Once or twice per year, I get to go see this band.
Once upon a time in 2006, I flew to Inverness, Scotland to visit my dear friend (and bridesman in my wedding last fall) Jordan. Jordan and I first met in 2004 when I relocated to Scotland for the summer, and he quickly became one of my best friends. One thing you ought to know about Jordan is that he slays in the kitchen. Man can cook. So it came as no surprise when I visited for Christmas of 2006 that Jordan would be hatching a plot for the feast of a lifetime.
We made meat pies. (I did the artwork.)
We made HEAPS of biscuits.
We made bread pudding.
We made the schmanciest deviled eggs I’ve ever seen.
There was even roast beast with a delicious lattice of BACON.
Ha, and that’s not even counting the dessert.
Anyway. Wasn’t I talking about a band?
Right. The band.
Somewhere in all of this Christmas gluttony, I was sitting in the kitchen, probably nursing my numb right arm and cursing a whisk. And one of the New Zealanders who was staying in the hostel flicked on a CD.
Now. I ought to preface this with the fact that I had previously spent hours on iTunes hoping in vain to find a Scottish tribal drumming band. Not the rat-a-tat-tat tattoo sorts of bands whose pipes can send you flying backward into a wall with the sheer force of wind pushed through the chanter — I wanted something visceral. Guttural. Alive.
And until that Kiwi hit the button, I had resigned myself to the idea that it didn’t exist.
Then I heard this.
(Fun fact: I am IN this video, shot at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in 2009. I’m to the right of the girl with black and pink hair — my friend Hannah.)
Amidst the gaiety of one of the best Christmases of my entire life, I got one of the best gifts of my existence. An introduction to the band Albannach.
The energy at their shows is something vibrant and electric. Just watch the crowd in the video. See how they respond. People of all ages, creeds, states of fitness and health (and sobriety). Albannach are a band that reach down into your gut and take hold of something ancient and primal.
And not only that, but they are genuine, top rate humans. I’ve met them on several occasions — though I’m sure they don’t really remember me — and I can say with all honesty that speaking with them is much less awkward than meeting band members usually is.
Back in 2008 when I first got to see them perform, I was fortunate enough to meet their dear friend David Ross, an historian and storyteller who believed that nothing is more important in preserving culture than protecting the stories of a people. Since then, David passed away. I will remember him as a patriot and a good man.
I have a cache of raw, unfiltered memories tied to this band.
So what am I doing today, gentle viewers? I’m off to the Annapolis Irish Festival to spend the day with Albannach and make some more.
All I know is this: Albannach are the first band in my memory that I can pinpoint the exact moment I first heard them. I can smell the air in the kitchen, roasting lamb coupled with cinnamon and gingerbread and cut with the crisp cool breeze from the Moray Firth.
I hope you’ll check them out.
What music has had a drastic effect on your life? How have you been touched by your heritage?