Yes, folks, I still am alive. And, yes, folks, I still blog here...but admittedly it's become a struggle time-wise as of late with extra struggles at work, some out-of-town social events, and a few other projects going on. I am trying, although it may look otherwise at the moment.
This weekend, in my desperate attempt to let off some steam and maybe even actually escape from work-related things seven days a week, it's a trifecta of entertainment. I need the escape, I need to spend time with good friends and share a few chuckles. And I desperately need a vacation, but the chances of that happening is very dim indeed. So, I'll take what I can get...and (to quote Meatloaf, which is a first even for me I think) 'two out of three ain't bad'.
Friday: Long-time blog favourites Hercules Mulligan will be playing at the Tir Na Nog in downtown Raleigh from 7-9 pm. The newly-improved lineup, which features long-time members Dave Cauthorn on guitar and Chris King on vocals, whistle and drum, have been recently joined by Julie Ross on fiddle and concertina and Mike Baranski on banjo. It's a slightly different sound than the 'original' group that I adored at first sight a couple of years ago now...but I like where this newer creation is now going, too. And as I have said many times to friends and complete strangers in public (and think I have here, too), Chris King is quite arguably one of the best vocalists in the area and he has an easy rapport with his audiences. It will be good to see the gang again tonight.
Saturday: This is a bad day for me, as once again, I am double-booked for two things I really love and, unless an "Star Trek"-like transporter suddenly becomes safe and available to me, I'm going to have to choose between the two. Over in Raleigh, again at the Tir Na Nog, Elroy, North Carolina's finest, My Three Kilts, takes the stage from 7-9pm. Like the Mulligans, they also do a Celtic-inspired set, but with a rowdier/rockier tone and approach (the one liners can come at you fast and furious, and their 'R' rated sets are not to be missed). The Kilts were the wonderful hosts of Oktoberfest, which a slideshow is available for viewing in a previous post.
Over in Carrboro at around the time MTK are finishing up, (you see where the transporter would be so great with this, don't you?), cult favourite and banana puddin' eatin' and chicken throwin' icons, Southern Culture on the Skids, will be taking to the stage at the Cat's Cradle. (If you are not familiar with their sound or with the heavy audience participation at their shows, check out their "TV Room" for full-song clips. That and the recipes...and the recipes are real, some are damn tasty even...are great little features from their site.) The SCOTS are always a blast no matter where they play, but especially so in and around town here as they truly are local people. (As our the great Squirrel Nut Zippers, who had a show/art exhibition at the ArtsCenter on December 3 that regrettably I was unable to make. Another (part-time) local resident, comedian Lewis Black, got my attention in Durham that night instead.)
(Inserting small plea here: I know I say this practically every time and, yes, I also acknowledge that the economy has a lot of us hurting right now (self included), but if, at all possible, please come out and support live music shows and your local musicians. Countless hours of rehearsals and travel for some of these folks make any 'pay' they do get from venues practically non-existent. Local bands play for the love of playing and the hope of connecting with an audience...and, in good times as well as bad, they need audiences to come out and support them. If they've got merchandise and you can skip a fast food meal in the week to come, make the sacrifice...those few bucks are someone's new guitar strings or gas to/from the shows. As much as you can, I urge everyone to take up the challenge and go see a live music show somewhere that's convenient.)
Sunday: the Wise Ricky and I make beer. Now that he's gotten the 'I want to make cider' stage out of his system (and apparently it needs a few tweaks), we're back to what we know how to do best: beer, glorious beer. Our best batches, still, have been the Australian-like blends, although I'm hankering to try up a replicated batch of the English-brewed Fuller's London Pride (which is, thankfully, still made the correct way and its great taste shows it). I have an English patient from work who I have to thank for this great recommendation, and now that I know I can somewhat readily get it through an importer here, I have developed a deeper (and new) appreciation for this exceedingly pleasant and mellow gem. I still prefer my Carlton Crown Lager from Oz, mind you, but hell it's been two years+ since I've been able to indulge in any of that as it's sadly not sold over here...and a girl has needs, ya know?
And finally on Sunday, we get to pop Ricky's cherry a bit movie-wise. After the next great batch of homebrew is done and happily in creation, we're whipping out the popcorn and other necessities for what I hope will become a monthly tradition: Movie Night. (Or maybe Movie Day, as Ricky needs and enjoys his sleep far more than I do.) We're starting with a couple of comedy classics that, inexplicably, Ricky has somehow avoided in his 40+ years so far in being the smartest man I've ever met: "This Is Spinal Tap", and "Best in Show" (the latter especially as Ricky's job and love for dogs is well-known). Dear Ricky is not the world's biggest movie fan by any means...and it is one of my deepest passions, so it's an area where little discussion between us takes place...but amazingly he has finally relented to this exercise. I'm just hoping he likes the "Stonehenge" and "Big Bottom" sequences from "Spinal Tap" as much as I, and many many others, always have. And the ventriloquist hunter from North Carolina, and Parker Posey really in need for some Prozac from "Best in Show"...
Smell the glove, indeed.