After a tour in the northeastern US in the late winter that was like a homecoming, we had a predictably remarkable time at the Alaska Folk Festival in Juneau, AK in April. Those Alaskans are a rough and ready bunch, always ready to have a good time! Their hospitality is on par with Louisiana and Ireland, what I like to call The Triangle of Awesome Good Times. Caleb and Reeb flew from there to Big Sur to teach for a few days at a camp on a family homestead overlooking the Pacific. And Sammy and Nadine made their way back to the Yukon. We all enjoyed a break from the road the last part of April before meeting up again in Dublin, Ireland to play at Whelan’s. What followed was a monumental nearly 2 weeks traveling about the wilds of Ireland. The Irish were quite simply, heroic in their reception of us, hosting, and keeping us up to all hours, feeding us, wooing us with their mellifluous speak, and taking the piss, keeping it real at all times. We passed through Dungarvin, (incidentally, the swinging capitol of Europe, though no one made any passes at any of us) and played a show at The Local, a beautiful sparkling pub owned by Donnchadh Gough, famed bodhrán, player. Though Donnchadh was persuasive in trying to get us to stick around that night, that slave driver and Fiddle Fair mastermind, Declan McCarthy had urged us to carry on to Baltimore in West Cork, the very southwest of Ireland, so we could wake up there the next day and play the morning kids show for the schools. Baltimore Fiddle Fair has been going for 23 years, and is one of my favorite festivals of all time. It is still fairly small, therefore intimate, and the music is exceptional, mostly traditional, and the setting is a small fishing village on the sea, an outdoor marquis for the main stage, and a couple of smaller stages in an old church, and one in the Glebe Gardens, not to mention numerous sessions in pubs about town. Southwest Cork is a winsome part of Ireland with its garden-like landscape, stunning views, and cheerful people…. or wait,… am I talking about all of Ireland? Well, yes, but Cork is special. We were kept up all night every night at the Fiddle Fair, pints of Guinness flowing ’til all hours, and king birds calling at dawn when we finally made it to our beds smiling, and filled with the music and good times.
We were knackered and a bit heartbroken when we left. Between the hospitable McCarthy clan and us, there seemed to be a mutual uncertainty as to whether we should stay and have more fun, or leave and preserve our collective health! We drove the winding roads of Kerry up to Dingle to play not one, but two shows at Siopa Ceoil, and later at John Benny’s Pub, where friends were waiting to cheer us on and revive our spirits! We traveled through Galway, Mayo, and Sligo, getting a chance to play some great shows, see some old friends, and visit with some heroes. (yes, John Carty and Cathy Jordan, you are!) Our last night before hopping the pond to get over to Scotland, was spent in a beautiful barn in Cookstown with our dearests, Sharon and Arnie at the Red Room. They host house shows, and we packed as many as we could in the barn that night for a fun show.
The week that followed took us through Scotland and England. We played Glasgow, Edinburgh, stayed with friends south of Edinburgh, and got to hike around on the wild moors. In England, we played in Liverpool, (they must be related to the Alaskans! They bring it!) in and around London, and down in the garden of England, Tonbridge Wells. We made new friends, and played some new venues, most notably the Cajun Barn down in Kent, and Kings Place in London.
We learned some new colloquialisms from the English, and intend to clean up our old ones… for example, a gentleman leaned toward us requesting that we hand him his waterproof trousers from beneath a nearby chair. Oh, you mean those rain pants? We forgot our swimming costumes, thinking the UK to be too cold for a swim. And we learned that a onesie is not a small baby’s outfit, but a full head to toe fuzzy one-piece for an adult! Imagine an adult-sized skull and cross banjos onesie! And lastly, one morning while out for a jog, Caleb came upon an older gentleman on his way to church on a forest trail. When the gentleman became aware of Caleb, and moved over for him to pass, he exclaimed: “Oh my, I hope I wasn’t impeding you on the pathway!” All told, I think we Americans could stand to broaden our use of the English language! There are so many lovely adjectives and verbs that we could be exercising! Somehow, while “awesome” certainly gets the point across, “utterly delightful” really sends it home!
While it can be very disheartening to return home after making so many memories, we learned that the best way to do this, is to return via Boston, and enjoy the utter delight of the music-loving Boston crowd. And it doesn’t hurt any to be near the Irish hospitality at The Burren with Tommy McCarthy! We’ll come back soon Boston! Thanks for welcoming us home!