horizons. My wife introduced me to Celtic Rock somewhat against my will by playing to some of the Chieftain's music for me. I know The Chieftains aren't considered rock, but they were playing with the Rolling Stones, and the end result had me captivated. I followed up with Tempest and Caliban and others. I caught one live performance of Tempest in San Jose, CA, but was still way too introverted to enjoy going out to a crowded noisy place to listen to music.
I moved to Maine and things began to change a bit. I would occasionally end up at Portland Head Light House in Cape Elizabeth where some good pipers would often play. Hearing the bagpipes played while the surf crashes and seagulls cry overhead is an incredible experience. Its something that just can't be reproduced via a recording. I was beginning to understand that there was something to be said for live performances. I started dropping in at a seaside pub in Portland called Brian Boru's (website is now defunct, not sure if they are still in business). It was a small place filled with rough hewn tables and benches. Occasionally some local bands would play and it was always a lot of fun to sit and listen while I had my dinner.
By then the Internet had really blossomed and I had high speed access (Couldn't get it in the middle of Silicon Valley, but I could in a town of 15,000 in the middle of Maine, go figure). I was now able to find bands online and order CDs, greatly expanding my listening experience. Still, CDs rarely lived up to the “live” experience.
I ended up moving back to Kansas, this time to KC. For the first couple of years I didn't go listen to anyone perform anywhere. It simply never occurred to me that there was a thriving Celtic Music Community in the KC, or the Midwest for that matter. It wasn't until a co-worker of mine told me she was in a group called Tullamore that would be performing at the Weston Irish Festival that I discover all the great music around here. Shortly afterwards I discovered WJ McBride's. Six months later they opened another one, much closer to my house. I've also been frequenting O'Malley's, and O'Dowd's and now yet another pub is opening up close by.
I may seem a bit obsessive about, and in a way I guess I am. My life is dull. I work on computers all day at work, a job that is getting increasingly more frustrating because of the corporate overlords that are crushing our souls (ok, way dramatic there, but it is getting kind of bad). I come home and either do homework (usually about more computer stuff), or play computer games. I spend 80% of my waking life sitting in front of a computer screen. There is very little excitement in my life, and not much to differentiate one day from another.
Music is one of the few things that breaks me out of that rut. It has a way of grabbing my soul and giving it a good squeeze, it makes me feel. I can see beyond my boring little life for a bit and that is something to be cherished.
So many nights you will now find me, relaxing at a table, mug of cider in my hand, listening to whatever group I can find. For the span of a few hours I smile and laugh and feel my blood stir. Later I will listen to the songs on my computer or mp3 player and little of the magic will travel with me. I will remember that I am alive and will put forth the effort to live a little while I can.