Festival Club
at the Gaelic College of Arts & Crafts,
St. Ann's, Cape Breton
(9 October 2012)

It was the middle of a long week of music, so I was warned that the Festival Club would probably be quiet tonight.


Buddy MacDonald started the night with his usual satisfying performance; tonight, that included Ron Hynes' excellent "Sonny's Dream."

There were a couple of highlights through the night that, smaller crowd than usual notwithstanding, made this a great night to be at the Gaelic College. One was an unplanned performance featuring Kaitlin Hahn, a young fiddler from Milwaukee who was on the scene primarily as a music reviewer and festival scout. But with an empty Green Room early in the night, site manager Kelly Peck offered her a slice of stage, along with David Papazian (also on fiddle) and Cillian O'Dalaigh (on guitar).

"You never know who's going to join who on stage," MacDonald said, announcing the impromptu lineup.

It was an unexpected treat, one that marked the resurrection of pickup bands at the Festival Club -- a longtime tradition that so far this year had been lacking. Woohoo! Hahn (who, for purposes of full disclosure, also writes music reviews for this website) took to the stage like an old pro, although she was stomping so forcefully to the music that her boots kept sliding down.

Then the Outside Track was up for an encore performance, which included a stepdance-off between fiddler (and Cape Breton native) Mairi Rankin and guitarist Cillian O'Dalaigh, from Germany.

Rachel Davis was next, a young Cape Breton fiddler who has grown remarkably in confidence since I first saw her perform five years before. For some reason, she was unable to stop laughing as she played, which she blamed on bandmates Tony Byrne (guitar), Darren McMullen (mandolin) and Jason Roach (keyboard), and she kept her eyes often closed during the music, a big smile plastered on her face.

It was, as I noted in my recent interview with Rachel, a "wow times 11" kind of performance. And it's exactly the sort of thing that brings me back to the Festival Club night after night, sacrificing much-needed sleep for musical bliss that will last a lifetime.

music review by
Tom Knapp

8 December 2012

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