Saturday, March 10, 2007
Angels Camp, CA -- Celtic people are taking over these California
foothills, and their annual gathering here is a cultural event that says a lot
about America in 2007.
Exactly what it says is unclear, but bear
with me for a look at my day watching and enjoying Celtic
people and a few wannabees.
This weekend thousands of people who claim Celtic roots, or wish they did, gathered for the 21st Annual Calaveras Celtic Faire. "Calaveras" is the county incidentally. The "Celtic Faire" is a wonderfully strange gathering of people who wear pins that say "Kiss Me I'm Irish," men in kilts, children swinging wooden swords,
large males tossing telephone poles, costumed women with support bras
that would make any engineer proud, adults voluntarily eating Haggis, a
whiskey drinking contest, jousting on horseback, lots of music and
The music was terrific. The crowd was pretty strange, and a lot
This Faire was so inclusive that even the Irish and Scots attendees
seemed to be happy one group showed up dressed as English soldiers. Now
The wandering crowds included young women
wearing rainbow colored little fairy wings whirling around in circles,
and men in cowboy outfits stomping their feet and dancing jigs that
were part Texas Two Step and PartIrish Jig. And then there were the
people dressed up like the bad guys from The Lord of The Rings, and at
least one young women in a black leather bikini with a skull suspended
strategically. One middle-aged woman dancer was actually wearing a mullet hairdo.
The desire to dress up in costume, almost any costume, and walk around in
public seems to have overwhelmed normally sensible people. Historical
accuracy was not required, though there was a lot of that mixed in with
the belly dance troupe and biker clubs and pirates and village idiots,
and people having their picture taken with an older heavyset bearded
man because he looked just like Jerry Garcia.
The best part of the
day for me was the music. Three indoor stages were kept busy
entertaining standing-room-only audiences most of the day. The big name
bands (for experienced festival goers) were Wicked Tinkers and Tempest,
who were both wicked and stormy, and the local favorites The Black Irish
Band and Golden Bough. When the Tinkers and Tempest were playing you
could close your ears and imagine you were at a Grateful Dead concert,
except the smell in the air was ale and stout instead of the forbidden weed of the 60s. And the throbbing of the drums made closing your ears an impossibility.
A wild and talented band from San Francisco, Culann's
Hounds, pictured above, kept the place jumping into the night. It's hard to describe,
but I suspect they are Irish Punk Rock Fusion Hoedown Bluesy Jazzy
something. Damn they're good.
My big disappointment was that the Concertina/Accordion (?) player got rid of her bright fuchsia hair for something more subdued. A band member explained the fuchsia coloring was making the hair fall out, so it seems like a good decision. No matter, they rocked the joint to the rafters.
international bands (two Irish, one Scots) were there to add
authenticity, but the quality of all the musicians was absolutely
superior. In fact, the only bump in the happy day was constantly flaky sound/power systems, which took the edge off some of the earlier performances.
It was very difficult to choose between going inside a venue to listen
to the great music, or wandering outside and feasting on the costumed
and slightly crazy crowds.
So we did both, and had a great time.