Saturday’s misty weather — not the sun-drenched end-of-summer variety — provided the perfect backdrop for this year’s Long’s Peak Scottish-Irish Highlands Festival, held in Estes Park over the weekend. Now in its 33rd year, the party always attracts Scottish clans worldwide, and even more people who simply enjoy being in proximity to the Highlands atmosphere.
That atmosphere featured scads of pipes, drums and kilts, impossible curls on women and girls performing impossible footwork, “knights” jousting in and out of armor, and men throwing 16-foot-tall cabers (basically tree trunks) and 20-pound hammers. All of this was awash in the many flavors of whiskey, beer and traditional Highlands cuisine (including an interesting item called a “Haggis-Pup,” sort of a haggis-infused sausage. I have to admit, I didn’t have the courage to try it).
Weaving ubiquitously through all of it was the music. From so many pipers practicing simultaneously (a cacophony that everyone should experience), to the competing full bands on the field, to the large and small musician’s tents hosting performances with endless combinations of Celtic folk and rock, the music was as omnipresent as the cold gray that enveloped the entire festival. All of the tents seemed to breathe occupants, filling as the rains increased, and shrinking — albeit only lightly — whenever the sun attempted to break through.
A few Celtic rock groups stood out from their surroundings, Hadrian’s Wall, Angus Mohr and Brother, and all three gathered Saturday night for the “Celtic Rock Concert” in the Reusch Auditorium at the YMCA. While all three bands share strong Celtic roots, each has developed their own personality and added their own brand of rock to the mix.
Hadrian’s Wall, the most traditional of the three, mixed a strong blend of blues and pop-rock with Celtic folk, and gave their audiences reason to dance. This weekend the four-piece welcomed Neil Anderson, one of North America’s most creative pipers, to the group. The collaboration resulted in an edgy, stronger music than Hadrian’s Wall has produced on record.