October 30, 2008

Raleigh (being Raleigh) hosts Great Big Sea

A few quick notes about the Great Big Sea concert I just returned from:

  • Thanks to Lynda for selling me her ticket. The seat was incredible. Not that I was in it very much. As posh a setting as the Fletcher Opera Theater is, not a single person on the floor level sat for any length of time, and the balconies were frequently vertical as well.
  • This was a stronger performance than the one at Wolf Trap, minus a couple of lyrical lapses (more on that below). The musical arrangements were polished and the song selection fit the venue and audience very well. The performers seemed to be in good spirits as well. Relief may have been the key word; roughly 500 of the 600 seats were sold, which I believe outpaced any of their previous Raleigh gigs (at the smaller Lincoln Theatre) after a couple years' layoff.
  • "Second lead" singer Sean McCann met his Waterloo. The band members have been rotating solo songs during the current tour, with the stipulation that no song be repeated. McCann chose the Napoleon Bonaparte-themed shanty "Warlike Lads of Russia" (lyrics at the top of this page, which he played unmiked on the stage apron. After explaining he had only learned the song that day, he started strongly then forgot his lyrics with authority, improvising on the fly, then finished strong. It truly could be considered an "epic" fail, as the kids say, but he never gave up and the audience was entertained. Frontman Alan Doyle was quite entertained, predictably, but karma returned when his own lyrical blunder made "Scolding Wife" skid off the road during the following set.
  • Back to the venue: moving to Fletcher was a very good choice. Raleigh's GBS crowds tend to try to usurp the performance, and easy access to the Lincoln's bar makes it worse. Especially during the first set, the classier and more constrained setting (and Doyle's rapport with the audience) kept things enthusiastic but under control.
  • But this is a Raleigh GBS crowd, after all. The second set, after drinks had been refreshed, featured more shouted requests at inopportune times and it seemed to my (admittedly plugged) ears that while enthusiasm was maintained, attentiveness was faltering. And then a young lady (Lord, I feel so old invoking those words) who had climbed the Lincoln stage five years ago clambered onto the Fletcher stage tonight to relive the memory of professing her love to her now-husband and thanked Great Big Sea for "making it possible" from Doyle's mike. A ridiculous distraction. Here's a life suggestion: if you want to make your mark in the world, find your own stage. Don't take someone else's.

I'd be more articulate if I weren't so tired, and it's a work night, so I'll wrap this up. But despite those bewildering moments it was a good show, definitely their best of four in Raleigh, in a venue that fit the music and audience. That audience was multigenerational -- quite older than I was accustomed to seeing, but also some young kids -- but they all stayed on their feet. GBS needs to come back, and this is the place for it.

Set list after the cut.

Continue reading "Raleigh (being Raleigh) hosts Great Big Sea" »

August 22, 2008

Watching my son watch Great Big Sea at Wolf Trap

Sorry it's been so long -- if any of you are still out there, of course. My old friend TJ mentioned in comments that were devoured by my spam filter that he's running for the General Assembly. Consider it reposted. If you can vote for a Libertarian, I can vouch for his character as long as we're not talking about dorm room games of Earl Weaver Baseball.

...What? Oh, yeah, the subject! Great Big Sea! Wolf Trap!

I'm sitting in a Courtyard by Marriott. An exhausted, unconscious six-year-old in a hide-a-bed told me this morning that this is the most amazing place ever. He's worn out from a great deal of jumping up and down and socializing in rows C and D at the Filene Center, his closest vantage point ever for GBS. Watching him dance in place -- as I sometimes danced with him -- I felt inexpressable joy, such happiness generated from his own. Great Big Sea is not kids' music. Certain innuendo flies over his head (for now, thankfully), and I'm finding little ways to remind him that their drinking songs are not exactly role model moments. But the melodies and beat are so accessible, it's hard not to get swept away by them. The family of four behind me -- the elder son eagerly showing mine his parents' iPhone lightsaber -- seemed to have a similar experience.

All that is to explain that I spent most of the time watching Will watch the concert, and not focusing as much on the stage as I otherwise would have. That and my despised-but-necessary ear plugs probably reduced the impact of the show. That aside....

Much like their current album Fortune's Favour, the Wolf Trap gig presented a band in transition: uneven, but undeniably powerful. The between-song rambles revealed some fatigue, and that plus the gigantic album-cover backdrop made them seem oddly smaller on that Filene Center stage than I'd ever seen them before. Their mailing list just sent an e-mail breathlessly reporting that "The boys are performing in Vienna, VA right now and are making an important announcement to the audience.... Great Big Sea will be at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore, MD on October 25." Someone should have reminded "the boys" to announce it.

Their new music was potent and drew a positive response, however, particularly "Love Me Tonight," "England," "Here and Now," and "Walk on the Moon." The latter thrilled my son, who a few hours earlier stood in awe at Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's actual space suits at the Smithsonian. Several of the classics were represented as well. Typifying the night, Sean McCann began "General Taylor" strongly, then wandered the stage without an apparent plan, before reasserting himself, sitting on the edge and blowing the roof off.

It wasn't a perfect night. Then again, it didn't have to be. I was there with my son, wolfing down hummus, veggies and flatbread after having danced and sung with him. I'm better than content. I'm happy.

June 26, 2007

On Jonathan Coulton and Parenthood, Two Well-Worn Topics

So there's this guy you may have -- should have -- heard of. Jonathan Coulton. Musician. Sidekick. Troubadour. (No, really; he's the official troubadour for both I'm-a-PC-Areas-of-my-Expertise John Hodgman and Popular Science.) He made his claim to fame with songs like "Code Monkey" and his white-boy acoustic cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back." His complete catalog of music is here, while there's also a less intimidating page of listening suggestions.

Popular Science recently held a make-your-own-video contest for Coulton's song, "I Feel Fantastic," an ode to our over-medicated society -- embedded here for your entertainment (and to break up the page). I'll be back after the song to talk about one of his songs about parenthood (yes, parenthood again).

Very lovely, very lovely. Golf claps for Mr. Coulton and Ms. Crain all around.

I first encountered Coulton through his December 10 interview on Morning Edition with Andrea Seabrook. They played his biggest "hits," "Code Monkey" and "Re: Your Brains" (smug corporate zombies in cubicles for the win!), but the song that captured me was "You Ruined Everything." It's a love song to a child. Yes, I mean it:

I was fine
I pulled myself together
Just in time
To throw myself away
Once my perfect world was gone I knew
You ruined everything
In the nicest way

Coulton writes in the liner notes:

I was having a conversation with a friend who had recently become a parent, and she reminded me of something I had forgotten about since my daughter was born. She was describing this what-have-I-done feeling - I just got everything perfect in my life, and then I went and messed it all up by having a baby. I don’t feel that way anymore, but the thought certainly crossed my mind a few times at the beginning. Eventually you just fall in love and forget about everything else, but it’s not a very comfortable transition. I compare the process to becoming a vampire, your old self dies in a sad and painful way, but then you come out the other side with immortality, super strength and a taste for human blood. At least that’s how it was for me. At any rate, it’s complicated.

In the interview, Coulton and Seabrook talked about the way new parenthood strips you down -- you find yourself inhabiting clichés such as "it's all for you." Hearing their conversation brought it all back -- the panic I felt before his birth because I knew I was going to screw it all up, the claustrophobia I felt as our social world (necessarily) shrank due to our new responsibilities, the mutual aggravation when Shannon and I contend(ed) with a child who knew better but misbehaved anyway, dammit!, and the love and pride when he gets it right.

In this song, as well as his ode to the suburban nightmare "Shop-Vac," Coulton brings the candy-coated Harsh to his music -- but finishes with heart. He may please the geeks like me with songs like "Code Monkey," but songs like "You Ruined Everything" show that he's more than a gimmick songwriter. Much more.

August 17, 2006

PSA: New Carbon Leaf Album

What I've heard is really good...

April 3, 2006

Albannach: Clann an Drumma Offshoot Keeps Scottish Music Tribal

A little lunchblogging: Shannon and I had the pleasure of hearing Clann an Drumma a couple of years ago at the Blue Ridge Celtic Festival. One piper, one occasional vocalist, lots of drums -- it's not great background music for bar chatter, but a great soundtrack for a party. The band has since split in two, with at least three members having formed Albannach, which promises the same kind of tribal spirit to their music. Albannach performs Friday, April 21, at Raleigh's Tir na nOg Irish Pub; Saturday, April 22, at The Galway Hooker Pub near Charlotte; Monday, April 24, at Legends in Boone; and the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in July.

Shannon and I will be missing all the April dates due to our anniversary outing, which is a shame because these guys are a lot of fun to dance to. Check them out.

March 30, 2006

Greenwich Meantime: The Band, Not the Time Zone

Four former members of the Glengarry Bhoys have abandoned ship, starting a new "Modern Celtic" band called Greenwich Meantime. Their first album is out now, and the tracks I've heard so far are great. I've always appreciated piper James Libbey and fiddler Shelley Downing, and I'm glad that they're still going strong.

Greenwich Meantime is featured on the thirteenth Buffalo Live! Music Podcast, with an extended interview, live performances, and CD cuts. Check it out.

March 17, 2006

The War Was In Color

A while back I mentioned hearing Carbon Leaf perform a new song, "The War Was In Color," that deeply moved me. It's a World War II veteran's reminiscence with a twist. There's a fan-produced video (WIndows Media and Quicktime) out there which is very well done, and is the best way to hear the song right now. IF you have the time, the first time you play it, don't watch it -- just listen and focus on the lyrics.

This is a song with meaning, from a young band with depth and talent. And in a lot of ways, it's my grandfather's story.

October 11, 2005

Some More Music Notes

A quick bit of lunchblogging from Schlotzky's:

Great Big Sea has a new album coming out in a couple of weeks (in the States; Canada gets it today, I believe). The Hard and the Easy is exclusively Newfoundland trad, reinterpreted in their typically no-holds-barred pace. You can hear a snippet of their first single, "Captain Kidd," at their website if you're using Internet Explorer. I'm looking forward to this album, but at the same time wish that they'd been able to continue their trend of mixing original work with trad classics. Something Beautiful, the previous album, suffered a bit from having only a couple of trad tracks to ground the disc. A couple of the weaker pop songs like "Sally Ann" could have easily been replaced there. Now we could have the opposite problem, with a lack of creative songwriting. On the other hand, the tracks I've heard are good so far (especially "The River Driver," which I heard in full at Wolf Trap this summer). GBS will be in Charlotte this April, and I'm likely to be there.

Carbon Leaf continues to impress, especially with their willingness to avoid being pigeonholed. Shannon and I saw them at Cat's Cradle last month, and they turned in a thoughtful, mellow set that included a quiet, philosophical song called "Porpoises." The drunken fratboy behind me who screamed during that song gets to go to the "special Hell," but the band carried themselves well through that and the desperately-shouted requests -- during other songs! -- for a couple of cover songs that have just gotten too tired. Good for them for not buckling under -- they turned out a great show without pandering to the drunkest and loudest in the crowd.

Steven Kellogg and the Sixers opened for Carbon Leaf at that show, and they were an amiable, funny bunch -- professional musicians with a fratboy cover band facade. What was the most striking about their set, however, was the generational divide from their closing cover tune. Shannon and I were amused to see a bunch of college kids surrounding us completely confused by why the thirty-somethings were laughing with delight over "Footloose."

October 10, 2005

Seven Nations, Present

It's about time.

Thanks for Waiting is Seven Nations' eighth studio album (seventh if you consider The Pictou Sessions as an advanced release of the self-titled disc), and it's been long overdue. The previous album, and now it's come to this was released on the Razor and Tie label in 2002. The next couple of years saw the band scaling back their touring and working on side projects. Singer Kirk McLeod released a piano CD, piper Scott Long put together a nice compilation of his own (including an unreleased track with him and Ashley MacIsaac), and Dan Stacey's Crank It kicked Canadian fiddle butt. All we saw under the Seven Nations name was a couple of releases of a Christmas EP, and some noncommittal remarks that they were working on something.

That "something" is their best album yet. All of the music is new -- not a single track recycled from a previous album, which has been a minor complaint of mine. What's more, the music is a real creative stretch for the band. It sounds like they had fun with it, especially "Waltz for Crystele," a decidedly skewed look at a hellish ex-girlfriend. There are bluegrass hints sprinkled all over the album. "Tradition," "Ordinary," and "Sumthin Sumthin" come the closest to capturing 7N's older anthemic sound, and "It's Alright" is a terrific country-fried drinking song.

Thanks for Waiting was worth it.

Seven Nations, Past

I should have written this up months ago, when the news was current -- but I was in my writer's block wilderness. So I'll be brief.

Clan Na Gael: 10 Years On: Seven Nations is my favorite Celtic rock band, in all their incarnations. About a couple of years ago, I exchanged brief e-mails with their former piper Neil Anderson -- I think I was asking his permission to distribute flyers for an upcoming Seven Nations concert while his band was scheduled to play in Cary. (Sadly, he got rained out.) I asked because there had been rumors of animosity between the old band members, and of course the typical online sniping between fans of the old lineup and the new. Anderson's reply was gracious. He had no problem with me handing out some fliers at the show and -- if I recall correctly -- expressed that he was pretty tired of the fannish rivalry. He and the others bore no animosity.

Sure enough, this summer the four original band members, Anderson, Kirk McLeod, Struby and Nick Watson, got together again to release a best-of compilation under their original band name, Clan Na Gael. The result is two completely new songs, four new arrangements (includiing one of my favorite old songs, "No Reason") and eight remastered classics. The new arrangements are marked improvements on the originals: "Rain and Thunder" and "For James" have some real weight to them now. Anderson sings lead on the classic The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down, bringing a strong voice (with McLeod's excellent harmonies) to bring back some of the Southern culture that infused 7N's earlier work. It's a solid album, highly recommended.

The foursome will be playing a few gigs in Albany, Keswick PA, and the Newberry Opera House -- site of Seven Nations's onetime homecoming shows -- in October and November. Details are at 7N's website.

December 21, 2004

Lunchblogging: First Look at New Carbon Leaf Video

In glorious QuickTime, here's a clip from Carbon Leaf's upcoming video, Life Less Ordinary. Two snaps up, with a twist.

December 3, 2004

Things I'm Listening To These Days

A couple of music recommendations from the CD and MP3 players...

Continue reading "Things I'm Listening To These Days" »

August 29, 2004

His Early Influences

Shannon took Will to the Greensboro Children's Museum this afternoon. She called me an hour ago to tell me that Will was having a great time. One of the exhibits, the Construction Zone, allows children to play in a "half-built" house, complete with PVC pipes to practice their "plumbing" skills. Will assembled three or four lengths of pipe, then looked up at his Mommy and said, "I need drumsticks!"

Somebody's parents possibly let him watch their Blue Man Group DVD with them a few too many times...

December 14, 2003

Best Music DVD

Pick up Blue Man Group's new DVD of this summer's The Complex Rock Tour. I was afraid to get it, because I was sure it wouldn't measure up to the shows I attended in Raleigh and Charlotte. Well, no, it doesn't, but it was still damned good.

September 6, 2003

E. J. Jones, Brother in Asheville

These concerts I don't think Shannon and I will make, because there's only so much time in the month, and if we go to any more concerts before we know it we will have missed Will's adolescent years.

Anyway, E.J. Jones, bagpiper par excellence late of Clandestine, will be at Jack of the Wood in Asheville with his Willow Band on Saturday, September 20. God willing, his former bandmate and current Asheville resident, Jen Hamel, will stop in.

Then, if Pollstar can be believed (and it tends to jump the gun), Brother will be there on Friday, October 10. Brother is another band that, like Seven Nations, was a rock and roll band in infancy before finding its niche with Celtic rock on the festival circuit then feeling a little constrained by the genre. Dunno how the self-described "Australian Mongrel Rock" band's current experiment, the newly-released Urban Cave, will work out. On the one hand, self-descriptions such as "stepping out into the light with a middle digit to the idea of musical categorization" strike me as trying just a bit too hard.

On the other hand, River, a full track I found at their website, moves. Bagpipes in the background, didgeridoo in the foreground, with layers of drum loops and Edge-like guitar work -- this is tasty stuff. Hopefully I'll have the chance to sample Urban Cave soon.

August 27, 2003

Blue Man Group: The Complex Tour

Just came back from a very, very good show. There were few surprises: if you read the Blue Man Group website's notes about the making of the tour, then listen to the album, you can imagine pretty much the whole show. If you can call that a flaw, it was the biggest. But the previously-mentioned themes of overcoming alienation and self-mocking rock cliches were reinforced by an impressive wall of percussion, inspired audience interaction, and a comedic performance by the Blue Men that was half Harpo Marx, half Jack Benny, and half Steve Martin -- not the Wild and Crazy one, but the warm, droll, somewhat befuddled one from L.A. Story and Father of the Bride.

OK, so that's three halves. Your point?

One sour note for me was from a few audience members living up to the redneck stereotype, hooting and hollering toward the end of "Exhibit 13," a very somber and moving piece unlike any other song in the show. I knew something they probably didn't: Exhibit 13 is Blue Man Group's tribute to the victims of September 11, composed about a year ago. The slips of paper you see falling to earth in the Flash video at the website, also displayed during the concert, were recovered in the New York area.

The other sour note was that Shannon couldn't join me; her stomach started bothering her in the afternoon and she had to cancel the babysitting. Blue Man Group has just announced that they'll be in Charlotte on Friday, November 7. I'm sorely tempted to insist that Shannon take a Mother's Evening Out, go to Charlotte, and have a great time at that show.

August 26, 2003

Why the Music Industry's in the Crapper

Found on Slashdot, an automatic voice processor that can make anyone sing perfectly on key, even in concerts!

Yes, YOU can be a mechanically processed pop singer too! Before and after, listen to what this technology can do to your voice!

None of this natural voice stuff! Sound pitch-perfect, all the time! Now all you have to do to be a Pop Star is look pretty and have a solid marketing team!

Voice altering technology. Because the only place consumers want imperfect vocals is in their showers.

August 18, 2003

Too Much Music

In addition to all the other concerts listed below, I've just learned that Carbon Leaf will be in Carrboro for successive one-hour shows the last three Sundays of October and the first Sunday in November.

By the first week of November, I may have no hearing left. On the other hand, $800 worth of catalytic converter may put a bit of a crimp in my concert budget.

August 9, 2003

Put Another Nickel In

Music recommendations aplenty: Blue Man Group's The Complex is one of the best albums I've heard in a long time. It's accessible, but its sound is completely unique and the theme of alienation (and overcoming it) adds terrific texture to an album that, as the British say, "takes the piss" out of rock music cliches (while ultimately embracing them, of course).

Concertwise, Great Big Sea's in Raleigh on my birthday, September 24. They fill 20,000-seat arenas in Canada and are almost criminally anonymous in the Southeast. They sold out the Lincoln Theatre in March, here's hoping they do it again. The next week, Seven Nations and The Young Dubliners are hitting Cat's Cradle on October 2. 7N hasn't been here since February, and I suspect they and the Dubs will blow the roof off the place. Finally, October 11 brings the Tannahill Weavers to the Carrboro Artscenter -- best upbeat traditional Scottish music anywhere.

July 10, 2003

Humble Pie, Crow: Whatever it Is, I'm Eating It

Shannon and I spent the Independence Day weekend in Beaufort, NC, at my in-laws' house. While we were pretty much offline (for cable modem-spoiled folks like us, 56k is painful), I wrote the following blog entry, which is followed by an almost-complete retraction of everything I wrote. It's about a great band, obsessive fandom, and a little touch of hypocrisy (my own).

Continue reading "Humble Pie, Crow: Whatever it Is, I'm Eating It" »

May 26, 2003


In light of the previous entry, I must admit that I've had Chumbawamba's Tubthumping playing real loud in the car last week. And loving the heck out of it.

May 17, 2003

Department of Uncomfortable Hindsight

"Do the Bartman" is way up there on a list of Worst. Songs. Ever. But the line "Bart" sings, "You can do the Bartman just like Michael Jackson," takes on a remarkably bad connotation years later.

This horrid realization brought to you by an evening reorganizing my music files, and going through the "Le Bad Music" folder, wherein I'm archiving the Pepsi Blues of music.

Worst offender: Tom Jones and the Cardigans remaking Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House." Ay, caramba.

May 10, 2003

Artistic Travesty!

Eminem won't let Weird Al Yankovic do a video parody of one of his songs.

April 23, 2003


With few exceptions, a pop or rock song should not be ten minutes long. Just got through hearing the live version of Carbon Leaf's "Follow the Lady." It's over ten minutes long. The quite-good studio version, available at, is five and a half minutes long.

So what do you get in the expanded edition? A lot of mandolin noodling, including a remarkably out of place snippet of "Ode to Joy." It goes nowhere -- and then they suddenly remember that they need to finish the song.

The biggest difference between old Seven Nations and the modern version with Dan Stacey and Scott Long is that they're actually more interested in songs than jamming. Reminds me of Metallica's lead singer once saying that their album with "Enter Sandman" was written as a challenge -- can we make an album full of good songs rather than rely on jamming?

Pop songs should not have "director's cuts." They should be just as long as to make their artistic statement, and no longer. 7N's "Our Day Will Come" on Road Kill Volume One and "Scream/The Surprise Ceilidh Band Set" on The Pictou Sessions fit the bill. "Follow the Lady" live emphatically does not.

I really like Carbon Leaf. I'll like them even more when they get a little more disciplined and focused on stage.


Darn, darn, darn and double darn. (Hey, I'm a parent. I've got to work on my language.)

After a fantastic couple of weekends traveling, including last weekend's visit with my brother in Syracuse, I've got the travel bug. I want to see and do stuff! Alas, the discretionary income for such pursuits is exhausted; there are home improvement chores to do and savings accounts to bolster. So I've been spoiled, and now am paying the price.

So then I discover that three of my favorite bands -- Carbon Leaf, Slainte Mhath (pronounced SLAWN-cha-va) and the Afrocelts (formerly Afro Celt Sound System) -- will be at the Milwaukee Irish Fest in August. Along with other great bands in the genre, including Leahy, the Barra Macneils and Altan.

I could try donating plasma.

I could give up food.


April 4, 2003

Department of Badly Needed Escapes

Shannon and I are leaving Will with her parents this Saturday and taking an overnight trip to see Carbon Leaf, a band we discovered opening for Great Big Sea in Raleigh last month. Can't wait. They're a great band with a laid-back vibe, it's an overnight jaunt with my beloved, and it's a band for which I don't do "street team" volunteer work, meaning I can just relax and be entertained.

After this week, I need that!

February 16, 2003

GBS in North Carolina

The aforementioned folk-pop-Celtic band Great Big Sea has three dates coming up in North Carolina. These guys are arena-fillers in Canada and practically anonymous in the U.S., particularly in the South. I know of at least a few folks north of the border who are road-tripping exclusively for a chance to see them in clubs or dives. Here's the N.C. itinerary:

March 2AshevilleGrey Eagle Tavern and Music Hall
March 4CharlotteNeighborhood Theatre
March 5RaleighLincoln Theatre

Out-of-state visitors to this site will want to check the full tour schedule at their website. Shannon and I are planning on going to the Raleigh gig. I can't recommend this band strongly enough -- well worth arranging a babysitter and risking bleary eyes at work the following day.

January 12, 2003

Oh Me, Oh My...

Well, this sucks. One of my two favorite bands, Newfoundlanders Great Big Sea, is losing their bassist, Darrell Power. He wasn't a frontman, but a true anchor with a powerful bass voice and he could blow the roof off a place with his acoustic bass guitar. At the end of their concerts, he'd usually wind up in the spotlight singing his trademark traditional song from their first CD, "Excursion Around the Bay:"

Well it was on this monday morning
And the day be calm and fine
A harbour grace excursion
With the boys who had the time
And just before the sailor
Took the gangway from the pier
I saw some fellow haul me wife
Aboard as a volunteer

Oh me, oh my, I heard me old wife cry
Oh me, oh my, I think I'm gonna die!
Oh me, oh my, I heard me old wife say,
"I wish I'd never taken this excursion around the bay"

He'll be missed.

(In case you were wondering, the other favorite band is rock-and-roll-with-pipes-and-fiddle powerhouse Seven Nations, who will be in Greensboro on February 1 and at Cat's Cradle on February 6. Four stars. Joe Bob says check them out.)

October 18, 2002


No, not the latest Moby song. "TechnoPop" is an excellent series being run on NPR's Morning Edition Fridays that looks at the history of technology and popular music. It touches on the consumer experience and music-making in the studio, from the player piano to multi-track recording to (next week) the Internet Age and do-it-yourself recording.

It's a quite good series. Check out the archives. (You'll need the free RealOne Player to hear the stories.)

September 26, 2002

Rock and Reel

Two great bands are playing in the Triangle this weekend. Seven Nations is an alt-rock/pop band with bagpipe and fiddle that has a really energetic vibe. They're at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro ("West Chapel Hill") this Saturday night.

7N toured this summer with two other great Celtic-derived bands, Newfoundland's Great Big Sea and the Young Dubliners. As 7N is the 800-pound gorilla on the East Coast celtic rock circuit, so are the Dubs on the West Coast. They're playing at Jillian's in Raleigh Sunday night.

Both bands get a major thumbs-up from me.