Last night T and I went to Oakland for the Bay Celtic Festival . Bay Celtic Festival is a sort of mini-celtic festival with various Bay Area bands playing, as well as different types of Celtic dance. It was a one-day affair and was held at the Veteran's Hall, which is right across from Lake Merritt. Tempest and Molly's Revenge were playing, so it sounded like it would be a fun night, but I had no idea what was in store for us.
We had dinner at a Thai restaurant and then walked over to the Veteran's Hall. It was a nice night - a storm was brewing so the air was windy but balmy, and it hadn't started raining yet. When we got there, I realized that the Veteran's Hall is also the Oakland Senior Center. I told T that I was taking him to the senior center for a wild Saturday night. Little did I know that would actually be the case.
The Irish dance classes had finished by the time we got there. Molly's Revenge was just doing their sound check when we arrived. We sat down and the concert began. At first there were just a few people dancing in the back, and up front by the stage an older man was doing an interpretive dance similar to what one might see at a Grateful Dead concert. We were, after all, very close to Berkeley. Then the Borat lookalike showed up and proceeded to strip down to running shorts and a T-shirt and dance a jig. I've seen him at a concert once before. That time, it was a few days after the Borat movie came out and I though he was some weirdo out to get attention. But now that I've seen him more than once, I realized that this is just what he does. Compared to the interpretive dance dude, he had better rhythm and seemed pretty normal.
The band invited the dancers to move to the front. It was mostly younger people from a local Irish dance club. Some of them were extremely good. Some weren't. In any case it was entertaining to watch them. After Molly's Revenge finished, Tempest took the stage. Tempest always puts on a good, high-energy show. I especially enjoy watching their fiddle player, since he's extremely hyper. He also wears a kilt. Between my fixation with kilts, fiddlers, and men with shaved heads and goatees, I REALLY enjoy watching him, if you catch my drift. I admit, I do try to look up his kilt. (Last night's kilt upskirting report: black boxer briefs) T told me I should go stand in front of the stage for a better view, but unfortunately interpretive dance man had taken my prime viewing spot.
At this point, more people started dancing. It was mainly Tempest fans and the Irish dancers, plus interpretive dance man and the Borat lookalike. Some of them were doing an Irish style waltz, which is pretty speedy and athletic. They were circling the perimeter of the room. It was pretty entertaining to watch them dodge each other. Due to the acoustics and the fact that there was more dancing than at a normal concert, both bands played more instrumentals than usual.
After Tempest finished playing, a guy came out and got people to move about half of the chairs to the edge the room so that the front half was clear. The website had said something about waltzes and polkas during the last concert, but I just assumed that it would be similar to the previous two hours.
I had never heard of the last band, Culann's Hounds . They're sort of Irish punk-traditional, like if the Pogues or Flogging Molly covered a bunch of songs by the Chieftains. Their squeezebox player, Renee de la Prade, had hot pink hair, nerd-girl glasses, and wore a most awesome outfit consisting of black thigh high stockings, cowboy boots, a shortie-short black leather skirt and bustier, and somehow managed to make it look kick-ass rather than revealing. She swigged beer between songs, danced, sang songs in French and English, and almost stole the show. If I had an ass-kicking alter-ego twin, she would look a lot like that. The rest of the band was really good too. It didn't hurt that they were all extremely well-built, good looking guys. They were rocking out and playing a mix of spastic polkas and waltzes and drinking songs.
It was the dancers, however, that really stole the show. I didn't realize it at the time, but there is a social dance group that does a lot of dance lessons, waltzes, etc at the Veteran's Hall, so a lot of people showed up for the last concert/dance. There were old people, young people, people in formal attire, people in Renaissance Faire attire, goth attire, Berkeley attire, etc. They took over the dance floor and went crazy doing all variations of waltzes at all different speeds. They had to dodge around people who were doing step dancing or a type of Irish dancing that is similar to square dancing. Those of us who were still sitting had to keep scooting back our chairs to make more room. Thanks to my old biddy knee, I was unable to dance, unfortunately. Many people would change partners frequently, so it wasn't unusual to see someone in a T-shirt and shorts dancing with someone in full formal waltz attire, and then with someone in gothic attire, and then with someone in formal attire. It was also entertaining to see the older people dancing to the punk waltzes and polkas. I want to do that when I'm their age (note to self - get knee repaired and learned how to dance).
It was at once incongruous and magical to see such a random and diverse group of people having such a good time. Even though I didn't dance, I had a great time enjoying the music and people watching. It was as if there was a great energy that sprang from the music and from everyone in the room, in the warm dance hall on the windy night with the smell of impending rain in the air.
Next year I'm gong to get there early and learn all the dances, and I'm going to bring my camera and take lots of pictures!