So, after a long hiatus from writing content for this site, I’m back. Hoping you’re all well. Going forward, I’ll still be using this space to talk about the band, and also using it to talk about me. (my favorite topic!) We’re all of us intending to do so, much more regularly. We might even bring in a few guests from time to time. Keep coming back,we’ll see what develops.
This month, I think I’d like to talk about the band and my role in it; where I came from, how we got to here, and what’s changed along the way. Some of it may be familiar, but there have been some more recent insights I’d like to share. As always, feel free to ignore the lunatic drummer, you know how we can be.
When we perform, I’m often asked what my instrument is called, where it comes from, how did I learn how to play it, how long have I been playing. Well-meaning curiosity, and I’m usually quite happy to engage with fans (old & new alike). If you’ve been around us for a while, you’ve likely heard the stories. The drum is called a BODHRAN, pronounced <BO-rawn> and rolling the “r” just a little bit. It’s a classically Irish instrument, although most cultures have used drums like them at one point or another in their history. I’d seen them played a couple of times, but was never particularly drawn to it until I encountered this Irish band in the late 90’s, little local band called the ClareVoyants. They had a guy playing the bodhran and singing, and that guy could PLAY. It only took a couple of times seeing the band before I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I got to know the members of the band, the drummer in particular. (Paul, in case you missed it) He was kind enough to show me the very basics of how the instrument is played, how to hold it, how to hold the stick/tipper/beater/thing, how to strike the skin. Later that year, I received my very own drum as a Christmas gift.
Around about that same time, I regularly attended an Irish seisiun in Tempe, at a little brew pub called The Bandersnatch. (May it rest in peace) A seisiun, in case you wondered, is a more or less traditional gathering of musicians of the Celtic persuasion. It’s not a performance per se, no one’s on stage, no microphones,just a few tables pushed together such that we could sit together in a rough circle, a few pints of <adult beverage of choice> served,and just…music. All skill levels were welcome, it was a surprisingly ego-free environment. Just the right sort of place to start learning my instrument. Also a great place for establishing one’s self in the music community, networking, and meeting other devotees of the genre. For example,it was at that seisiun that I first encountered one Chaos Pixie of a fiddler by the name of Erin Lewis, bright-eyed and lively and HOLY SHIT could she play. I was always self-conscious,having just recently (by comparison) picked up my instrument; I was a decent vocalist, but a novice on the bodhran, and these people were all insanely talented, and I worried about making a fool of myself. (Which I did, and often, but rarely musically; tales for another time.)
I continued attending and playing, improving incrementally over time. I even got asked to sit in with working bands a couple of times, and oh God that was glorious. Eventually got approached by one of those bands, offering to make the arrangement more permanent,and I was off to the races. I played with One Eyed Fiona for a while, progressing from “drummer who does some backing vocals” to “frontman who sings and drums” over time,with both OEF and its successor The Hooligans. We made some pretty fine music, so we did. Then life happened, the band broke up, I got engaged, and I decided to put music aside. I was going to be a husband and a father, and it was time to get “more serious”, whatever the hell that means. I’d still pull out the drum once in a while, either just for myself or at a party, or the infrequent occasional gig with a group that needed a drummer. I missed the hell out of it, but I was doing what we’re all “supposed to do” when we’re married, sacrificing important bits of myself for the good of the family. (I find it important to note here that this was entirely and utterly MY idea. No one pushed me into it, or even hinted at it. MY choice. MY mistake.)
Then Paul & I started talking, and jamming a bit. We hosted a couple of seisiuns and had some fun with it. Talked about maybe someday putting a project together. And then we happened to run into a certain fiddler, once a Chaos Pixie, now a Fae Queen in her own right, and HOLY SHIT she played even better than “back in the day”, and we 3 got together for dinner shortly thereafter, and a band sorta happened.
I tell you all of THAT story to give you context for THIS one.
A couple of weeks ago, we three found we had some free time in our schedule. One of the pubs where we play often, Fibber Magee’s in Chandler, is the home to a seisiun. We’d been meaning to attend, singly and/or together, for years. We were already booked there on this particular evening, why not go check out the seisiun beforehand?
Some of it was delightfully, even achingly familiar.Tables pushed together, a group of musicians gathered round, flowing drinks, and the music was just grand, so it was. About half an hour in, I noticed that it felt different from my prior experiences, back at the Bandersnatch. I puzzled on that for a bit, and finally came to realize what the difference actually was.
It was me. Somewhere, somehow, in the 20+ years that passed since I started this journey, I’ve grown a little more comfortable with myself, I guess? A little more confident about my skills, perhaps. Enough so that I can maintain a straight face when I tell someone that I’m a musician. That I’m a drummer. That I actually belong in the room. It’s a weird feeling, to be sure, and I’m not sure just how to handle it.
But I like it.
Where did you start out, and how far have you come ?