Old friend of the Folk scene, and of CeltCast, Miles Batty went to Faeriecon East last weekend and wrote a great review, for us to share with you! Would you also like to be an occasional contributor? Write a concert, festival or album review and we might just publish it! 😀
– Tuesday the 11th of November 2014, Oregon.
Brief obligatory introduction:
I’m Miles, an occasional contributor to CeltCast – Community Radio, and I’d promised Alex, station co-founder, a review of FaerieCon and the concerts. So here you are!
In March of this year, 2014. I learned that Omnia was coming to FaerieCon East, a fantasy-themed convention on the east coast. I looked at our projected bank balance, then quickly ignored it. “It’s Omnia,” I told my girlfriend, “and Faun. And Woodland. And SJ Tucker. At the same event. We’re going!” And plans were made.
We arrived at the hotel at about noon on Friday, and I saw a few familiar faces, gave and received hugs, and checked into the room. Quick costume change, and off to join the burgeoning madness. I was carrying my red dragon arm puppet, who goes by the name of “N’Aflawen Ddraig Goch ap Machynlleth.” (If you’ve been studying your Welsh, you’ll know that that translates to “The Fierce Red Dragon from Machynlleth” – a real town, where I spent my childhood years.)
The convention itself was remarkable. SO much talent! Costumes you’d only dream of, and spirits and enthusiasm and verve enough to make anyone believe in magic. Within an hour, I felt as if I was in a world of fantasy, and I was in love with every part of it. During the next three days, I took, or had taken, dozens of pictures. I must give credit to my friend Jeremy Durant, who took far better pictures of the concerts than I ever could. He’s the above fellow with the big horns, seemingly startled by a small dragon.
We wandered about the hotel, visited the merchant’s halls, met more people, and waited with delighted anticipation for the first of three concerts of the weekend, SJ Tucker, opening for Faun.
SJ Tucker, if you don’t know her, is an American musician with an *unbelievable* voice. SJ, also known as “Sooj”, is friendly, articulate, talented beyond human reckoning, and a delight to listen to. You can experience her for yourself by going to her website. To give you an idea of her musical skill, go to the albums page and click on the Sirens album, and play the song Carousel. She throws herself effortlessly off a musical precipice and never loses her way. That was recorded in 2006. She’s even better now.
Sooj, along with her cellist Betsy Tinney and percussionist Ken Crampton, entertained for the better part of an hour, taking her audience through a mystical wonderland of magic, delight, whimsy, thunderstorms and alligators.
Then after a brief intermission, FAUN took to the stage. Fog machines spilled clouds into the room and coloured lights and banners fluttered, turning the room into an enchanted landscape.
The crowd was very soon dancing to music that…. well, it’s Faun, you know their music. If you don’t, shame on you. Beautiful, ethereal, mystical, mediaeval, enchanting…. I joined in the dance, my feet often leaving the ground and my heartbeat at one with the captivating sound that carried us all away. Cello, lute, bhodran and hurdy gurdy and drums and voices and bells kept the magic alive for much of the evening.
I was not alone in noticing that the crowd of 1200 people dancing to their music was making the light rig shake overhead, and the floor was bouncing, literally, beneath our feet. At one point I spun around and lost my balance, and crashed into some fellow who was likewise enjoying the music. I glanced up and apologized to the fellow I’d almost knocked over… Steve, from Omnia. “S’alright, mate,” he said easily, “It’s Faun.” What a way to meet the man for the first time!
It was close to midnight when Faun completed their third encore, and finally departed the stage. I joined the crowd spilling out of the ballroom, still lost in the enchantment of their music and not yet willing to return to the real world. But of course it was FaerieCon, the ‘real’ world was very far away. N’Aflawen and I called it a night by one o’clock, and I found my way to a soft world of orphic chorus.
On Saturday morning I dressed in my satyr attire, with horns, ears, hooves and tail. I made my way to the merchants hall, where one table offered face painting. I became even more transformed into a satyr, and set about enjoying the day.
The doors to the Woodland and Omnia show were set to open at 8, and the line started forming at 6:30. By 7:45, the line snaked from the ballroom foyer, past the restaurant, through the lobby, and half a mile down the guest room hallways. So many people!! So many stunning costumes! More than once, as I walked the line meeting people, I heard voices musically lamenting their inability to speak human…
The doors opened at 8:15, and the crowd surged into the ballroom. Most of us, myself included, had never seen Woodland or Omnia perform live before, and we knew we were in for a very special evening. Sadly, we exceeded the room’s legal capacity, and the Fire Marshal order that nobody else be allowed in. So if you were one of the poor folk who left the ballroom to use the bathroom and found yourself unable to re-enter, that’s why.
Woodland took the stage at about 8:30, and gave the audience a wonderful taste of their talent and music. Primarily acoustic, with guitar, lute, cello, didgeridoo and drums, they wove a sonic veil of enchantment and mystery throughout the ballroom. Emilio and Kelly headline a wonderfully skilled, diverse musical band, well worth your time.
At 9:30, the lights dimmed again and the crowd became restless, knowing what was to follow. Omnia took to the stage soon after, and took the enthusiasm of the crowd to even higher levels. If you’ve heard that the band is ‘animated’, you’ve been misinformed. They are so much more than that. Steve and Jenny and Daphyd and new guitarist Satrya danced and cavorted and played and spun with such enthusiasm, I think poor Rob was the only one in the entire whole hotel still sitting down, and that only because he had to play his drums.
Daphyd’s sliding didgeridoo often extended eight-ish feet over the crowd, or else swung wildly over Steve’s head as they cavorted and capered back and forth upon the stage, his booming bass a counterpoint to Steve’s unstoppable pennywhistle. Jenny danced between harp and bodhran and keyboard, like a beautiful sprite in love with the whole world. The music flowed, Omnia and their fans danced and sang, the ballroom itself was alive with the music… there was not a soul unchanged. Omnia’s music does that to people. During the performance of “We don’t speak human”, hearing a thousand people shout at the evils of industry and greed, is a magic to behold.
Omnia played until nearly midnight, returning for three encores. During the final song, Morrigan, Daphyd split his lip on the didgeridoo but continued to play, his mouth bloodied but his spirit unfettered.
After the concert, still afloat on the wave of music, I chatted with friends awhile, then made my way to the bar to see if I could talk briefly with the band on behalf of CeltCast. I had my phone with me, of course, and tried to record a brief interview with Daphyd and Rob. (Daphyd’s lip was fine by then, and he was laughing about it.) Sadly the recording on my phone was a garbled mess of bar chatter, so no recorded interview. Sorry Alex!! For the record, Rob did say he thought the audience was dynamite, and that he really appreciates having all of the amenities of a hotel in one building. No hiking half a mile to pee. And Daphyd gave a very brief, humorous a capella soundbite for Celtcast, sadly lost in the garble.
I introduced myself to Steve as the man who crashed into him the previous night, and we took a quick selfie. After a day of cavorting and dancing, my facepaint was no longer as clear as it had been hours earlier… I told Steve our picture looked like “a terrorist and a convict”, and he enthusiastically agreed.
Micheál Ó Laoghaire from Ravengrove Radio recognized me from my days at Wyldwood. “Miles!” he called out. “Good to finally meet you!”
When the bar closed at 2 am, Steve and Jenny invited everyone back to their room to continue the party, myself included. As we made our way through the hotel, Jenny observed with amusement that only Americans call the ground floor of a hotel the ‘first floor’. “The first floor is above the ground floor, don’t they know that? It’s so silly.” Steve turned and spread his arms wide, a grin on his face. “You know who’s silly? Not only Americans. Everyone! All of us mutant monkeys. Humans, such a silly race.”
Up in the hotel room, I chatted with Micheal, Christen Marie and Steve, while Philip and Emilio, and Stephan and Oliver from Faun played an acoustic jam. (Personal note: I *really* like the hurdy gurdy sound. Oh yes.)
Steve commented as we were talking that he and Jenny had both been nursing a fever for a few days now, and he didn’t think the show was as high energy as it could have been. (Are you kidding?! If it was any higher energy they’d have had to replace the roof!)
By about 3 am I was struggling to maintain a vertical position, but the bands were still playing – Micheal says they played until 5 – but I bid farewell, blew Jenny a kiss, and stumbled back to my room.
On Sunday, Woodland played an afternoon acoustic set in the ballroom, again carrying their audience on wings of music and fantasy. I sadly stayed for only half the set, because I had a long drive ahead of me.
Final goodbyes, a host of hugs and farewells and teary eyes, and even more pictures, and we stepped out of the world of Fairie and back into a chilly November day.
What. A. Weekend.
The original post can be read at Miles’ blog: “The antlers made me do it”
Pictures courtesy of Jeremy Durant