Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cool Stuff: How many tunes can you hear at once?

I'm a recent fan of Radiolab ( and one of their shorts caught my ear enough that I thought I'd share. It's about a pianist who is able to listen to four symphonies at once, in his head, complete with all the instruments. I'm not even sure I could hear one fully! It's pretty amazing, so have a listen to the podcast below:


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

O'Flaherty's Irish Music Retreat

I just got back from an incredible weekend at the O'Flaherty's Irish Music Retreat.  It's the biggest event in Texas for Irish traditional music.  If you don't know about it, you should check it out!  (On the web at  It's always on the last weekend in October in Midlothian Texas, although it's moving next year to Waxahachie.  O'Flaherty's is a long weekend of learning, playing tunes, going to sessions, hanging with friends, attending amazing instructor concerts, and just generally getting a huge dose of Irish music.  I took a fiddle class from Liz Carroll, who was called "the first lady of Irish music".   I always knew she was amazing but she really blew me away!  And she's funny as heck!  She had the whole class laughing all the time.  The class was mostly adults but there were a few teenagers in there who put most of the adults to shame.  Each night we were treated to performances by the instructors, and those concerts are worth the price of tuition by themselves.  Martin Hayes, Kevin Crawford, John Doyle, Liz Carroll, Randal Bays, Rose Flanagan, and a ton of others.  I'm still reeling from Martin Hayes and John Doyle pretty much lighting the stage on fire!  It was possibly the most intense live performance of Irish music I have ever seen and it ended with the whole crowd literally leaping to their feet in a spontaneous standing ovation!  Whew! Yeah!

There were instructors for fiddle, uillean pipes, harp, whistle, flute, banjo, mandolin, singing, accordion, and guitar.  The main instructors also give "enrichment classes" which are really just lectures, to provide an historical and cultural background to the music.  It reinforces the fact that this music is not just a bunch of twiddly fiddle tunes but it's part of the Irish culture and there is so much that goes on "behind the tunes".  I love hearing about all the old players and the connections between them.

O'Flaherty's draws from all over Texas and there were some from Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and even out of state.  The retreat feels like, as Louvain, one of the organizers said, "a family reunion without all the trouble".  I've been going for four years now and I've gotten to know a lot of faces that make the retreat feel familiar and relaxed.

I'm really not trying to make this sound like an ad for O'Flaherty's.  I just love what Ken Fleming and his crew have done and I hope they keep doing it, and I do want to spread the word to as many people as possible.  I guess for now I'll just have to keep practicing my tunes while I wait for next year and do it all again!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Blue Grass Boys Reunion!

As always, our shows start at 8pm, doors open at 7:30pm. Tickets are $20 at the door, cash only. Parking is available in front of and behind the shop, over flow parking available at Things Celtic across the street. We don't have snacks or drinks (other than water) but your welcome to bring your own! We'll see you there!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration

Come out for a day long celebration of Bill Monroe's 100th birthday! There will be music all day, with the Bluegrass Boys headlining, and informal jamming in the shade. There will even be a raffle for a Gold Tone banjo, a Martin Guitar (donated by us!) , tickets to Old Settler's Music Festival and Marty Stuart Tickets at One World Theatre in November. There's plenty of free parking for the event: The lot in front of Central Market is available, there are a number of spots in the lot at 39th and Guadalupe (accessible from Guadalupe) and the third level and above of the Heart Hospital's parking garage is free on the weekends.
So come out for a great party and help celebrate the legacy of Bluegrass's legendary founder!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Pickin' in the Park" is THIS SUNDAY!

Every year we do the Pickin' in the Park, which has turned out to be incredibly fun and the high point of the year for our musical events.  It's a blast!  We serve hot dogs and tons of people come out and gather in clusters with their instruments under the trees in Zilker Park and have a great ol'time!  It started out as kind of a customer appreciation party but it turned into much more than that.  It's one of the few times during the year that bluegrass, old time, Irish, cajun, folk, etc, can get together in one place and "cross polinate".  There's even an accordion group that films a webcast!  We at the shop love doing it and we hope lots of people come out for it. It's in the Rock Garden picnic table area in Zilker Park, just up the hill from the Zilker Hillside theater.  Enter the parking area off Barton Springs road like you're going to Barton Springs but take a right instead of going down towards Barton Springs.  Look for the Fiddler's Green banner!
BY THE WAY, the shop will be closed on Sunday!