Celtic Fest was Different

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Amy, the violinist from orange is in, has a Celtic band called Paisley Close. On occassion, I sit in on bass with them for a gig. Today, I played with them at the Clear Lake Celtic Festival and it was definitely interesting.

I made the mention that, given my age now, most people at the shows I play are my age or younger. Not today.

We played in a covered pavillion right across from Clear Lake. The crowd – mostly older – were polite and many were dressed in costume and I don’t mean Halloween costume.

Most of the bands, from what I could gather, were traditional Irish type bands. Now, I’m not really a big Celtic music guy. I know very little about traditional Irish folk music or modern Celtic. I know that it reminds me an awful lot of Led Zepplin, early Heart and the Renaissance Festfal.

Playing with Amy’s band is mostly fun. They have a lot of energy and a what I play on bass is pretty diverse. I play fretless for the whole thing and do a lot of synchopated stuff. The rhythmic structures and basic ideas for bass cover everything from what feels like West African to Latin to rock to funk and folk music, so that makes it interesting.

Some of the time changes are down right complex. That is pretty typical of any traditional folk music because it follows the lyric so closely that it often does so at the expense of the structure of the rhythm. In essence, if the lyrics drop a beat in the third line of the first verse, everyone drops that beat even if it doesn’t ever happen again in the song.

I get the idea, though I’m certainly more fond of traditional pop song structures which are rooted as much in classical arrangements and tribal rhythms as they are in traditional folk music. That means you don’t generally drop to many beats – go from 4/4 to 2/4 to 6/4 and back – for the sake of lyrics.

The one exception to that would be pop like the Beatles. In that case, it usually isn’t about the lyrics so much is about economy of arrangement. You want the songs to be as compact as possible, so if you have a bar of 4/4 that is bridging the chorus and the verse and you only really need two beats to cover you, you can just play a bar of 2/4 to make the song shorter.

Anyway, back to the Celtic fest. I will admit that I was not exactly in my element. I’m wearing my t-shirt with a picture of a pirate and ninja on it that said “Pirates and Ninjas do NOT get along” while everyone else seemed to be in something that flowed.

Also, folks there have their own vibe. It is really no different than sports fans or people at a Star Trek convention or folks that go to political rallies. They all have this one interest that they share and it brings them together. But, if you don’t really have that interest, you can feel a little out of place.

I certainly didn’t feel out of place playing. That was fun and everyone in the band is great. The people at the fest were also very nice. I was just a little out of my element and that’s cool. At least now I’ll know what to expect if I go to another one of them.

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