I'm still alive, more or less -- though the combination of my work schedule (which would be difficult for me if everything were perfect) and the fact that for the last couple of weeks I've developed new sleep difficulties (in addition to the normal not being able to get to sleep easily, I'm now unable to stay asleep or get back to sleep again when I wake up during the night) is making it a less clear call than it should be.
This past weekend was my annual trek to Milwaukee Irishfest. I really didn't want to take vacation for this weekend, so birder2 and I piled in my car and got on the road a little before 5 PM on Friday. The drive up to Milwaukee was uneventful, and we spent a couple of hours socializing with our Milwaukee host, Art WINOLJ. Saturday, we had lunch and headed over to the Henry W. Maier Festival Park on the lakefront, taking a slightly circuitous route to avoid major construction on the expressways in downtown Milwaukee. The lineup of artists this year seemed thin, which is to say that there weren't any times when there were two simultaneous acts that any of us really wanted to see, but we were listening to good music pretty much the whole day. The musical peak, for me, was the Irish Rovers. They're looking pretty long in the tooth on stage, but they're still playing and singing really well. Mostly they were doing old favorites, which was a slight disappointment; I'd rather hear some of their newer material. The high point of their career IMAO is their (pauses to go look up the date) 2000 album Down By the Lagan Side. But I loved the whole show, from their signature introduction "The Irish Rover" to the puzzling discovery that Art had never seen the canonical audience hand-gestures to accompany "The Unicorn". (We discussed adapting the hand gestures to "The Unified Field Theory", but decided that we weren't clever enough to come up with hand gestures for things like "quantum mechanics".)
Although we spent at least 20 minutes shopping for CDs at Rampant Lion, my preferred recorded music dealer at Irishfest, I only found one new album from anyone on the buy-everything-by-this-artist list: Ce, the latest from Lunasa. We listened to it on the way home, and it was pleasant, but didn't break any new ground. Mostly, I kept flipping through a lot of albums from a lot of artists that I look at and say "I'd kind of like to hear this but I'm not ready to buy it". I didn't end up buying anything else.
The theme of this year's Irishfest was Cape Breton artists, so they had a whole track of folks from Nova Scotia and a bunch of special booths and promotional stuff. (Lots of people walking around with these cool foam rubber lobsters on sticks.) I'm sure we could have spent the whole day in that tent and not felt too musically deprived.
A couple of minor negative points. One was that the group before the Rovers didn't get off the stage until the time the Rovers were supposed to start, and it took half an hour to get through the Rovers' sound check. The natives were getting pretty restless. Afterwards, Art expressed annoyance with the previous artists (a group I didn't know called Ragus), but I believe that the problem was the stage crew. I do understand that it takes some time to set up and sound check 7 people several of whom have more than one instrument -- but it certainly seemed, comparing how they did to what I'm used to seeing on those stages, that this crew was taking much longer than normal. I suspect that Ragus left the stage late because they got on late, having been set up by the same group. In any case, I argue that, while it was Ragus' professional obligation to get off the stage when the stage manager told them to (whether they'd had the full length of their set or not), it was up to the stage manager to tell them they had to get off. I could be wrong, but I don't think they were ignoring the stage manager's signals, and if they were, the stage manager controls the power to the PA. There was also a slightly tense moment on the way out of the grounds, as a couple of apparently over-served patrons were having a pretty serious fistfight right beside where we were walking. Fortunately other bystanders did manage to separate and subdue the combatants. I was close to feeling that it was my civic duty to try to break it up, which is not something I am at all well suited to doing, but at the time that I was standing there, I experienced a bit of how hard it can be to not get involved when two strangers decide to mess each other up in front of you.