We arrived shortly after the grounds opened at 11:00AM, and followed the plan Georgie had laid out as to where to go when, which gave us a nice assortment of samplings and full sets.
For samples, we dropped by Leahy’s Luck (didn’t stay long, their music has become too Country-Western), Athas, Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac (part of the featured Nova Scotia contingent), and the Barra MacNeils. We sat down for full sets with Frogwater, Kim Robertson, and Carlos Núñez.
“Núñez” may seem like a peculiar name to find on the Irish Fest roster, but it fits in because Sr. Núñez hails from Galicia, the Celtic region of northern Spain, and is a virtuoso on the Gallician bagpipe, which resembles a Highland pipe but with only one drone, the Celtic straight flute, and the whistle.
His group’s set was one of the highlights of the festival. Not only was it fascinating as they performed examples of Celtic music fusions occurring in Africa and South America, but also magical. Núñez arranged collaborations with other Milwaukee groups, such that the Trinity Irish Dancers, the Caledonian Highland Dancers, and the Billy Mitchell Pipes and Drums (yes, the whole pipe band) were on stage with them. In fact, for one dance piece from Brittany, not only were all the dancers and pipe band on stage, gates to the stage were opened and dozens of audience members responded to Núñez’s invitation to join in. It subsequently appeared that members of Celtic rock powerhouse “Gaelic Storm” were among the audience members who went on stage.
Between sets, we shopped: the dealer’s tent layout at the north end was somewhat improved and less crowded, but we didn’t see anything we needed this year. We also got our traditional meals, a potato with stew from The Irish Baker for lunch, and bridey and sausage roll from Winston’s for supper, all of which seemed particularly good this year.
Perhaps due to the exceptionally good weather, the turnout seemed high, and the grounds crowded, although never unmanageably so. Venues were sometimes standing room only: one could wish that the organizers would take most of the unused and space wasting tables out of “The Pub” and put in more chairs. (While they’re at it, it would be nice if a quieter spot could be found for the Harp Tent as well. Kim Robertson’s performance had some noisy competition, and not just from The Pub up the hill--.)
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