Let's get the negatives out of the way first. Columbus, Ohio: the sun doesn't shine between November and April, we live on the line between real winter and fake winter that leaves us with unending days of sleet and freezing rain. And the primary passions of most people in central Ohio are lawncare and golf. And football; mustn't forget that. How 'bout dem Buckeyes? Stuck for a conversation opener? Go with the following: How 'bout dem Buckeyes? It's a sure winner.
Other than that, Columbus is a great place to live, and it keeps getting better and better. For starters, consider the Dublin Irish Festival, which concluded yesterday. For 362 days per year, Dublin, Ohio, a northwest suburb of Columbus, is about as Irish as Erin Brockovich. But then, for three days in August, the little municipal park is transformed into the Emerald Isle, (with a touch of Hibernia, because men in skirts start showing up as well), five stages are quickly constructed, and the best Celtic musicians in the world show up and play and play and play; this year some 50 bands on 5 stages. Twenty bucks gets you a pass for all three days; eight bucks gets you a pass for one day. But get there early, because 100,000 other people will have the same idea.
I didn't spend three days, but I could have, and I wanted to. But I did spend one day, Sunday, and it was glorious. We (Kate, Emily, and I) decamped in front of the Celtic rock stage shortly after church was over, and we didn't leave because we didn't want to lose our choice seats (or, in the case of Flogging Molly, our choice standing room in the center of the mosh pit). So we missed out on wandering the festival, and had to forego exciting events such as watching big men with bushy beards toss big boulders, and watching little kids get their faces painted blue. Freedom! Okay, that was a Scottish reference, but somebody forgot to tell the folks in Dublin, Ohio.
In any event, we heard some great music. Black 47, one of the greatest political bands in the world, played a rousing set full of revolutionary anthems. Midway through, I was ready to head out and murder Englishmen myself. Their songs are great, though. Not many bands write genuine protest music anymore. Black 47 does, and they play it with raw punk energy. It's the kind of material that probably plays best in some smoky pub, would-be revolutionaries sloshing their pints of Guinness around and getting all worked up. It's a testament to the power of the band that it played pretty well under a hot tent in Ohio, too. Great stuff.
Bad Haggis (is there any other kind?) played a tight set. I wasn't familiar with the band before yesterday, but I'd love to hear more. Musically they were fabulous, mixing Latin rhythms (two Brazilian percussionists), a guitarist who wanted to be Carlos Santana (and who at times sounded remarkably like him), and an Uillean/bagpipes player together in a world music mash that sounded much better than that dubious description sounds. Lyrically they weren't anything special, but most of the time they kept their mouths shut and played, and then they were very fine indeed.
Then, Flogging Molly. I like Flogging Molly. I really do. I'm a big fan of the Celtic/punk sound first perfected by The Pogues, and Flogging Molly does it better than anyone since The Pogues. But someone should have told me that Flogging Molly is a big name in High School entertainment. But since they didn't (although, to be honest, the "No Crowd Surfing" signs should have served as a warning), I was inadvertenly caught up in a raging adolescent maelstrom, pogoing for all I was worth basically in order to stay alive and not get crushed. It was fun for about two minutes, the old football memories flooding back, but at various points my feet were trod upon (I was wearing sandals), I was crushed to the point that I couldn't breathe, and then I wanted to start punching people out of sheer terror. It was time for the ol' warrior to leave, so Kate and I wrestled our way to the side of the crowd outside the tent, and were able to enjoy the rest of the concert in relative peace while Emily stayed in the pit and moshed with the best of them. The concert? Great, in a football hooligan kind of way. A lot of fist-pumping showmanship from lead singer/songwriter Dave King, which led to lots of fist pumping in the audience. And wonderfully rowdy, rousing tunes. He's no Shane MacGowan, but he's very good.
All in all, a great day. Kate still had on her dress she wore to church. The grey hair and the dress in the mosh pit will long be remembered, even by those who were not in the Whitman family. Several security guards were marveling. And I was marveling too, because it was a great day with a great family, spent at a wonderful festival. I can't wait 'til next year.