The Celtic Festival Missoula is an annual event celebrating the Celtic heritage through music, dance and culture. You can read the recap to day 1 here.
Day 2 of the Festival began at noon on Saturday with Fiddle Dundee, composed of Max Armstrong on fiddle and drum, Jurnee Armstrong on fiddle, Irish step dancing and vocals and Lily Wright on keyboard. This young band traveled from Bozeman to be part of the festivities and got the day off to a rousing start with their take on some Irish classic tunes.
They were followed to the stage by one of my favorite acts of the day, Spokane-based Broken Whistle, featuring Chris Reichert on lead vocals, guitar and mandolin, David McGuire on Celtic flute, penny whistle and DADGAD guitar, Kelcey Hanson on fiddle, Ella Wilkinson on fiddle and bass, and Justus Morgan on Bodhrán and vocals.
Broken Whistle breathed new life into many traditional Celtic songs, and truly set the tone for the remainder of the day. One of the highlights of their set was 15-year old Irish dancer Madison McGuire (sister of band member David McGuire), who provided such beauty and class as she danced to the music.
The Missoula Irish Dancers followed them to the stage, providing a myriad of Irish Dance for the Festival attendees. This group was founded in 2005 by students attending the University of Montana, and featured not only seasoned dancers, but their students as well.
At this point, I took a break from the festival to grab a bite to eat and get out of the sun, so I missed the performance of The ShamRockers and the encore performance of The Gothard Sisters.
We arrived back at the Festival in time for the evening's main stage performances. First up was Enter the Haggis, and these boys can rock! Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, band members Brian Buchanan (vocals, fiddle, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar), Craig Downie (vocals, Highland bagpipes, trumpet, harmonica, whistle, acoustic guitar and bells), Trevor Lewington (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, octave mandolin and keyboards) Mark Abraham (bass guitar and vocals) and Bruce McCarthy (drums and percussion) turned in a rowdy set that kept the crowd on their feet, dancing and moving to the sound. They were also joined on stage by The Gothard Sisters.
After their set, I got the chance to hang with them backstage and found out that Brian and I are distant relatives - my ancestors were from the same clan as Brian - the Buchanan clan. It was a fun time of chatting with Brian and the Gothard Sisters while we waited for the headliners to take the stage.
Last to take the stage were the Young Dubliners, a band I have loved since the first time I attended one of their shows in California when I was following local favorite The Fenians. I was informed that they have appeared at every Celtic Festival Missoula event since it was started, and their appearance at this year's event was amazing. One of the things that made the night special was the addition of special guest Eric Rigler, who added something special to the mix created by band members Keith Roberts, David Ingraham, Brendan Holmes, Bob Boulding and Chas Waltz.
The Young Dubs are one of the premier Celtic rock bands in the world, and their performance on this night was nothing short of spectacular. The crowd completely surrounded the stage and was packed all the way to the parking lot. In addition, countless people lined the Higgins Street Bridge and the stairs to watch and listen to them.
Despite obvious voice problems, Roberts turned in a hell of a performance, as the band performed original and traditional Celtic songs with a punk edge. One of the highlights for me was the song from the Saints and Sinners CD that was placed in one of my favorite shows, Sons of Anarchy. By the way, the Dubs have released nine albums to date, and their latest, 9, was released on March 4, 2014. Seven of those albums are available on iTunes, and I highly recommend you grab them.
Besides the music, the Festival also included a Kid Zone, where kids could compete in red hair and freckle competitions, learn Irish dance, hear Irish stories and meet Monte, the UM mascot, as well as shop various vendors and partake of Celtic dishes from local restaurants.
The Festival truly had something for everyone. Congratulations to Bob Lukes and his crew for an outstanding time. I can hardly wait until next year.