Forming a Band before you know the Music

Forming a Band before you know the Music

This is just really getting annoying and I’m wondering, is this happening in your hometown? I play Irish trad. in the America and I’m just getting tired of everyone forming a "Celtic" band before they can even play tunes on their instruments and then saying they play a blend of Irish and Scottish music. Are there even such "Celtic" bands in Ireland and the UK or is this just an American thing??

It’s like if you play a guitar, have a vocalist that can sing "pub songs", you know a classical violinist and you can all wear kilts— than voila! Instant Celtic band and it’s time to book yourself gigs and make a recording. Marketing first, music second.

IMHO good music is not an ‘instant’ process— it’s one that takes time and mindful practicing & listening. But why do that, when you can band three chords and print a t-shirt?! This whole thing just depresses me from time to time.

Thoughts?

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Whoop. Don’t get me started. But you’re trying to get me started, aren’t you? ;-)

It’s easy to become an instant expert in a society where there are plenty of folks who are just fine with ‘good enough.’ We sure do love that Seltic Music!

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"Rarin to Go" in Norn Ireland are like that.

By the way is that voila, or viola as in you know who. You better be careful.

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I feel your pain.

Yes indeed, I’ve noticed this propensity with beginners. And what’s more is that they can actually muster a following of clueless fans who have no idea what ITM is supposed to sound like. Then you’ll also have people who have honed their skills and concentrated on learning the ITM style for years who are ignored because they put learning the music before marketing it. And when they do perform in public I’ve seen cases where their music is compared to the hack-band’s music and determined to not be “real Irish music” by clueless hack-band fans. This is the sort of thing that can only happen in places far removed from Ireland.

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It’s "voila" and I don’t know who. I’m going look up this N.I. group; I’m just sick of being compare to these people and then having people think their music is the "real stuff". Which begs me to ask, "So when was your last trip to Ireland?" as I’ve never heard any groups such as the ones that I’m thinking of here.

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Jack— exactly right.

This has been nagging me for some time, but it’s really annoying now that I’m trying to start a beginner session and I’ve had some long emails telling me (in detail) how I should run the session and then to find out these people don’t even play tunes yet (obviously, they haven’t played a session yet) but they already have band. What the #$%&*@?!!

Okay, so I would never say that to someone and I don’t want to discourage them from coming; so, I sent back a very nice response. But they have a lot of audacity to say how traditional music *should* be run before they’ve even entered the conversation.

I think this topic probably makes me sound like a witch— but in most things, I’m very laid back. This really is my one itch.

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Isn’t it all a bit relative? I am guilty of having performed before I knew my instrument, or the music very well. One might still say that of me when compared to some fab musicians in Ireland. I know excellent musicians that have never come close to a recording studio, nor have they performed in front of large, attentive audience.

I would save my scorn for the audiences and potentially the publicans. If they are taking your gigs, well maybe that is annoying. If they are copping attitude, that’s bad too. But I would have a hard time telling people that they are not "good enough" to perform, unless perhaps they were my students.

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Well, to play the devil’s advocate here, I think folks just get carried away with this new neat thing they’ve discovered and want to share it with the world. Jack’s old discussion touches on this (or at least the parts I remembered). In most places out here in the hinterlands, crappy trad is just fine with the unwashed masses. They’ve never heard anything else.

But this also reminds me of past threads where people got hooked after seeing Titanic or watching Riverdance. So what? There will always be plenty of schlock in the world. It’s annoying, it’s aggravating. Some people will tap their feet and forget about it, some will become anoraks. (HAH-got that in!)

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Oh, I don’t know, Jode. I wouldn’t neccessarily heap scorn on the audience, unless they were behaving badly. The audience, for the most part, is just ignorant. We’ve all been there. I thumb through my CD collection and my flesh creeps at some of the stuff I picked up when I was just beginning to play.

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"I thumb through my CD collection and my flesh creeps at some of the stuff I picked up when I was just beginning to play." - Batlady

So I see you have one of our CDs then. ;-)

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If you think that doesnt happen in Ireland, you are very sorely mistaken. In fact the folk bands of the north here have alot to answer for.

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Yeah, Jack, I bought it because of the hot bearded guy in spandex on the cover!!

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"If you think that doesnt happen in Ireland, you are very sorely mistaken. In fact the folk bands of the north here have alot to answer for." - Rea

So I take it this is your confession then?

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:-D hahahahahaha

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You can see right through me jack.
Hehehehehe;-)

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What is it about starter bands that attracts a crowd?

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Sometimes it’s their energy, Jode. They may not be trad, but if they are good musicians, they can be great to listen to.

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but they’re rock bands not ITM bands and they’re not trying to be ITM bands. rock bands with what they perceive to have a celtic sound. this can be a starting point for these people to learn about ITM.

i play a bit of piano. i play one beat with what i feel has a celtic sound. but being familiar with ITM rhythms, i’ve never heard anything like it before in the ITM genre. i guess the beat swings a bit like a hornpipe. But the beat was completely made up before i knew anything about ITM. but people who are not into ITM (none of the people I grew up with are) instantly recognize it (or think they recognize it) as a celtic derivative. these people, non musician types, want rock or rap…definitely not a penny whistle. (in case you didn’t know…penny whistles aren’t the coolest instruments out there).

on the other hand…i’m not constantly being annoyed with rock bands in kilts.

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The energy, well it cant be talent.:-/

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I like batlady, she has sense.

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Oh, I don’t know , rea. I guess I’m thinking in particular of a band I heard a few months ago. On stage, they were not what I would call a trad band. But I played in a session with a few of them, and they were all excellent musicians. And yes, there were kilts involved. But the band’s musicality and drive was just great. The audience had a great time. I guess what I liked was that there was no pandering to the audience; no cheesiness. They played a mix of trad tunes and original material, and gave it all an interesting tweak.

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Heap Scorn…did somebody take that band name yet?

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Yeah! I did for my Irish Punk Ska Techno band. We’ll glare at the hapless audience and wear kilts. Black, with jaggeky holes and safety pins.

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But wait, I think you are describing something different from fiddle_around. She seems to describe people new to their instruments…the whole three chord business.

As we gain expertise in the music, doesn’t it have a tendency to get more complicated and nuanced?

And if your audience does not grow with you, would they become less interested in this nuance? Would they prefer raw, simple, spirited music instead?

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Um, Jaggedy, I mean.

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Jode, I find the eagerness to perform by some who are new to their instruments utterly baffling. You’re right, there’s a huge difference.

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I think I know what you`re saying about the standard of musician, but speaking as someone who came from a classical background as a musician [ bad, very bad, which is why I followed the rest of the clann into trad ] what I meant by lack of talent, is the ignorance of the playing techniques as opposed to their ability to play notes. How can anyone know if they have a great deal of talent for this or any other particular kind of music before they have fully understood the possibilities of the style. In other words, there are plenty of good classical musicians playing trad, but they may not have the same `talent` for the subtlties as some one who had put their heart and soul into it, and wasnt just playing the notes.

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Thanks for the link.

Jode, I’m not saying you shouldn’t form a band if you’re not the "best". I’m saying: You shouldn’t say on your website that you’re a "traditional Irish band" if you wear kilts and your only instruments include two guitars, a bass and a tamborine.

These groups play mostly pub gigs (which I prefer not to play) and they do "cop an attitude"; but what really frustrates me is when people compare me to them in respect to what is ITM.

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Somehow I don’t think you will find "Rarin’ To Go" on the net.

Someone else please explain.

Sorry, fiddle around.

Oh, I have a couple of trips a day in Ireland, because I live here.

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Why can’t you have nuance and spirited music? Good ITM seems to be the perfect combination of both IMHO.

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Well B.B. , I would have enjoyed a good look at these folks.

Hope your trips are legal. ;)

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Oh Bodran bliss— I was asking the folks that heckle me about ITM "when the last time they were in Ireland"; not you! :) Sorry about that.

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Try entering McGeown’s Glenavy on Google, go to the restaurant bit, when in the site try events, and there they are in all their glory.

I wasn’t talking about kilts, just not being able to play.

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I suppose that is annoying when they make a claim to play irish traditional music. But I go back to heaping more scorn on the audience, or the people that compare you with them. That part annoys me more, I think.

And on the other tact, I wasn’t saying that one cannot play with nuance and spirit. Poorly said on my part. I’ll have to think about that topic a bit.

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Bliss -
I visited that site… I really like the 4-leaf shamrocks! (tee hee)

"Plastic Paddy’s All-Original 4-Leaf Shamrocks"

Lovely.

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Yeah the whole "Celtic" band thing i find pretty disturbing but ive never heard of a band just startin up without knowin any tunes. I wouldnt think too highly of any musician who would i have t say! Although………….

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I think you will find that the 4 leafed things belong to the restaurant.

The box player is German, the low whistle player is a "famous" flute player, and the rest are British through and through and do not associate with Shamrocks.

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The same thing happens in virtually every style of music. Playing in a band and "playing the music" (you substitute the style) are two entirely different things. Bands are about marketing, stage presence, reaching to the audience, and making a little money. The style of music is only part of the attempt to be heard and if the audience likes it they continue to come.

Knowing and loving (or living) a tradition has nothing to do with being in a band although it does give you a base from which to be critical (in the analysis sense of the word) and may give you some reason to form a band. But then you have to add all the other factors if you want to be a sucess.

On the other hand, once you form the band there is a good chance you will learn to love and know the music since you have a set of reasons to continue on in the style, no matter what it is.

Mike Keyes
http://www.banjosessions.com/apr05/irishtenor.html

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Surely they would be Heap ‘O’ Scorn ?

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Don’t worry Fiddle-around, smart listeners will know the difference between that kind of crap and true good music.

At the end all those parasite bands will get bored of it, and go into the next thing in fashion. Poor sad b*st*rds.

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That’s a good posting McGregor. I think everone should lighten up about this. Anyone can form a band if they like. And anyone can decide they are crap.

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Being a teenager back during the great Folk Scare of the 60’s, I saw a lot of this phenomenon. Kids learning to strum through a few Peter, Paul & Mary songs and then playing gigs as a “folk group”. Silly stuff.

Oh, wait, that was me! But I turned out alright. Mostly. I guess I’m slightly embarrassed (okay, more than slightly) at some of the naïve episodes of my ignorant youth, but it was grist for the mill and part of my path to here.

When you’ve known the pure drop of any tradition, this kind of stuff will always be frustrating and annoying, but if the audience likes it and the band likes it, what can you say without sounding like a curmudgeonly old anorak? Curmudgorak?

I don’t know the answer. Grit your teeth and try to be gracious?

Fiddle_around, I see your band is playing in my little town this weekend. I have to be out of town, so please come back again.

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It’s about all been said on this topic, but I’ll weigh in and encourage tolerance of people who have an interest in the music and attempting to pursue it.

We have a couple of sessions that have started here amid the cornfields of Iowa, and they’ve spawned bands as people’s enthusiasm for the music grows. A band is a natural kind of development. People who like to play rock, or blues, or country, or jazz, gravitate to mechanisms that allow them to indulge in their passion. Like sessions. Like bands.

Do the local bands really understand the music? Some more than others, and a small minority of the players do, but mostly, no. And that includes me. I’ve played in a half-dozen working bar bands. When I became interested in Irish fiddling a few years ago, I ordered a copy of O’Neill’s from Amazon, learned 30 tunes and thought I was ready to go. Mea culpa.

At this point, I know my limitations. I’m taking lessons from a well-known fiddler in Chicago and am learning all the cuts, bowed triplets and rolls that aren’t written in notation. Maybe someday I’ll get where I want to be, but those not born to it don’t just wake up one day next to an empty pod and discover they’ve morphed into Tommy Peoples. Are the people at the local coffee house better off listening to somebody sing James Taylor songs than a guy playing “Up Sligo” even if he can’t play it anywhere near as well as Kevin Burke? How does not playing the music promote and preserve it?

(I’d agree with the take on three-chord bands in kilts playing drinking songs, but I’m trying to join the devil’s advocate party on the general question.)

I’m not taking issue with anything said above. Indeed, just the opposite. I want to be friends with anybody who wants to play or listen to this music. At any level.

Parting story: My good friend goes to Ireland a couple of times a year to visit the town where his ex-wife has absconded with the children. I asked him last time he came back if he heard much live music on his visits. All the time, he said. The neighborhood pub has a decent little acoustic band; they specialize in covering tunes by The Eagles.

PS: I like your session review blog, fiddle_around.

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"You can see right through me jack." - rea

Hold on a sec while I put on my x-ray sunglasses. 8-) oh my… wow!

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I get really annoyed with people who are in bands who obviously dont know what they are doing. I dont like it when people make me cringe with embarrassment and thats exactly how I feel when I see some cr*ppy plastic paddy band with token fiddle player who knows about 5 tunes. I think to myself ‘honestly, can they not hear themselves?’

Fiddle around - I agree with you 100% and *yes* I would rather hear someone cover James Taylor than do an appaling job of ‘up sligo’ - any - day - of -the - week.

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Ohh, bb, you…

Well, as someone who came from a background of forming an "irish" band well before having the slightest idea about the music, I don’t reckon it’s that bad.

Especially in parts of Oz where there aint that much sessioning going on, crappy bands can be a way to learn heaps about the tunes while inadvertently embarrasing yourself in front of complete strangers. not bad at all.

What annoys ME is bloody Oirish people coming out to Ozland and getting gigs just ‘coz their Oirish even though they cant play a bloody tune to save ‘mselves. but thats another story. for another time.

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I’m in a Band. We "play a blend of Irish and Scottish music". Maybe you don’t know how difficult is to find ITM musicians where I live. So I met a scotish music lover mandolin and we teach each other our music, then we found a decent guitar player and teach him the music but we three spend nearly a year playing in our little weekly home session before thinking in gigs. Now we are doing it. we call "los Pobres". Recently we play in a gig with other bands, one of them "medieval and celtic".The people tapped their feet with us, great. they danced like fools with the very simple music of the other band.. Conclussion: drum and bass.
PS.:
where can we buy kilts online?
should we pluck our legs?

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Well, I’m finally in the process of starting up a band, although I know perfectly well that I’m not really ready. Nonetheless, I must - there’s a big problem with sessions, none of them are near enough for me to be able to afford the travel costs. So I "make" the session. I’m not particularly anxious to preform but I had a gig practically thrust on me, which I’m doing as a favour to a friend who is organising an Irish culture evening at a local club. It’ll be alright. At least all the members are professional enough to appreciate their own want of skill. Melody players at least. The backer is awesome and I’m counting on him to save us :)
Anyway, we’ll manage to pull off the two ballads, rebel song, air and dance set we’re planning. Although you can (justly enough) lump us together with the kilt-wearing Seltic Music bands, I sincerely hope you’d understand. And appreciate. I notice that some people above have had a similiar story to tell.

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>I would rather hear someone cover James Taylor than do an >appaling job of ‘up sligo’ - any - day - of -the - week.

I didn’t say "appaling." I said not as well as Kevin Burke.

Curious how pervasive the spirit of elitism is in the human race. It’s no longer acceptable to look down on people because their skin is black or because they’re Irish, but thank heaven we can still find other ways to exercise our sense of supriority.

Doing it right — Tradition — is important. Ultimately, it’s what matters most. But doing it is important, too.

Me, I’d rather hear a nervous 14-year-old girl trying to play "Silver Spear" for the first time in public than a guy doing James Taylor covers.

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Me too, Romkey. I guess what it comes down to is whether it comes from the heart or from the wallet. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. That doesn’t mean I will sit through a particulary abusive performance of anything; one can usually stagger to the exit for a breath of fresh air. I know that quite a few people have sat through my ‘musical stylings’ (bless their hearts) without behaving badly. I can do the same.

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Well my original message was just something that I find irritating, not something I "look down on" people for. I teach Irish music to anyone that’s willing to learn. I don’t mind a wobby sound, wrong notes, etc. when someone’s playing with sincerity; that said, they have no business starting a band. They should be home practicing so in a couple years the *can* start a band.

I just more people were willing to take the time to practice their art and truly dedicate themselves to the music before they put themselves on stage. Hard work—then reward.

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There has just been a major brouhaha over what comes down to the same topic on another forum. It was basically about unskilled clueless players taking gigs and presenting themselves to the public as experts when they could barely keep their instrument going and obviously had no skill or talent. It ended up with the players with years of hard work and accrued skill, not to mention scads of talent, got thrown out and the ‘pretenders’ are running the show now.

This kind of thing is a big problem in the pipeing world. Anybody that can throw on a kilt and keep a stand of pipes blown up, regardless of what sounds come out of it, thinks they can demand $200.00 for a couple of times through Amazing Grace. Because these people spend the time they should be practicing marketing themselves instead, they get very public gigs and embarrass the rest of the pipeing community on national TV and other places. A piper who has been run out of every band in the area is resident piper at the local Ren. Fest. An embarrassment to all pipers everywhere.

Whisky Irish bands have their place among the different styles of Irish music, and this distinction was made until recently by one of the local venues, Whisky in the front bar, Pure Drop in the back dining room, but it’s when pretenders misinform the public about what is ‘real’ and what is not, then we start having a problem.

Phew! Another tirade under my belt. Time to put on my anorak and take the dog for a walk.

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I keep going off on my touchy-feely group hug, don’t I , fiddle??? ;-) Sorry. I really do understand what you’re getting at, and it irritates me to no end. I am a bit of a perfectionist, and can’t understand why someone would get up and ‘entertain’ us with their wheezings. I’ve been obsessing about this a lot lately, after being asked to play some gigs with no rehearsal, no real effort to polish the music and no idea of what the audience has to endure. But I really like the people I play with, and try not to let my inner b**ch rule the day. However….

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It all comes down to your respect for The Music. When we started out thirty years ago, all in our early twenties, you could have said that we had very little idea. But we were so enthusiastic we just had to play, and I think it was this dedication and enthusiasm that people liked. ITM was a new thing on the continent and it had a lot to do with our generation’s life-style. Our singer tried to sing exactly like Christy Moore, the recorder-player (!) did a quite a good job and we all learned new songs, tunes and instruments in a short time because we were so enthusiastic about it. We couldn’t do much damage as we had no PA, did no recording and never got more money than to cover fuel costs.
Starting up theses days you will soon have a web-site, CD, posters, merchandising, fan-club, the lot. Groups are modelled to function like rock bands - which we were not. No wonder the kids are led to think they’re great. In this country there is a lot of competition so you’d have to be really good to survive as a "Celtic-rock" band. You could do worse than choose this music - if you’ve got some respect for the original.

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Again, it is all relative, isn’t it? How long is enough time to practice your art before you are allowed to perform it?

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"How long is enough time to practice your art before you are allowed to perform it?" - Jode

That’s something we can only answer for ourselves. Just be careful how you answer it.

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I think it’s a question of misrepresentation. There is a tiny little girl that comes to our session with her wee little fiddle and can bang out a polka quite nicely. Now she can’t have been playing for more than a few months but I am willing to listen to her and enjoy what she does in context. And in the same community there is a fiddler that has been playing for at least a quarter of a century but can’t get through a tune on her own. She has been banned from many venues in the area because she misrepresents her abilities. She promotes the heck out of herself and her band so she gets many gigs and has a large fan base. Which is more deserving of my time? I go with the wee colleen.

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While I certainly would rather go to a Celtic FIddle Festival concert rather than DebWah’s Doodah Seltic Fiddle Festival, I’d rather pay a few coins to listen to music, enjoy the craic and give some encouragement to a group getting started. It’s not a religious experience for me, just a form of entertainment and relaxation.

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"DebWah’s Doodah Seltic Fiddle Festival " Hee!! :-D

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"Just be careful how you answer it." Hmm…very intriguing reply Mr. Gilder.

Baglady, I agree that as listeners that the decision lies within us as well.

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The doodah seltic fiddle festival includes the gold lame tutu and of course the go-go boots. The visual is to cover up the lousy playing!

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Deb, will there be…tassels?

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Of course, Zina. I assume you’re talking about the boots. Although Joe does have the tutu with the tassels. Or is that Dave?? Hmm.

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Er…didn’t Joe have it last?

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I think you’re right. I think Joe likes to keep us guessing.

Alright Quinn, fess up!

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Do these tyros go to sessions then form a scratch band, or do they form a scratch band and later go and annoy people at sessions at a later date?

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Romkey - I’m more than happy listening to a nervous 14 year olds first gig, you have taken what I said out of context. Basically - Bag Ladys post hits the nail on the head.
There is a band here that promotes themselves as a pure drop tradtional band and they get gigs *everywhere* I have never seen these people in a session, ever. They arent beginers by any stretch of the imagination -but they arent trad players either, classical background and classical style. That is the part that annoys me, as someone said its all about ‘respect’ for the music. Its not about "looking down" on anyone and its not about beining unsupportive to beginers.

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Old thread, but a new looker.

MHO:
If a band doesn’t CLAIM to be ITM, bless em for making cool music

You must hate the movie Braveheart…what with all that usage of YooEEINN pipes instead of GHB.


grrr