Monday, February 28, 2011

Ready, Set, GO !

March 1st - Here we go!  This is the only time of year where you spend 16 days practicing for the High Holy Day on the 17th.

The Peat Blogger is warming up to talk about all the activities for the "Green Season".  Although I won't be able to participate in every one of them, I'll do my best to tell you which ones you should be attending. 

You can start with the High Kings concert tomorrow night at Shank Hall.  Tickets are $25 and you won't want to miss this show.  The show starts at 8 PM.

Friday March 5th is the annual Ulster Project Family Fun Night at Mount Mary College. As America's longest running Ulster Project chapter (1979) the Family Fun Night is a guaranteed great time.  Featuring shows by each of the six Milwaukee area dance schools as well as music by Athas and newcomers Wayworn, it should be a good night of fun.

On Saturday night the Annual Green Tie Fundraiser to benefit the Ward Music Archives.  This fun event features a silent and oral (you know . . . spoken)  auction with some fantastic prizes including golf packages, a trip to Ireland (hey,  they need your help) and some great party packages.

Cost is $100 bucks which gets you dinner,the Trinity Irish Dancers and the Need A Nun? show. (who doesn't need a nun?) and a chance to get some really cool Irish stuff. The event is held at the Wisconsin Club and begins Saturday March 5th at 5:30 PM.  If you need to get a tickets (and you really should) call or stop by the Irish Fest office 1532 N. Wauwatosa Ave - Wauwatosa or call 414-476-3378.  Hey it's for a great cause.

OK - that's enough to get you started.  Pull out your Crackberries, iPhones and calendars and start writing all this down.  There's a lot to do so get to bed early tonight and plan on starting fresh in the morning!

It's March - this is serious business.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Celtic Connections - Rua MacMillan

One of the new up and comers in the Scottish Folk Music scene is a young fiddle player by the name of Rua MacMillan.  Rua is a graduate of the Royal Scotland Academy of Music and Drama and in 2009 was awarded the prestigious Young Traditional Musician of the Year by BBC Radio Scotland.

Ed and I saw Rua play at the festival club one evening.  Joined by Tia Files on guitar and Adam Brown on bodhran, Rua put on a remarkable show.

Here's his performance after winning the BBC Young Trad Musician award.

I'm hoping someday to see Rua playing in Milwaukee. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Second Day of Christmas - The High Kings

Remember back in December when I said it might take me awhile to do the 12 days of Christmas . . . . . .

The High Kings are making an appearance at Irish Fest this year and we're all pretty excited (well I haven't asked everyone yet but I am).  Ireland's Folk Band of the Year will make their first trip to Irish Fest this August.

And if you can't wait until August (it's only 182 days from today) you're in luck, 'cause the HK's (that's what I call them) will be appearing at Milwaukee's fabulous Shank Hall on March 1st at 8 PM.  That's like . . um . .five days from now.

It's also the same date of the Irish Fest March meeting, which begins at 7 PM.  If you come to that meeting you might see members of the Irish Fest entertainment committee sitting close to the door and maybe sneaking out at 7:45.  I'm not saying that's going to happen. (But it might)

And if the HK's come to Milwaukee this is how I imagine them looking if we get a lot of rain . . . .

So get yourself in the spirit of the season and go to Shank Hall on March 1st for a really great show.  Wear your best Irish Fest outfit, and let the HK's know you'll see them in August.

Oh and that group in the back of the room  with the sunglasses on . . . . that's probably the entertainment committee.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

St Baldrick & St. Patrick (Murphy)

In the tiny village "Bloggerville" (a real virtual place), residents like myself often peek in on other residents postings just to fortify the feelings of inadequacy.  For me this only involves reading Uncle Bloggy's Tir Na Blog from the Kansas City Festival. Yesterday Uncle Bloggy posted an email both of us received from Patrick Murphy of Gaelic Storm.  When I saw Uncle Bloggy's post I said "Oh shoot, I better do the same".  So here it is.

Hello everybody,

First time ever asking for something like this.

There's a great organization called St Baldricks across the USA and every St Pats day they have fundraisers all over the country. The purpose behind the fundraisers is people shave their heads for cancer research for children. Here's the link.....

There's an Irish pub in Green Bay called St Brendan's and last year the staff raised around $95,000 by shaving their heads. So I've signed up with these people and am going to shave it on stage. I haven't cut my hair since Dec 24th and I'm not going to cut it until March 9th on stage in Green Bay Wisconsin. So needless to say my head will look like a neglected cabbage patch doll in the dump.

I did it last year and raised around $1,500 and the year before and got around $1,300. Trying to beat it this year.

If you can, click on the link below and donate $1 or $2. That's all. If you can do anything more than that it would be great. Last year at the show I asked the audience of 1,000 people to simple put $1 in a box. They all did and it was a very easy way to raise the $1,500.

If you can chip a few bucks in that would be great.

Thanks for your time.


Here's the link to my donation page.

Once again the organization is

And the bar in Green Bay is called

I sent Patrick an email saying I would give him $100 if I got to shave his head, but only after seven or eight beers.  He must be Catholic because he laid on the guilt thicker than my mom saying "eight beers cost $40-$50. . . think of the kids with cancer . . nice one Joe".
Great, another 30 days in Purgatory. 
Patrick and the rest of the band with hair will be performing their now annual St. Patrick's Day show at the Pabst Theater. If you haven't got your tickets yet don't wait.  It's going to be a fabulous show as always.
And don't forget to bring a dollar for Patrick.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Beaton Sisters

I'll admit it.  I'm a big fan of the Beaton Sisters.  I mean, what's not to like - two beautiful flame haired sisters from the sprawling metropolis of Mabou in Cape Breton who can play a mean fiddle. They really wowed the crowds at Celtic Connections this year.

Although they look quiet and demure (first time I've used that word this year), they really attack the fiddles when they play.  At the Nova Scotia Kitchen Party in Glasgow, most of the delegates in attendance were awestruck at their skills on the fiddle.  And many of these are folks from Scotland who are used to good fiddle playing.

Accompanied by Derek McMullen on guitar and Jason Roach on piano (he's a show all by himself), the Beatons put on an amazing show of fiddle playing and step dancing. (What can't they do?) Spend a bit of time talking with them and you'll quickly discover they are two of the nicest people you could ever meet.

Here's a video of the at the East Coast Music Awards.  Look for these two at a festival near you soon.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Manran & Colin Grant

Two groups we saw in Scotland were very impressive.  Manran, featuring Scots gaelic singer Norrie MacIver is a group with a lot of energy.  Norrie performed at Milwaukee Irish Fest a couple of years back with the group Bodega.  Norrie has a great voice and got the other gaelic singers at the festival club to start a conga line when he started singing, although I'm quite sure numerous pints of Scottish ales may have helped.  Here's the official video of their song Latha Math.

We also saw the Colin Grant Band (three times).  Colin Grant was there as part of the Nova Scotia showcase and has a great new band featuring Jason Roach on piano, Darren McMullen on guitar, Banjo, and mandolin, Donnie Calabrese on bass and Colin Clarke on drums.  Everytime we saw them play, they really got the crowds going.  You'll be seeing them again very soon I'm sure.  Here they are at the East Coast Music Awards.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Celtic Connections Again

I said I would tell you about a few of the groups we saw in Scotland last week.  Here are a couple of the groups I thought were fun: Box Club and the Fisherman's Friend.

Box Club is a high energy Scottish group featuring four accordion players.  The accordion (also known as the stomach Steinway) is a relatively popular instrument in Scotland and to have four of them in one group produces a big sound.  Throw in a bass, guitar and drums and you really have something.
Take a look at this video from the Shetland Folk Festival last year.

Another group I got a kick out of is a Cornish group of men (no hens) called The Fisherman's Friend.  Comprised of members of various sea-rescue organizations, the Fisherman's Friend is a serious acapella singing group performing songs of the sea on shore.  You can see how serious they are but counting the number of ale glasses at their feet while they sing this shanty.

Keep checking back - I've got a lot of other names to share in the next few days.


The G stands for "Greatness"

Well you can bet your bratwurst more than a few people around here went to work on Monday bleeding from the eyes after the exciting Super Bowl victory Sunday night.

With the Packers up 21-3 in the second quarter it looked like it was all but over.

But wait, our friends at Maalox wanted eveyone chewing on a couple of tablets as the Steelers clawed back to within 3 in the fourth.

Fortunately for our friends at MillerCoors we have Aaron Rodgers who led the Packers to a "W" forcing the third shift to come in and replenish all the depleted coolers in Packerland.

In the end, victory was ours and the Lombardi Trophy is now safely ensconced (when was the last time you used that word?) in Titletown once again.

Cheeseheads of the world stand proud today (inasmuch as you can look proud with a wedge of cheddar on your noggin.) 

 Oh well, at least I won't have to see the Black Eyed Peas again. bleh.

Go Pack Go !

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Celtic Connections

I mentioned in my last post Ed and I had seen over 50 bands in Glasgow.  I want to highlight a few of them.  For the most part, there are no bad groups at this event, only those that might not be a good fit at our festival.  Each year I've been fortunate to attend this festival I discovered the ever changing nature of these groups and how all musicians seem to play with multiple groups.  You have a tendency to see many of the same excellent performers with various groups during the course of the festival.  I wanted to give a report on some of the groups we saw in Glasgow.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Blazin' Fiddles. I saw this group in Nova Scotia a few years back and have seen them three or four times since then.  An unbelievable group of musicians featuring four fiddles, keyboards, and the omnipresent Anna Massie on guitar.  Jenna Reid, the renowned Shetland fiddler joined the group recently replacing Catriona MacDonald and has been a great addition.  Jenna and Anna played at Irish Fest three years ago and were a big hit.  I had a nice chat with Jenna at the trade show.  The entire band was at the early morning trade show and did a number of bookings in part because they were giving away free samples of single malt scotch at 10AM.

The Box Club  This group features four outstanding accordion players along with Duncan Lyall on bass.  I've seen this group a couple of times and I really like their energy.  Four accordions may seem a bit gimmicky, but they produce some really good music.  You may not realize this but four accordions can be really loud when they want to be.  Ed and I were watching them with Burt McIntrye from Cape Breton.  Burt leaned over and said "There are more accordions onstage right now than there are in all of Cape Breton."  So, if you see accordions in a group it's a good bet they aren't Canadian.  According to Gary Innes of the band "Rule Number 1 of the Box Club is - "Talk about the Box Club!" This video from the Shetland Folk Festival should get you talking.

I've got lots more names to share and I'll post a few more here over the coming days

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Normally I scoff when local TV stations start warnings of impending "doom" with the approach of a three-inch snowstorm, but I have to say I'm pretty impressed with yesterday's "when-I-was-your-age" style blizzard.  Since I'm homebound (condobound?) I can catch up on my blogging.  I'll start with Celtic Connections.

Ed and I returned from Scotland just ahead of the storm after spending five days meeting old friends, making new ones, and listening to loads of Scottish, Canadian, Irish, Galician, and Norwegian folk music.  On the flight back as I was working on my report I calculated we had seen over 50 groups perform at about 15 different venues around Glasgow. I also did another calculation on my consumption of local Scottish ales.  I'll let you know on that one.

Highlights - the Transatlantic Sessions were as special as advertised, featuring Phil Cunningham, Aly Bain, John McCusker, Paul Brady, Donald Shaw, Michael McGoldrick, James Mackintosh and Julie Fowlis from the UK/Irish side of the pond.  From the US was Jerry Douglas, Tim O'Brien, John Doyle, Ashley Cleveland and her husband Kenny Greenberg, Allison Morrer and Dirk Powell.  It was a great sold out show at the Royal Concert Hall, featuring a mix of Celtic traditional music and US Appalachian Old-Timey songs.

We also took the train to Edinburgh and were met at the station by Kevin MacDonald of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.  Kevin took us to lunch and then gave us a driving tour of the city showing us Arthur's Seat (a massive geologic formation), Holyrood Palace - the official residence of the Queen when she travels to Scotland, (a bit larger than most of the summer places I've seen in Door County), and the Edinburgh Castle, perhaps the most notable feature of the city located on a hillside overlooking the metropolitan area. After stopping at his agents' office to pick up several copies of their new disc "Music for the Kilted Generation" for us he deposited us back at the train station for the return trip to Glasgow.  We later saw Kevin that evening at the festival club when the RHCP performed at 11:30 for the BBC3 radio show.

The Nova Scotia contingent blew everyone away with the "Nova Scotia Kitchen Party" on Saturday afternoon.  Normally the featured region does a little seminar at a "drinks reception" and has a group perform three numbers.  Nova Scotia became the international delegates favorite when they did it their way which was a three hour reception featuring drinks, a hot buffet (that was the clincher), and performances by all the groups from Canada.  The final number featured the Beaton sisters, Colin Grant, and Gillian Boucher,pounding out set of jigs and reels with Burt McIntyre leading a group of "volunteers" in a set dance on the side.  Really good craic.

I'll do a few postings on some of my favorite groups I saw over the weekend along with some of their videos. 

Right now I'm going to go outside and dig out the front porch.