Old Blind Dogs |
at the Dublin Irish Festival,
(2 August 2003)
I attended the Dublin Irish Festival near Columbus, Ohio, this past summer. The festival drew thousands of people from many states away. Some came to sample Irish goods including a vast array of arts, crafts, food and, of course, ale. However, a great many also came for the music; the festival had multiple different performance stages, each with their own theme and name. Doug Dickson, the DJ from a Columbus-based Celtic radio show called Toss the Feathers, introduced the Old Blind Dogs and said he'd been trying to get them to the festival for years. They played on Killian's Celtic Rock stage, and as I had never seen them perform before and only heard a small sample of their songs on various compilation CDs, I wasn't sure what to expect. They thrilled me!
The current band line up includes Jonnie Hardie on fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bouzouki and vocals, Buzzby McMillan on bass, cittern and vocals, Rory Campbell on whistles, pipes and vocals, Jim Malcolm on guitar, harmonica and lead vocals, and Fraser Stone on percussion. The lineup has been the same for their past three albums, except for Fraser who joined the band for their latest recording.
It was obvious they loved to play together as exciting energy flowed between all of them. Their energy spread to an ever-growing crowd that was drawn to the music. Rory's playing was superb and he frequently changed between a variety of pipes and whistles. He danced a bit while playing, but at times he also stood like a traditional piper. Jonnie made the fiddle sing. He and Rory sounded like they have played together for many years and often controlled the changes of tempo in the tunes. Jim brilliantly played acoustic guitar and harmonica at the same time (How are people this talented?), while his voice with its distinct Scottish accent was pure and strong. Buzzby's playing was great and he was quite the storyteller! Fraser got quite a workout from playing with so much passion.
The entire band interacted extremely well and changed the pace of the tunes seamlessly. They mostly played faster numbers from their three most recent albums. There was a large group of people dancing in front of the stage, while fans sitting at tables were dancing in their seats. I noticed a gentleman decked out in Irish attire standing and wildly dancing in front of the stage. He had a souvenir Irish elf doll he repeatedly held up and bowed down before the band. He also kept grabbing his head with his hands in what seemed to be profound wonder.
When "Edward" was introduced, Jim put both his guitar and harmonica down to sing this dark song about a son who killed his father. He sang with intensity and used body language to help tell the story. The rest of the band matched Jim's intensity note for note. I loved the tune "A Wild Rumpus," written by Rory. The pipes were forefront in this tune with a very interesting vocal chant. Another highlight was the song "Is There for Honest Poverty" by Robert Burns. The mention of his name got quite a few cheers from the audience -- at which point I started to think maybe this festival was more of a Scottish-Irish event.
The encore was a bit different ... fans sang along and performed the motions to "Tatties and Herrin'," which is akin to a Scottish version of the classic Village People song "YMCA." Everyone made a sign that represented the tatties, a type of potato or potato dish, and we moved our hands through the air like fish. If there wasn't another band scheduled to appear in 20 minutes, I believe they would have played at least one more encore. There was certainly enough applause and screaming to warrant another song or two or three....
Be sure to go see Old Blind Dogs when they tour your area of the world. You certainly will be in store for a very entertaining night. I will see them again at my first opportunity and will be wearing my "Lock Up Your Sausages" t-shirt with doggy pride.