Bizarre situations at sessions

Bizarre situations at sessions

I’m guessiong topics like this one have probably been discussed before. But something very bizarre happened to me yesterday and I’m curious to hear about more anecdotes. This is mine.

A random woman came to the session area asking for "The Black Flute". We all looked at each other and said, "Sorry, we don’t know the tune".

She then said to me: "no no, I want you to play your Irish flute before I leave".

Someone started a set and I didn’t know the first 2 tunes, so I didn’t join in. In the middle of the 2nd tune, she approached the session area again and said to me "Come on! Play!". I said, "I’m sorry, I don’t know this tune, I can’t play it". She started to get annoyed.

I could then join in on the 3rd tune. After we finished she came to the session area once again and the conversation went like this:
- Woman: Thank you.
- Me: My pleasure. I’m sorry I couldn’t play before. I didn’t know the tunes.
- W: It wasn’t a tune! The black flute is not a tune! It’s an instrument!
- M: (Confused) Yeah yeah, I meant…
- W: (Interrupting me) The Irish flute is an instrument played in Ireland.

At that point I got annoyed, and a bit loud, and said: "Yes, I know. I know what a flute is. I’ve got 2 right over here and play them every day. I really don’t need to you explain it."

She then turn around, said something to the fiddler sitting right next to me and left leaving everybody incredibly confused.

After the woman walked out, the fiddler told me she said to her: "What a sensitive man!"

Definitely the most bizarre situation I’ve ever encountered in a session so far.

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You apparently lead a sheltered life, David. People often act wierd.
I have 3 good stories from the past 2 weeks though none of them were at a session.
Ben

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Haha! That was seriously the most bizarre situation in my session life so far. Involving me at least, I’ve seen fights in pubs while we just kept on playing. But no one had every approached me like that before. Odd tune requests, sure, but that was strange :)

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Im amazed she didnt ask if she could play your flute.

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That would’ve made more sense to me than the conversation we actually had.

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Cheers, David. Sounds like she was a bit disorganised, possibly even a mental disorder. Bottom line is
she wanted to hear some flute but did not have the right words to communicate this.

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Probably just someone who didn’t understand how vast the repertoire is in this music, and assumed everyone who can play an instrument knows all the tunes. The idea of sitting out a tune is foreign to anyone more used to band performances.

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Just slightly off-topic…

If you play bouzouki it’s inevitable that one day some onlooker will ask what kind of guitar it is.

Hammered dulcimers are worse:
Question: What is that thing?
Answer: A hammered dulcimer.
Reply: Not it’s not, dulcimers have a curvy body and three strings.
No point explaining the difference between mountain and hammered at that point, that mind is already closed.

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One has to learn completely to blank the punters unless they are offering to buy drinks.

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Adult film convention several years ago across the street from The Auld Dubliner in Long Beach where we have a weekly session. Several very drunk and all fairly. attractive adult film actors/actresses and crew were in the pub. About an hour into the session we had full female frontal nudity on display at the table across from us while I was playing The Gold Ring on the pipes. Another girl, very drunk, just hiked up her dress and peed on the ground in the smoking patio in front of the pub in full view of the players. We didn’t miss a beat. Good times!

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Rookie error there on her part - getting the Gold Ring confused with the Golden Shower.

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I was playing a few tunes with a fiddler I knew from Somerset in an Irish pub in Chiang Mai about 12 years ago when an irate local came in to confront his girlfriend who had just given him the boot. He pulled out a 9mm and started firing in the air. I legged it. Unfortunately I ran into the same fella a few nights later and foolishly suggested his behaviour had been a bit extreme at which point he gave me a kicking! Haven’t been back since.

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In two different places, I have been aware of disembodied hands coming through the open window. In the one, it was a big sash window with about 2 ft of wall below it: several people had left instrument cases on the floor under this window, and I just caught said hand in time before my bodhran case disappeared through the window. A little gnome-like character winked and me and then scarpered.
In the other place, there was a big wide shelf next to the open window: again a good but risky place for parking cases: on this occasion, I had to tell the same very drunk chap that the case he was about to take away was 1."mine"
2. "NO IT’S MINE"
3. "NOOOO, IT’S NNNOOTTT YOURS, IT IS MINNNNE AND MINE ONLY!"

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Trish, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the American TV program "The Andy Griffith Show," but it sounds a lot like you had a couple of visits from Ernest T. Bass.

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We had an older gentleman who was locally famous for his expertise with the paddle-ball — he’d carved his own paddle in the shape of a shamrock and decorated it appropriately. He would get soused at the pub where we had our session, and on a few occasion’s he’d stand in the center of the circle (it was one of those Circle of Death arrangements) and beat out a decent rhythm with the ball stretching out to the end of the rubber band and smacking back against the paddle. He claimed he was playing "in the key of Budweiser". It was a test of concentration to stay on the tune with that ball whizzing past your head.

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I was playing a session in the basement bar of an establishment in Edinburgh, late at night, and the fella sitting next to me was snorting a line of a coke off one of those tin boxes that hold lozenges. No one else in the bar seemed bothered, so you know, that’s cool.

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A fiddler at the session starts a whole set of tunes and at the end says, "Did I start all those tunes? Was that me? I don’t even remember starting those tunes."

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joe fidkid - You get my vote for most bizarre situation

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This is one of the best threads ever. Keep ‘em coming.

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About two years ago, I think, at our Stockholm session, a lady comes in with a bodhrán case. She doesn’t sit down at our table, but instead at a table in the other end of the room together with a man who I presume is her husband. After a while, in the middle of a set of tunes, she has unpacked her bodhrán, and comes up and stands right behind the banjo player across the table from me and bangs along. With the open end of the bodhrán about 5 inches from the back of the banjo player’s head. After the tune set is over she goes back to her table and sits down without saying a word to us. This procedure is repeated a couple of times, and I can see the banjo player starting to wonder who this weirdo is who is bothering him from time to time.
Then a couple of musician friends (two male and one female) from the neighbouring city of Uppsala come in. I’m glad to see them, since I haven’t met them in a while, and invite them to sit in with us.
After the first set of tunes with the new musicians the bodhrán lady stands up right next to us and starts giving a little speech where she gives out about our "misogynist attitude". How she as a woman was not welcome in the session, but we invited other (male) musicians in. She finishes by shouting "girl power" with her fist in the air, and even got a bit of hesitant applause from some of the people sitting in the room.
She obviously didn’t see the women who were sitting there playing in the session. And she never asked if she could join in - she would of course have been welcome.

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We did have two stunningly beautiful head-to-toe tattooed exotic dancers at our session in San Diego doing interpretive dance to the music. We didn’t miss a beat. Good times! Seems to be a pattern here, maybe it’s a SoCal thing… :-)

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"… she would of course have been welcome."
Really?

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I have more bizarre things happen to sessions I’ve been in than I can remember, but one that stands out is when a guy brought a beer to me (asked if I was Jack) and said he wanted to ask me a question. Sounded fair enough to me… I got a free pint so.

I was one of the hosts of the session and we were in the midst of it. I didn’t understand what he was asking me at first because it was totally out of left field, but he wanted to know if we could play any Al Green songs. I told him we are playing Irish trad and that I didn’t know any Al Green anyway… and I was sorry. Then he accused me of lying to him about what I knew… I told him I barely know who Al Green was aside from being a soul singer from the 70s and that we were playing Irish tunes and I had to get back to doing that. I turned around to my cohost and we were discussing what to play next… and we started some tunes… and the guy just stood there staring at us. After a few minutes he took away the beer he gave me and walked away. I had already started drinking it too. I never had anyone take back a beer after they bought it for me.

At the end of the session he came up and started giving out to me some more about it and my cohost, Athena Turgis, went all gansta on him, strutted right up to his face and told him he lost all privileges of talking to me, was an idiot and to back the feck off. He ran like a scared little bunny. Athena is my hero.

When I was leaving he was out front and said our music was just the same old pirate music and we should learn something different.

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No, Michael… Al Green.

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About 10 years ago we were having tunes at The Dan O’Connell Hotel( no relation to the "Home Ruler") in Melbourne. It was a hot muggy Melbourne evening so we opened the sash window to let the breeze in, this would have been about 7pm. After about 10 minutes the window came crashing down shattering glass everywhere, but mostly over me and for the most part on my shoulders and back. I froze for a few seconds and relaxed after realising there was no blood but I had glass fragments all over me as some of the other sessioneers started carefully removing the shards. Someone asked, rather predictably I thought,"Are you ok Tony"? In a state of calmness that surprised even myself I replied " I don’t feel any pane……."
True story.

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This strand is not only entertaining, but useful. I’ll never park a case near an open window again, especially with an instrument in it ….

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At the Montpelier, Vermont weekly session at Bagitos, we are witness to the annual naked bike ride happening on Main Street just past our large window. I’ve never been able to figure out what exactly is being protested/promoted.

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Several years ago, a gal came into our session and introduced herself as a middle school music teacher. She brought a plastic recorder with her and wanted to join us for some Celtic (hard-C) music. Sure. Fine. However, she would then wait until the sets would finish, ask us the name of the tunes, and then open a book of music and replay the tune we had just completed by herself. That was odd. But really the best part was, on any tunes she did not have music for, she produced a dime-store native American spinning drum where two little plastic balls dangle from the sides of a small drum on a stick. She would spin the drum in her hand to produce a clickity-clackity racket to "accompany" us. It sounded like a deranged woodpecker after a few Red Bulls. Tragic. After a few tunes we finally had to ask her to stop.

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Barack Obama sings…………………he made a slightly better job of ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ with BB King…………

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In a session on a festival a drunk young lady tries to kiss several of the session musicians while we where playing, including me.

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A guitarist sitting next to me at a session asked me, out of the blue, "Are you married?"

"No," I said.

"Do you have a boyfriend?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Shame," he said. Then he added, "I have a photo of someone who looks like you." He reached into his backpack and fished out a black-and-white portrait of a Victorian-era lady, in a Victorian-era dress. "I think this looks like you." The lady had long hair, but that was the only resemblance.

Poor man needed to work on his pick-up lines, no doubt.

He was a terrible guitarist to boot, who kept professing his love for the key of A minor in an odd, Nigel Tufnel sort of way.

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We had a short-lived by-invitation-only session in my town on a Tuesday evening once a month. One week a guy came in who I recognized from another session. I don’t remember ever seeing him play at the other sesh even though he’d sit in the circle. But anyway he came to this monthly and didn’t sit but he did pull out some balls and start juggling—smiling all the while. kinda funny, kinda creepy.

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Last evening at a well-attended session in an almost-empty coffee shop (par for the course in this venue), at some point we became aware of a fellow seated at a respectable distance, wearing over-the-ear headphones while staring at a laptop and keening away at what appeared to be ‘Hamilton’ lyrics at the top of his lungs. This continued throughout the rest of the session.

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Ha-ha! I had to watch that other video to see what a "paddleball" was. I remember "Swingball" when you had the ball attached to a central post so more than one person could play at once. Now that’s an idea…….!

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We had a delightful session in a barn with goats (the horn section), dogs and cats wandering among us. If that wasn’t cool enough, we were set upon by a tornado-like thunderstorm. While many gathered in the middle of the barn to escape the rain blowing in structure thru the door and the real threat of being struck by lightning or crushed by a collapsing, others just kept on playing. Kinda like those cheesy "Celtic" recordings with the sounds of weather in the background.

http://www.sessionite.com/goatbar.png

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We were hired to play some tunes for a yard party. We arrived as darkness fell and we discovered that the “party” was the gathering of a bunch of pseudo-pagan women for some kind of celebration. Tents were set up lit by candles and decorated according to the event, giving a weird ambiance to the entire location . At one point they congregated at a distance for a secret ceremony as a few constantly looked back in our direction to make sure we weren’t observing the on goings. That completed, they wanted to do some sort of group dance to some ancient Celtic music. I was the only one in our group that knew anything close to that description, so I soloed on my Low D. It was a real hit among the dancers who swayed in their long, flowing gowns in the moonlight… like many a puffs of mist. However (and this is the bizarre part :) ) my right hand froze up as if it was mysteriously paralyzed!!!

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DrSilverSpear’s story reminded me of something which happened to me at our local Session in 1996. At the time, the local Sessions were held in the bar of a popular local restaurant (we were in the bar because that was the only part of the restaurant where smoking was allowed). When we took a short break from playing music, I was smoking a Marlboro 100 cigarette when a strange woman whom I had never seen before sat down next to me and asked for a cigarette. So I gave her a cigarette and helped her light it. After she smoked the cigarette and took a sip of her wine, she got out a silver flute and a soprano recorder. She did know a few tunes and she did try to play along with us. At the next session, her husband joined us with his guitar and did a good job of playing along with the group. All three of us are still playing music at the local Sessions and are still friends.

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The "key of Budweiser"? At least he wasn’t trying to play in the key of "OFF"—unlike some amateurish musicians whom I have had the displeasure of playing music with.

Laurence

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After playing my acoustic string bass with a local old time folk music group for approximately twenty five years, I do know the difference between a lap or mountain dulcimer and a hammered dulcimer. This group has two men who play the hammer dulcimer and a few people who play the lap dulcimer.

Laurence

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Speaking of people getting a bouzouki mixed up with a guitar, I have actually had non-musicians ask me what is a mandolin?

Laurence

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Michael Eskin’s story about the Adult Film Convention reminded me of something which happened to me approximately twenty five years ago at the local Blues Jam. As soon as I arrived at the Blues Jam that evening, I was asked to go up on the stage to play the piano because I was the only piano player there so far. This meant that I was still sober while I was playing music because I didn’t have an opportunity to buy and drink a beer before I started playing. Instead of a real piano, there was some type of electronic keyboard on one side of the stage near to the front of the stage. The dance floor was directly in front of the stage which was two or three feet above the dance floor. This meant the musicians had a good view of the dance floor which was especially true if you were near the front of the stage (as I was). There was a young woman on the dance floor who was wearing a black shirt with a V-neck. From my vantage point near the front of the stage, I could see right down the front of her shirt and she wasn’t wearing anything under the shirt. She was "well-endowed" and the view was distracting. Not only did I miss a few beats but I missed a few chord changes as well.

Laurence

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Laurence, you have to arrange to practice for these sorts of distractions in advance so you won’t miss a beat in the future!

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Not AT the session, but just outside the pub, a great little dive of a pub, now defunct, called Shillellagh’s, on the main road between Catford and Lewisham, SE London. It was a summer’s evening, still light and the front door was open to let cool air in. I happened to look out the door and at that very moment was stunned to see a car mount the kerb of a traffic island in the middle of the road. The car then turned upside down.
Some apparently stoned-up guys managed to open the doors and climb out. A few of we sessioneers had run out to see if anyone needed help. But we didn’t need to do anything. The car occupants just rocked the car a few times, managed to turn it the right way up again, got in and drove off, just like that. That was bizarre.
One of my co-sessioneers who had come out to help lit up a ciggie while we stood by the car. I mentioned to her that was maybe not such a good idea in case there was a petrol leak, so she quickly extinguished said fag. To light up in that situation was also bizarre as it displayed a gross lack of common sense.
I thought so anyway.

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Not so much a bizarre situation at a session as a session in a bizarre situation. I was at Willie Clancy Week in the early 2000s and, after being turfed out of The Malbay in the small hours, a group of us were looing for somewhere to carry on playing. Phonecalls were made and we ended up making for the house of an eccentric poet living in Milltown. Arriving at the small terraced house, we waited for some time after knocking on the door, until eventually someone answered, saying that they had been worried that it might be the Gardaí. The house was in darkness. In the front room, dimly lit through the window by streetlights, were the silhouettes of three unkempt-looking men and a huge pile of rubble in the middle of the floor. Greetings were exchanged and somebody asked if there was any light. We were directed through the house to the bathroom, which had three or four small nightlights burning.

I got in first and made a beeline for the toilet (lid down, trousers up) - without a doubt, the most comfortable seat in the house; one musician sat in the bath, another on the bath rim; a couple squatted in the doorway; one sat on the washbasin, which, it transpired, was not attached very securely to the wall and came away, taking the house one small step closer to dereliction. We had a some nice tunes: two fiddles, two mandolins, possibly a flute - and a khaen. Then, after half an hour or so, there was another knock at the front door. This time it *was* the Gardaí - apparently the neighbours had complained about the noise (it was about 3am by this time). I think we headed on to the school bike shed for more tunes after that…

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A khaen? Gad, I haven’t heard one of those since I lived in Laos when I was a kid.

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Well, sort of a session. This was one of the first ever gigs with my first ever band, so we didn’t really have a fixed repertoire - therefore, session. Anyway, we were playing at this weird street theater festival kind of goings on. No assigned time or place, and since there were quite a few other acts and it wasn’t a very big town, we spent some time looking for a spot. We ended up on a little square, not too many people there but sure, and started playing.

After half an hour or so, a whole bunch of cameramen turned up. Well, we thought, word must have gotten around, just look at how famous we are already! They weren’t really aiming for us though, but at one of the street junctions at the edge of the square. Maybe ten minutes later the event they’d actually come for occured. Turns out, the World Naked Bike Ride had decided to attend the festival, and were making their grand entree on that little square. We’d just started a set of jigs when maybe fifteen people rode in on their bicycles, most of them in their birthday dress (one or two had their undies on - cowards…). They stopped right in front of the cameras (and therefore right in front of us). One or two got interviewed. The rest started dancing. We saw ourselves back on TV later on, playing tunes to the beat of swaying.. things. For me, that one’s definitely at the top of the list.

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Just remembered another one. Not so much bizarre as funny and serendipitous. Quite recently a friend brought her dog down to the session at the Blythe.
To precede a set of mazurkas I occasionally play one time round "How Much is that Doggie in the Window" and started up this time as it seemed appropriate. At the exact point in time after the phrase "How M i t D in the W", the wee dog barked: woof! woof!
The whole room of the pub collapsed in laughter.
Classic.

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Fauxcelt
"Speaking of people getting a bouzouki mixed up with a guitar, I have actually had non-musicians ask me what is a mandolin?"

The mandolin would appear to be a very misunderstood and relatively unfamiliar instrument among non musicians. It never ceases to amaze what people suspect it might be.

"Is that a banjo?" "Ukulele?" "Oh, are you going to play your "little guitar"?"
"What instrument is that? Is it a (Insert any of the above)?"

"I always thought a mandolin had a round back.."
"How many strings does it have?"
This usually takes a lot of explaining! :-)

At a recent festival, we arrived and parked a reasonable distance away from a caravan. the next day, the caravan owner asked if we could move a bit further along as they now wished to put up an "awning"!
"Don’t worry. I’ll let you finish playing your banjo first…"
Grrrrrr.

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‘"Is that a banjo?" "Ukulele?" "Oh, are you going to play your "little guitar"?"
"What instrument is that? Is it a (Insert any of the above)?"

"I always thought a mandolin had a round back.."
"How many strings does it have?"
This usually takes a lot of explaining! :-)

^^All standard questions a mandolin player has to answer - it’s in the job description, if you read the small print. Since adding the fiddle to my arsenal of weapons, I also frequently get asked, "Is that a fiddle or a violin?" or "What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin?". I usually give them the long answer and watch as they glaze over. Sometimes I get, "What’s the difference between a mandolin and a ukulele?", "between a mandolin and a lute?", "… between a mandolin and a banjo?" - or even sometimes "… between a mandolin and a fiddle?" There’s endless potential for wisecrack answers, for someone quicker-witted than myself.

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Michael Eskin thank you for your suggestion that I need to practice and prepare for female distractions while I am playing music but I don’t think this young woman realized the effect she was having on me and the rest of the band. She was quite drunk and was focused on the man she was dancing with.

Laurence

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I tried playing and singing "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?" for my Golden Retriever and all he did was to sit there and stare blankly at me.

Laurence

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Didn’t you know? A mandoline (with an e) is a kitchen implement for shredding vegetables (and your fingers if you’re not careful!)

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At CreadurMawnOrganig, one of the fiddle players who participates regularly in the monthly meetings of the local old time folk music society explained the difference between a fiddle and a violin like this with the following joke: "How do you tune a violin to play bluegrass? You just fiddle with it." This man is a retired schoolteacher who taught French, Spanish, German, and Latin to hormonally ravaged teenagers at a local public school.

Laurence

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Not long after the smoking ban was introduced, there was a session at Newcasleton Festival in The Liddesdale.

One woman player had imaginatively positioned herself on the windowsill at an open window. So, she could play the tunes inside the bar and have a "fly smoke" outside just by moving her head in either direction.

I don’t think the window opens now since it’s been painted. :-)

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Can ye no play…….? Must be loads of such requests, whether instrument-related or not. One we had at Pathhead, S of Edinburgh, was for "Local Hero" (theme from the film of same name), shouted repeatedly by a drunk in the other bar. More like "bet you can’t play Local Hero", but I did it. Not sure if yer man was happy or annoyed that I’d called his bluff! He was a bit quieter thereafter.

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Not at a session, but 20 years ago, my band was playing at a club, when in walked a 300 pound sow (the pig kind, not the human kind). No one seemed much surprised. It stayed on the dance floor for a couple of tunes, then somebody led it back outside. She and another were still outside the door when we were loading out. When we came back the next month, there was a sign above the bar, "The Lane Tavern, where the animals come to party".

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I was having a house-warming party and session years ago for our new house. There were about 60 people there, and maybe 20 were players, so there was a session going on in the living room. I was off giving a tour of the house to some other friends, when one of the guests came downstairs and said "uhhh, Pete… There’s a police officer at the front door". We had just moved into the neighborhood, and I was worried that a neighbor had called the police for a noise complaint or maybe someone was blocking their driveway with a car, or whatever…

So I went upstairs to see what was going on. The session was still going, but they had gotten mighty quiet, as everyone had their eye on the police officer. As I went to the front door, the session got quite a bit more energetic when everyone saw me hug the officer! Turns out it was my old college roommate, who was a sergeant with the local police department. He was just dropping by to say congratulations on the new house, and that he was sorry that he couldn’t attend the party because he was on duty.

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This is a brilliant story. I love it.

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Really enjoying your anecdotes. Thank you! :)

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About 22 years ago we were traveling around Ireland. I can’t remember the town, or the pub, but I joined a nice session at about 8pm (except for the smoking, which made the air opaque and painful to breathe). The session went on until about 11:30pm, when one of the lads asked if I wanted to go to another event that he was playing at. I said yes (as my wife and daughter went back to the campground) and climbed into a scrappy old truck. Off we went over the midnight moors for about 40 minutes to the basement of a church in who-knows-where where I plugged in my mandolin and played covers with a rock and roll/blues band to about 50 kids, many of then teenagers, aslosh (literally) with beer. One girl crawled on hands and knees through the beery slushy floor and spit beer on my feet. I was told later that that was a particularly high honor to receive! I got back to camp at about 5am.

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Great column. Thanks to all for the stories.

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"What is that instrument you’re playing?
"It’s a hammer dulcimer - also known as my Mexican tomato slicer!"
(Since I’m Mexican, I can say that…)