On Tuesday night, Critter and I (along with his aunt and a couple of friends) made our way to the Triple Door in downtown Seattle to see Altan, one of Ireland’s most acclaimed traditional bands. (My online gallery has some great shots from the show.) They were one of the first bands I discovered when I began testing the waters of Celtic music to see what I liked — the first Altan song I ever heard (“Donal Agus Morag/The New-Rigged Ship”) had me entranced, and I’ve been a fan for over 10 years now. I saw them back in 2000 when they played here at the Century Ballroom, and I’ve been waiting for them to come back ever since! They are all amazingly talented and good-humored, joking about the often tragic-themed lyrics of traditional songs (“Now we’re going to play the happy one!”) and giving little tidbits about a song’s history or how someone in the band discovered it and began to play it.
Their music was fantastic as expected, with its fiery jigs and beautiful ballads (and a couple of breathtaking solos). Some folks even got up to dance and jump around, which is quite a feat considering it was a normally passive Seattle audience in a dinner-theatre setting. Most of the serving staff seemed to enjoy it too, smiling and making their way carefully through knots of jumping, clapping people. This is what Celtic music does: it motivates people to move, even if it’s just enthusiastic head-bobbing or clapping, and only the dullest, stiffest people just sit and remain still (some did). It was a great experience, and we’re already looking forward to their next visit.
(A bit of trivia: Dáithí Sproule, guitarist and singer for the band, is now part of the family after having married one of Critter’s relatives. Imagine my fanboy surprise when he showed up at their family reunion a couple of years ago and had an jammed with some other musicians in the hotel lobby. You can see a few pics starting here…it was fun to watch!)