Best fest buddy Tom and I made our annual pilgrimage to the mecca of all Irish summertime gatherings on this continent, the Rose Bowl of American Hibernia, the Macy’s parade of stateside Paddies, the Milwaukee Irish Fest.
Or, as Shane Hayes of the County Clare trio Socks in the Frying Pan (www.socksinthefryingpan.com) called it, the Disneyland of Irish fests. I’m sure he heard that line before and borrowed it. That’s what trad bands do.
Plus, he plays accordion. So, his brother, bandmate, and fiddler, Fiachra, had the old jokes about that covered. Example (and feel free to substitute bagpipe for accordion):
What’s the difference between an onion and an accordion?
No one cries when you cut up an accordion.
The Hayes boys are joined by guitarist Aodan Coyne in Socks in the Frying Pan, of which Tom thinks they adapted the name he’s given my imaginary act, Underwear in the Refrigerator. It’s not true. I do not keep my shorts cold and refreshing that way for summer. Or to train for another crap winter.
Anyway, Socks in the Frying Pan is the buzz band of the fest, a jovial act with boy band looks – the scruffy kind. Actually, they’re more like Mumford and Sons than One Direction, and Shane Hayes looks a bit like actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
Fans lavished the Socks with teddy bears for Shane, funny hats for Aodan, and rubber chickens for Fiachra. The Socks threw socks into the crowd – and even covered “I Wanna Be Like You” from Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”
The grannies ate it up, including a jovial one sitting next to me, who grew up outside DeKalb, wound up at Marquette, then wound up marrying and staying in Milwaukee. She seemed like she would be nice to sit next to on an airplane, with lots of stories to steal for a novel.
Best of all, there was a young woman in a red dress who was dancing up a Gaelic storm to the Socks’ tunes.
As for how I heard about the Socks, Jack Baker of Rampant Lion Celtic Traders (www.rampantlion.com) told me about them. Jack selling his goods is my Huggy Bear at fests, giving me inside information – which makes Tom and I Stocky Starsky and Husky Hutch.
I bought the Socks’ CD from Jack, and some Doctor Who-themed Christmas ornaments for some nerd I know. From Earthen Craft Pottery (www.ecptile.com) set up next to Jack’s booth, I charged a couple of ceramic pint glasses made to look like they were filled with Guinness already. Pretty trippy – but the dude behind the register looked like a big wizard, or a gnome, or pretty much anybody at a comic book convention, so, go figure.
The glasses will be used during catching up on the blonde queen who is having a hard time taming her dragons on Game of Thrones.
Speaking of, Brack Tours (www.bracktours.com) will be offering a tour of the castles and haunts used as sets on HBO’s medieval sword and sorcerer soap opera.
And in other tourist news, in spring 2015, Northern Ireland is going to have a new tourist attraction when the long-closed Gobbins near Larne reopens with new bridges and tunnels, like a seaside Habitrail for humans – or an Irish version of the glass boxes on the Willis Tower or John Hancock Building skydecks but without the fast elevator rides.
Tom said they’re going to have to remove the moss from the side of the cliffs before the unveiling. You know how Americans are about mold.
Aer Lingus had some good specials back to Ireland, but the young woman working the airline’s booth turned down offers to marry me or Tom or the both of us, which could have meant sweet travel deals for life, if not bigamy.
At another stand, the Galway girl wouldn’t take a whirl, that day i-ay, i-ay, either.
To console ourselves we feasted on Reuben egg rolls, Scotch eggs, corned beef sandwiches, and Jameson and ginger ale, which prevents indigestion.
As for further shopping, I passed on a long t-shirt that read “Sexy Irish Lingerie.” I don’t know how to convert sizes, ever since the local Lane Bryant closed. A baby bib displayed with a life-sized photo of an infant’s head attached to it scared me.
But I couldn’t pass up the $22 ironed-on-on-the-spot tee, “I’m the Irishman Your Mother Warned You About.”
Speaking of dangling prepositions, I did wear my kilt. Tom, he was dressed in green shorts and a striped polo which made him look like a big pickle of some sort or a henchman for one of TV Batman’s villains.
Hey, it made us easy to spot – should anyone have wanted to spot us.
What wasn’t easy was figuring out our way back onto the highway system. Milwaukee construction rivals Chicago’s snarls, and even Siri was having a hard time navigating. Maybe I left my iPhone in the trunk by the flask too long.
Either way, I hope all those Socks in the Frying Pan seniors without GPS were able to get home okay, i-ay, i-ay, i-ay.