I feel that I’ve been living in a bubble the last month, but work, deadlines, and work deadlines will do that to a person. Yesterday was an escape from that bubble — the fifth annual Annapolis Irish Festival was held at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds.

I first went in 2012, then again last year, and I had a good time both years. It’s part music festival, part Irish culture festival. I saw people of all ages, from infants in strollers to retirees. There were food vendors and kilt vendors, t-shirt vendors and flag vendors. There were been vendors and snowball vendors.

Mainly, I went for the music. Carbon Leaf was going to be there. So was Barleyjuice and the Kilmaine Saints. Albannach, too. There was a good line-up of artists that I enjoy, only I kept forgetting to buy my ticket until a coworker was talking about her weekend plans midweek and I realized that I really should buy the ticket.

I arrived about 11:30 with the intention of staying until the closing Carbon Leaf set (which would theoretically end somewhere in the vicinity of 10 o’clock). The drive down to Annapolis from York was lovely, save for the two accidents on 83. It was a pretty day, sunny and not too humid.

There really isn’t a lot to say about the Annapolis Irish Festival. I had a nice time. Spent more money than I’d planned, had Old Dominion Brewing Company’s Oak Barrel Stout (which, despite the name, is actually brewed in Delaware), heard a lot of music, and walked around a bit.

The only sets I caught in full were the two Carbon Leaf sets. I caught almost all of Aine O’Doherty’s set (all but the first song);,until yesterday I’d never heard of her, and I was quite captivated by what I heard. For everything else I saw, like Barleyjuice and the Kilmaine Saints, I stayed for a few songs and then moved on to see what else was happening. I didn’t manage to see any of Albannach; that just wasn’t in the cards.

Aine O’Doherty, I’ll start there. I’d settled in on the hillside to listen to The Rogues, and I thought I heard a song I knew coming from the pavillion behind me, a Cranberries song. I decided to investigate, and I ended up staying through the end of her set. From the DC area by way originally of County Donegal, she played a mix of covers (a few Cranberries songs, a U2 song), originals, and Irish fare (including a song in Irish Gaelic). I bought her EP after the set.

I caught parts of both Barleyjuice sets. Barleyjuice is a Philadelphia-based band, and I first saw them at Shamrock Fest in 2011. They are probably best known for the song “Weekend Irish,” which was used in an episode of NBC’s The Office. They also cover rock songs in a Celtic rock style; one of particular note is their cover of “London Calling.” The album I’d recommend for a first time listener is Bonnie Prince Barley.

Mainly I went for the two Carbon Leaf sets. For twenty dollars, I got to see Carbon Leaf twice. :)

The two sets were different, and that wasn’t simply a function of the time allotted to each set. (The first set ran an hour, the second an hour forty-five with the encore.) Both had a Celtic flavor, but the setlists were very different (the evening list drew more heavily from Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle than the earlier set) and they played songs that I don’t believe I’ve ever heard live before (“X-Ray” in the afternoon set, “Wandrin’ Around” in the evening set).

If I had a complaint, it was that in the second set I found myself standing in a hard-packed mud crater that wasn’t level. We’ve had torrential rains in the Chesapeake area the last few weeks, and the field where the main stage pavillion stood had clearly been a mud bog as recently as a few days ago. It wasn’t the most comfortable place to stand.

I think they drew well, but I couldn’t really tell. I know there were more people at both sets than some of the occasions I saw Carbon Leaf play at the University of Richmond fifteen years ago. (If twenty people turned up to some of their gigs at The Cellar, I’d be surprised.)

The evening ended with Carbon Leaf’s encore. Part of Scythian joined them on stage and, together, they performed “Let Your Troubles Roll By,” dominated by a lengthy instrumental jam, and it lasted a good ten minutes.

A good time was had. It was a great day for an outing. :)

The first Carbon Leaf set:

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Carbon Leaf, joined on-stage by the Culkin School of Irish Dance:

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Aine O’Doherty:

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Barleyjuice, from their second set:

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Carbon Leaf, from their second set:

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My souvenir haul — a Carbon Leaf t-shirt, a Carbon Leaf USB stick, Kilmaine Saints’ Untraditional album, and Aine O’Doherty’s EP:

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The Carbon Leaf t-shirt is the first CL t-shirt I’ve ever bought in all my years of following the band. (I do own two or three, thanks to their IndieGo campaigns.) It features the lyrics to “Indecision,” shaped in a map of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

For more pictures, see my Facebook photo album.

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