Well now that we're a few weeks removed from the Galway Bay festival, I thought it was time to sit down and write about our experiences there.
I was really looking forward to the festival this year since we were releasing our cd there. We had put about 5 months of work into the album and I was curious to see how it would be received. I was also excited to see that there were a few new bands scheduled that hadn't been there last year.
We arrived on Thursday afternoon, the opening day of the festival, even though we weren't scheduled to play until Saturday. One of the things I've noticed as a performer is that you don't have nearly the time to hear other bands, so arriving a few days early would give me the chance to check out some other bands. We had gotten the performance schedule a few weeks before and were admittedly a little bummed to only be scheduled on Saturday and Sunday. However, this was only our second time playing the festival, so it's not like we expected to be headliners.
After checking in at our place, we headed out to Hoquiam to the 7th street theater for opening night. We were running a little late and missed the opening acts, but got there just in time for Sephira, a couple Irish girls who sing and play violin. They're more of a hybrid of Celtic and classical (Celtical?) music. They've played with musicians all over the world and even toured with Celtic Thunder for a while. Now don't get me wrong here, they are lovely ladies who are very talented (and they were very kind when we talked to them), but their music didn't quite seem to fit in with the rest of the festival. It worked well in the theater on opening night, and there is definitely a place in Celtic music for softer sounds (I'll admit to being an Enya fan), but their other music sets seemed a little out of place, especially Friday morning at the pub. After Sephira finished, we headed across the street to see what was happening at the 8th St Alehouse. Who did we run into there but Mike and Steve from Culanns Hounds, a SF based Celtic band we had met the previous year. They were starting a set of trad tunes and even though my fiddle tune knowledge is limited, Josh and I grabbed a pint and sat down with his guitar and my mandolin and whistle. They were kind enough to let us go through the fiddle tunes we knew, and included a few singing tunes as well. We were especially pleased when Tatijanna grabbed her fiddle and joined us for a few songs as well. At some point, the Sephira gals came in and I was hoping they'd grab their fiddles and join us, but alas it wasn't to be that night. Before we left, I gave Bill and Jeff (owner and organizer of the festival) our cd and nearly begged them to let us play on Friday. Thankfully they had a slot open at the pub at 10:30 the next morning (or maybe not thankfully! Who wants to get up early on the weekends!).
So we showed up early to the pub on Friday to play a nice little acoustic set. People were slowly trickling in awaiting a set by Sephira around noon. We finished up and hung around hoping to see the gals playing some ripping pub tunes. Alas, it was not to be. They spent about 45 minutes setting up their prerecorded orchestra music, played one song, then invited everyone to their evening performance at the convention center. Again, I don't like to talk bad about people or other musicians, but it was pretty disappointing. I really wanted to see them tear up a few fiddle tunes in a more stripped down setting. After that we headed back to our place to figure out what to do the rest of the day. since our next show was Saturday morning at 10:30 (what's with all the early shows?!), we thought it would be fun to head to the convention center, get our stuff set up in the room for the next morning and just jam in there for a while since there were no bands scheduled in the room for that evening. At the convention center, there were 2 main stages in the ballroom and 2 smaller rooms where groups could play more acoustic music. We ended up jamming in there till late in the evening and had several people come in and hang out for a while. It was a good time!
Once Saturday rolled around we were ready to go! As I mentioned, the first set was at 10:30 am. Don't remember much about this one, it was pretty early. After that we had a 1:30 set at the back stage at Galway bay. This one was pretty rocking. We had a good group of songs and we really seemed to be on. It was probably helped by the nice crowd that was back there singing along. We got a few approving nods from some of the other musicians- always a positive development! Next up was the set we had been waiting for- 5:00 at the convention center for the battle of the bands!
As I had previously mentioned, we received the schedule a few weeks before the show, so we knew we were going into the battle of the bands "against" Darby O'Gill, a Portland duo that has been around for many years. I put against in quotes because it's not really a battle or competition as much as a friendly back and forth between 2 bands. Now I had met Ken and Scott from Darby O'Gill a few years ago, very briefly, and didn't know them at all. In the wildest of coincidences, a few of us from the band had gone down to the Dublin Pub in Portland a week before the festival to drop off our new cd and see about getting a gig there. Who just happened to be there playing that night, but Darby O'Gill! I had to go up and say hi, and I promised them that we weren't scouting them before the "Battle"! We had a nice conversation with them and talked about playing a song together at the show. Once the Battle started we were really in our element. We finally got to rock out with Daves full drum kit and play our "sound". I think we played pretty well and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. It didn't hurt having my 5 year old daughter doing her Irish dancing on stage with us. The awwwwww factor goes way up! Darby O'Gill was great too. They have a huge trove of songs to choose from and they have a lot of humor in their set. We ended the battle by playing a mash up of Drunken Sailor/Another Brick in the Wall. Yes, you read that right. It was a mashup Darby O 'Gill has done before and we joined in with them. What a blast that was! The other highlight of the battle was the emcee, Jeff, telling the crowd that our cd was awesome. Very kind of him!
Another highlight of Saturday was running into some Vancouver fans that I recognized from our Facebook page. A few of them said they had come up for the festival because of us. How cool is that? Thanks Jessica, Tamara and Krista! After that, we had one more set in the CC small room at 10:30 pm. Quite frankly we were pretty tired, didn't play so well, and I'm gonna leave it at that.....
Sunday afternoon we played our final set at the 8th St Ale House back in Hoquiam. It was pretty a pretty relaxing conclusion to a great weekend. People were still waking up, there was football on the TV's and bloody mary's on the tables. We played to a small, but friendly crowd. It was our 6th set of the weekend and I think we were ready to call it a day. We stuck around for the next act who I had been hoping to see all weekend. His name is Kevin McCormack, a folk singer from Ireland and he had a buddy with him. I had heard some rumors involving him, a car, a tree, a fight and a jail cell on Friday night, so I was intrigued (talk about your Irish stereotypes). He did not disappoint. He launched into some typical traditional Irish pub songs but with a gusto and energy I have not seen too often. I was glad I stuck around.
A few more highlights: seeing Portland musician Cronin Tierney playing some jazz piano in one of the CC rooms. The guy is a good guitarist, but his lounge act totally blew me away. It was also nice to see Bellingham band Maggies Fury back together after a short hiatus. I really enjoyed playing with them at last years festival. Nice guys and gals, fun band! We hope to do a show with them in the future. Finally, after our last set on Saturday night, we headed over to the pub to catch Culanns Hounds joined by Kris from Ockhams Razor. Another high energy show, with dancing late into the night. The pub was mostly filled with musicians from the other bands hanging out. After they closed the pub we ended up chatting in the parking lot until 2:30 or so with some of the other bands. what a way to end the night. I cannot wait to get back there next year.