Hunter Mountain Celtic Festival

Hunter Mountain has other than skiing, in part because there ain’t no snow in the summer. celticfair_huntermountainThe place runs a German Festival, Mountain Jam, Oktoberfest and the Celtic Festival. Sharon and I discovered the Celtic Festival at the last minute a year ago and had a great time, so we decided to spend a weekend checking it out this summer. We stayed at the Scribner Hollow Lodge,celticfest_schribner fun ol’ place, real ski lodge, a little banged up, but in a kind of ideal way: Old ski posters a little faded, busted but serviceable handle on the screen door to the balcony. That sort of thing. Just enough to give it character, but otherwise, well kept, clean, pleasantly odd. The hallway to the rooms on the second floor was a literal hall, 30 feet or so wide and littered with tables and chairs as if a banquet might kick off at any time. What exactly happens there, I have no idea. Mysteries aside, friendly innkeepers. Really good restaurant that serves, among other things, German sausage from what’s billed as Woodstock’s classic purveyors of pigscumbers, among other dishes. Generous breakfast. All at reasonable prices. To me, a great contrast to the cookie cutter chain hotels that I usually habituate on business trips.
The festival itself is a bargain. Just sixteen bucks and an incredible tumult of music. Main stage in a tent, mountain stage out in the open, main bar stage. You can take the ski lift to the mountaintop where you get ejected to another bar with music. Haven’t gotten there yet. Maybe next year.
So, as to the lowland music, lots of pipe bands.celticfest_flagspipers By which I mean bagpipes. Now, I recognize that bagpipes aren’t to everyone’s taste. I love them. As much as I’m Celtic, the affection is in the blood. I do understand how some people liken bagpipes, sound wise, to a cat screaming its way through a wood chipper. I will pause to apologize to cat lovers. However, similar similes have been made before. Similes aren’t to everyone’s taste either, but I like Raymond Chandler, another indications of my tastes. Don’t hate me.
Oh, hate me, I don’t care.
But back to the subject at hand.
Celtica was a band among the headliners last year. Hard rock with bagpipes. Yes, really. Celtica hooked me at the get go. The music is even on my phone. One of the bands that makes running on a treadmill tolerable. Fast paced, rollicking. I am not a fan of the XXX mixed with XXX formula to establish a creative identification. However, the band does cover AC/DC songs. With bagpipes. You get the drift. Celtica also covers show tunes, and any number of other genres. Which proves bagpipes go with everything. Yes, I just wrote that. Who says I don’t have guts.
Celtica frequently refers to fire in its music. This year, the act had an addition. Flaming bagpipes. Flaming guitar.celticfest_celticafire
Flaming base. Most bands just risk the occasional cross-stage fling initiated by a drunken stagehand who incorrectly wires an amplifier line. Celtica takes its chances with back-lashed propane tanks generating flaming amplification of its music. Commitment. John Adams would be proud. Or psychotically enraged. But he only functioned on those two levels, so…
Great stage show. Celtica had a bit of fire dancing, too, celticfest_firedancingthanks to the group’s keyboard player.
The Screaming Orphans were another matter. Not orphans, by the way, but sisters from a musical family resident of County Donegal.celticfest_screamingorphans That’s in Ireland. It’s a part of a whole country. Mostly. We’re working on that.
Screaming Orphans music reflects the work in progress. The band does traditional Irish music with a kick. It also cranks New Wave-inspired rock. You can here a lilt of Cranberries inspiration in it, although more of the rollicking stuff rather than the tunes where Delores works her substantial pipes. What’s important, though, is the band has its own sound. Percussive and melodic. As for the show, sans flames, the Screaming Orphans like to banter, with the audience, but mostly with each other. The drummer and the guitarist enjoy bickering, to good comic effect. Still, what is most outstanding about the band is the terrific musicianship. Rhythm guitar, keyboards, drums, all outstanding. That being said, the fiddling particularly impressed me. The fiddle sis splits time on the bass, but when she gets going with the bowstrings, she shoots bulls eyes.
Kevin McKrell is a mostly straight up folk singer, and very good at it. Told great stories about his songs, too. Asked about how many people had ever been walking around Dublin at four in the morning. Happy to say, I was among the handful of the audience to raise a hand. Bad Bob’s. But that’s a story for another day. Beyond the songs and humor, he had this guy, who, frankly, looked a little like Uncle Fester,celticfest_drumming banging away as percussion on this box thing I’ve never seen before, and wonderfully. Made things interesting.
The Fighting Jamesons played on the mountain stage. Almost missed the band being lulled to slumberous by Andy something from Long Island who we stopped to sample in between acts that we wanted to hear. Bleh. All I hate in crappy regurgitated Irishesque music. I’m sure if the Wolftones weren’t getting on in years, the boys would have beaten him silly by now. As another reference, for practicality’s sake, I can mention the Pogues as a Fighting Jamesons inspiration, at least in terms of attitude, but, take into consideration that the reference only provides a rough sense of the music. I really do dislike such comparisons, except in their utility. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the hell out of The Fighting Jamesons for their own music and enthusiasm.celticfest_fightingjamesons The band took risks on stage, even bringing up a little audience member to sing a replacement word in the particular vulgar audience response expected during the performance of the Boston Irish classic The Man Who Never Returned, in consideration of a family audience. The coup didn’t exactly work so much as it added a bit of charm to the show. I also enjoyed the singer/guitarist busting the chops of his uncles in the audience. If you want to have a great time at a pub, and yell the hell out the improper response to the aforementioned song, look them up.
You don’t have to be Celtic to enjoy such illuminate tomfoolery. The Hunter festival, and the range of the venue’s festivals, make for a great weekend. No matter what your ethnicity. Plus,celticfest_fireworks the joint put on great fireworks.

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Delray Beach, Fla.

I wind up tumbling into events and places that turn out to be pretty interesting. I figure, why not share?
Take Delray Beach, for example. delray_tracksmain
I’ve been in Florida any number of times, but this summer was the first time I got to li’l ol’ Delray Beach. Now, this is watcha call a party town. As is often the case in life, the fun parts are in twain. Unfortunately, I only discovered the hoppin’ bit of the community along the beach and Route A1A as I was driving out of town. Ironic, right? More to explore later, I rationalize. Where I stayed was the arts district, which was plenty deep in inspired nonsense. Lots of bars, restaurants, a place called Cabana that, as it turned out, was a duplicate of a place in my neighborhood. Still, great Cuban food, and you’ve got to look for that in Florida, not that I’m in any way suggesting that Castro has been a boon to the Western Hemisphere. Too egocentric for a revolutionary.
delray_tracksexpanseDelray has a kind of speed bump
for to keep one for getting too goony. You see, the arts district has a railroad running right down the middle. You don’t want so wild you get hit by a train. The cops kind of stake it out. Generally, I don’t like cops too handy if I’m out for the evening. However, when the alternative is getting squished by a freight train, the potential imposition of law enforcement is rather comforting. Right next to the tracks is Johnnie Brown’s, which you can get a glimpse of in the leading image, a fine roadhouse bar with live music and outdoor seating. So the pairing of entertainment, liquid and otherwise, and people whose job it is to keep you from getting flattened is, in the particular community context, utilitarian.
Returning to proper Florida victuals, delray_deedees
Dee Dee’s, at the top of the town, by which I mean just off the highway, has great Bahamanian food, including the kind of conch I love. The owner is personable. We had a long talk about her ambition to open a restaurant in New York. I certainly wouldn’t mind.
Of course, you gotta love a town that has two ice cream/sweet shops in just the art district. I only had a little time to check them out. In fact, I only had one opportunity. I had to make a decision. So I decided to try both. delray_kilwins
Excellent in both cases. At Kilwan’s, they have a guy making candy in front of you. At Sloan’s, they have a mini cable car running under the counter. I give a slight edge to Sloan’s. delray_cablecarsBut I do have a nostalgic affection for cable cars. Wish they’d bring ’em back to ol’ New York like in the Trolley Dodger days.
Delray has a Philly cheesesteak place called Big Al’s. delray_sandwichLot’s of variation on theme and tasty. Yes, that’s bacon curling up from the steak shavings, and blue cheese luxuriating on top. Big Al’s is open late, too.
And that ain’t all the town has to offer. On top of all its other various and sundry attractions, distractions and satisfactions, Delray Beach has a bunch of pleasant little parks. One celebrates what, to my tastes, is a perfectly appropriate local obsession with pineapples, including a statuary sort of tropicalian representation,delray_pineapplesas illustrated,
an Eagle Scout memorial, delray_boyscoutparkwhich should appeal to my Eagle Scout nephew Andrew if he ever gets down there, and even some wildlife.delray_lizard
Bitty, not bitey. I didn’t see a single alligator on the street, at least not of the four-legged variety. Delray even has a restaurant that arrays butt-shaped chairs outside. I didn’t actually eat there, but you have to appreciate the ambiance. delray_buttrestaurant
Not too funky for the kiddies either, although mom and dad might have to do a little ‘splainin’ to do.
The other Delray advantage: You can pretty much walk everywhere, which is a nice exception in a driving-type state.
To sum up, a great three-day weekend kind of place, and it may even suit for a bit longer. Lots of food, drink and, always important, ice cream. I really look forward to a return visit. Still, I do wish I could have had a closer encounter with the oceanside than what turned out to be a drive-by just out of reach of the beach.
delray_beach Other side of the cyclist.

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