My Reviews

This is a review page for Celtic related bands, fests, books, etc. Please remember that I am not professional critic and these are my own opinions when viewing the information. CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Type Name Review
Band Larkin and Moran Brothers, The All in all, I was not impressed. They are a band of two sets of brothers. They really did not project well. Also one of the brothers seems to have the job of being the band dufus and just danced bouncing his head up and down instead of really singing. He did play the harmonica well I guess. As Erin put, it would also help them not to get drunk before and while they are on stage, as the dufus most certainly did. They tended to do solos which doesn't go over very well on the bar scene and the one who did the most was basically speaking lyrically but not really singing. That and they did not sing many traditional songs. I know a band needs to play there own but for a concert is this setting, your primary job is to engage the audience, which is something they did not do. They did sing the following: Farewell to Nova Scotia, What do you do with a drunken sailor, Used to Love Her, Rattlin Bog, Whiskey in a Jar, and Black is the Colour (I think). All these songs (except drunken sailor) are sung much better by the Irish Descendants.

I have to admit that I am a victim of my own objectivity. The first concert I went to at Ballydoyle was Gaelic Storm so it's hard to follow that. And I except more traditional / common songs instead of band created ones or Celtic Rock.
Band Prodigals So we got to Ballydoyle an hour and fifteen minutes before the band. We are told that it would be a forty-five minute wait, because it was a concert night and they had two parties in the back. We were seated an hour and twenty minutes later. However, the people up front did a very good job with those who waited. They engaged us in conversation, brought up free Irish Chips for the people up there, offered to get us drinks from the bar if we needed them so I did not mind the wait to much. During the wait we found out that they know us, or at least they referred to seeing us before and recognizing us. Which means they have a good memory since we are not there that much. I think this also worked as an advantage for us because we were seated before our place on the list. Course the fact that everyone else on the list was at the bar made it easier for them to sneak us in.

As for the band, they ended up starting an hour late. So a lot of waiting. From what I heard of the band, it sounded good. The band came on and immediately started to get the people clapping, so they engaged the audience. They had a good mesh of instrumental pieces and lyrical pieces. They also transitioned well between songs. My problem was that since we were eating, we were sitting to a room off to the side. Because of that, we had to endue a lot of chatting from the people around us. Also, since we where in the room off to the side, we watched the band though a big window and it kind of gave it a big screen TV look, which wasn't that great. Therefore, I am thinking for the future, we will probably forgo eating dinner, and just let Erin drink and stand in front of the stage. Part of what I liked about Gaelic Storm was the fact that we were close and could hear everything well. Ah well.
Band Seven Nations Best one BallyDoyle has had since Gaelic Storm. Most of the songs they played I knew and was able to enjoy. They did have some technical problems like not enough mics and their voices not blending well or at least not as good as on the mp3s. But it was a fun and energetic show. This time the part in front of the stage was not crowed and we go a chair so that worked out well. However, since they started 45 minutes late and then took more that a 30-minute break, we left before the second set started as we were very tired.
Band Trillium Saw at the public library. I would give them a below average to average rating. They are a mix of Celtic, bluegrass, jazz, etc. Unfortunately they had a practice of stringing songs together (as seen on their CD listing.) Most of the times the transition was very abrupt instead of being smooth, thus lessening the pleasure of the listener. In at least one case, they lost a song in between the first and the last song that they had strung together, and in another case they strung together a Jewish cantor with an Irish jig. The vocalist was more suited for singing the modern songs than she was for singing the Irish jigs and reel, which was disappointing to me since I went there for the Celtic music. Also, often some of the songs were slower than needed. The last thing I noticed was that there were no one clapping along with the songs, nor was there much when they ended. So the audience really wasn't engaged. I don't think the band has been together that long so maybe they will get better with age.
Books A. A. Attanasio's
Arthur Series
A four book series which are books 11-14 on the linked list. It is a reworking of the myth. There is an interesting blend of the religions of the time: the death of the Greek and Roman (Fauni) Gods, the battle between the Furor (Woden) (Æsir gods) from his home in home Yggdrasil with the Daoine Sid (Celtic spirits and faeries), the battle between the Annwn (Fire Lords or Angels) who want to preserve creation and the demons to work with the Furor to destroy it. There is also the concept of our world being just a cell of a greater Dragon that is the mass of creation. Throw in the concept of the woman God and the conversions to the desert or nailed god of the Christian's and you have an interesting read regarding the mythology and spirituality of the Arthur Legend. The author worked in the legend of Merlin being of a child born from a demon and a human woman in an interesting way as well as the part of Merlin living backwards. He shows Merlin's growth from demon born full grown to his transition to Myrrdin and then to Merlin.
Books Jack Whyte's
Camulod Chronicles
A nine book series that starts with Arthur's grandfather and extends until he takes the throne. Instead of rewriting the series the author decided to write about the history leading up to the legend. Very informative. One of my favorite Arthurian series.
Fest Celtic Fest Chicago Held in Grant Park, Chicago. The Fest was over two days, we went from 11-3 on Saturday and then 2-9 on Sunday.

Before I go into the entertainment, I will talk about the setup. Basically they closed off a couple of the city streets in Grant Park and put tents up on them. I kind of expected to be in the park so that was kind of disappointing. Also, they had a weird meal ticket system. You had to buy 11 tickets for $7. The only problem is that a beer would cost 9-10 tickets, where a meal cost 9 tickets so this kind of pissed off some people. And you couldn't buy the number of tickets you wanted. Ah well, I ended using them all.

I also kind of wished they had a schedule for the Scottish Games part. I wanted to see the caber toss but didn't want to stand and watch for the whole four hours just to watch that. There weren't that many merchants with the exception of one person who was selling CDs of the bands playing and those participating in the Art Faire which was really a bunch a merchants selling art that was way beyond my checkbook. I was kind of disappointed as I was expecting something like Gaelic Park and want to get something. Ah well.

It was fun hearing the Scottish Pipes playing in the background all through the day. Not something one hears usually. Also the view of the city was good. I can understand why they call Grant Park Chicago's backyard, as it's behind the Loop (which is why the view was good) and only a street separates the park from the Lake.

The first band we saw was Tornaod. kind of a Middle Eastern Celtic fusion band from France. They were pretty good. One of the musicians played mostly smaller uncommon instruments like those small plastic noisemakers and the spoons and the like. The bass was kind of loud, almost to the point where I thought about moving.

The next group was The Elders. Very energetic, got the crowd engaged, and invited the women up to the front of the stage for a couple of songs. Played a couple of songs that knew, including a version of Johnny Jump Up, and I needed up staying for the whole set. After that is when we went home for the day.

The second day we saw the David Munnelly Band. I had heard good thing about them on Blarney and they lived up to the accolades. The band has their own special tap dancers from the audience that tapped away to a couple songs and there was also an impromptu Irish step dance session. I especially liked Andrew Murray, vocals. He reminded me of a young Roger Whitaker.

We then saw the Irish Heritage Singers, which were from the Irish American Heritage Center. Not too bad, could work on transitions more. They sang a lot of old favorites like the Old Dun Cow, Tim Finnegan's Wake, Irish Rover and some more traditional songs. They also had the Legacy Singers, the children's choir. They were good, though I have to admit hearing a bunch of children sing What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor was interesting.

We ended the Fest with Natalie MacMaster the world renowned fiddler. Excellent performance, well worth the wait and the late return at night. She and her band played very well. She even did a bit of an Irish jig while playing the fiddle at full speed. She came out here from Cape Breton for just the two hour performance because she loved the Chicago crowd and they love her.

Basically, all in all not bad. The food could have been handled better, there should have been more general merchants, and I should have attended the piping performances instead of just over hearing. I did notice that there really wasn't a Celtic rock contingent like that was Gaelic Park. The Elders was the closest to that but most groups were more traditional. Kind of different but I missed the bands like Gaelic Storm and Enter the Haggis. So maybe I will switch off between Celtic Rock and Traditional Celtic Fests.
Fest Chicago Gaelic Park
Irish Fest
Well we went to it on Sunday and had a reasonably good time. I learned that anything that has the word in the Fest in the title is the same type of event be it Harbor Fest or Irish Fest. They have the same food vendors, pushy games attendants, and carnival rides. Only the focus is different with this one being Irish Music. Not knowing this we got there when it opened and then waited three hours for the bands that we wanted to see start up. We did have a couple of things to pass the time. They had two tents of shopping, all of which focused on Celtic or Irish products. There was also a carnival section that had games and rides. We went on the ride kind of like Tradewinds (I think) at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, though this one was all backwards. We stayed there a while, but left the area because several of the games attendants were pushy and at least one was just plain rude.

Basically the set up was four stages in different corners, the main building for the performing arts, two tents for shopping and then two rows of food vendors. All this was, with the exception of the main building, was outside on a huge gravel field. And of course it was the hottest day that I remember us having since we have been up here. It did get cool in the afternoon and at night.

As for the entertainment, three of the stages were devoted to music and bands, the performing arts building was for, well, the performing arts, and was for variety of stuff such as magic acts and stuff. The first band we saw was Molly's Revenge which was good for the 30 minutes we saw it. The flutist / bagpiper was very energetic and we liked the songs that they played. Then we went to see a play entitled Myths and Legends of the Celtic Tiger. According to Wikipedia Celtic Tiger is "a nickname for the Republic of Ireland during its period of rapid economic growth between the 1990s and 2001 or 2002. Strictly speaking, the term is used for both the period of time (as in Celtic Tiger years) and the country during that period." Not knowing this before I kind of suspected it would be about something different. I had heard the term before, especially on Blarney on the Air, but hadn't known exactly what it meant. Now I know.

After the play we went to see Rig the Jig. They were really not at their best, mainly because there were only two of the six band members there. So we left and walked around a while then went to dinner. After dinner we caught the tail end of Enter the Haggis. The first thing I thought was God one of them looks like Wulfric and then Erin said one looks like Mike (two SCA people from Newport News). Haggis is pure Irish punk rock so Erin really enjoyed it. I had heard them before on the Internet radio so I was looking forward to seeing them. They played well and if they came to Bally Doyle I'd go see them.

Lastly was Gaelic Storm the Gods of Celtic Rock. Ok maybe not but damn good if the crowd that filled up the tent and extended fifty feet past indicated anything. Having heard them at Bally Doyle before this was the main reason I wanted to go. As good as remembered, even better. Erin and I each got a different CD which is good because I had ten of the twelve songs on the CD on mp3 so I kind of felt like I should buy the CD. Definitely worth seeing if you like Celtic Music.

All in all I think it was worth it. If any of these bands came to Bally Doyle, you'd have to pay a $5-$10 cover to get in so $15 for your choice of bands and carnival rides isn't bad.
Movie Braveheart I'm not going to comment on the historical accuracy as I don't know as much of it as I should. Still one of my favorite movies. It has romance, drama, fighting, anguish, personal sacrifice, love, triumph, and punishment all rolled into one. Each time I watch it, I notice something new. Robert the Bruce's character is played especially well and I like the fact that we see his trails and his struggle to become an independent person separate from his father. Also I love the music (have the soundtrack) and the scenery. Course I'm interested in Scottish and Celtic history and culture so this would be the movie for me.
Pub Bally Doyle Pub The local Irish Pub in Downer's Grove, IL. Visited it during my first trip up to Chicago and many times since. The atmosphere was great. The music was great, I had the waitress going back and forth checking song titles to see if I got them right. (Putting my knowledge of my gigabytes of Celtic music to the test.) They ever had the Bally Doyle Tapper (?) which was a three foot tall enclosed tube of alcohol with its own tap. Call it a modified pitcher. Oh and the great news is that Gaelic Storm and The Irish Descendants have played in the past along with other bands as well. There's at least two to three Irish / Celtic Bands a month.
TV Show Monarch of the Glen Plays via extended cable on BBC America and on the local PBS station. It is a drama that started out on BBC Scotland and since I am interested in the Scottish Highlands it is a good show for me. Currently season seven is playing WYCC and after watching those, I should have seen all the episodes.