Saturday was not my first visit to Weston, MO and it was well over due. I had passed through 17 years ago on my way to Omaha in which I visited the McCormick Distillery and lunched at what is the Weston Brewing Company where I had walked through O’Malleys Pub and the cool underground holding cellar it is in. I always vowed to come back, but did not realize it would be so long and under so different circumstances.
This week I was given the opportunity to have the day to myself and not much longer after that I heard of the Weston Irish Festival – it seemed like kismet. Then I started looking the bands playing on Saturday – The Langers Ball, a band I know I wanted to see live, Flannigan’s Right Hook & the Mickey Finns – both of which I have heard great things and Eddie Delahunt – the Irish performer that got me hooked onto Irish music plus many other bands such as 3 Dollar Band, Jiggernaut (who the guys in Rusty Nail say are fantastic) Screaming Orphans, Barlyjuice and Tullamore with three stages (one outside and 2 inside) with the music scheduled from noon to midnight. For those of you not familiar with Missouri geography, Weston, MO is a bit north of Kansas City, on the other side of the state from me. For me to get there, it would require a 5 hour drive each way – most of that interstate driving at 70 miles per hour. Door to door it would be 271 miles each way. For me to do this, I figured if I can do 24 hours straight, it would be possible – I did 26 hours last year for Shamrock n Roll Fest with a couple of naps at rest areas and this would be more festival time and less driving.
Friday night, after coming home from my daughter’s High School football game I started getting things ready to wake up at 4:30 am and then hit the road early to allow myself plenty of time getting there. I had my cooler set aside, drinks within reach to pack and snacks for the road bagged up and the batter to my camera already charged. The day started good, actually woke up right before my alarm went off, got myself ready in no time flat and was out the door at 4:45 am, 15 minutes ahead of schedule! The drive itself was nondescript – dark and the only colors for me enjoy on this fall day was the white stripes of the road, the red taillights ahead of me and the orange glow from my dashboard. About half way through the drive, I started to hit some light rain – d’oh! I forgot to check the weather forecast! Nothing for it now, just keep pushing along till I can actually do something about it. About the same time, I realized I left packed snacks for the road at home as well. So a good start dropped down to an ok start. Took care of those needs including a quick run over to Leavenworth, KS for rain gear.
At last! I am at festival, still have time as The Langers Ball is setting up on stage, the sun is breaking through the clouds, so it looks like the day is looking up! The day starts to soar as The Langers Ball roll into their rocking tunes, many off their new album (if you have not bought it yet, what are you waiting for? Sure to be on the 10 top lists later this year!) Awesome, another long drive festival where the first act alone made the drive well worth it!
After The Langers Ball was done playing, I had to start to making choices as the times for the stages were staggered. Something I learned for the next time I attend – if you want to watch from inside stages – go in a group, pick the stage you want to be at and hold your table all day long – perhaps it was the rain, but watching the inside stages were difficult as a stage hopper. I did check out Tullamore – a trad oriented trio, 3 Dollar Band – another trio that more country than rock. When 3 o’clock rolled around, I was eagerly awaiting Flannigan’s Right Hook. While they were setting up, an Irish dance school was demonstrating their skills and for a grand finale did a number called “The Calm Before the Storm” – boy were they right about that! As they finished up, a new batch of rain started to fall, time to head to cover and be glad I brought my telephoto lens with me for some long shots. From the gate, Flannigan’s Right Hook did not disappoint, even the rain cooperated to let me get some close shots of them but not for long – more rain, then heavier rain, and then lightening! Stage show interrupted! OK, no biggie, I will see what is going on inside I thought, problem is that is what everyone else was thinking – shuffling through the crowds with my camera backpack was no fun but everyone was polite! After finding no place to really get a good spot to settle, I shuffled back out to the rain and wait it out where the air was fresh under the covered seating. What fortunate timing! About 5 minutes later, the guys from Flannigan’s Right Hook come up asking for some seats and setting up an intimate impromptu set with guitar, fiddle, upright bass and the guitar case acting as percussion once the drummer was able to make it up. This unplanned event really made the day for me – it was great seeing these skilled performers not only up close but to see the joy in their eyes and hearts as they performed for their fans. They played through up till the rain cleared (I don’t think anyone even noticed till the bagpipers started playing while The Mickey Finns were setting up.)
Now here was the decision I was dreading all day – The Mickey Finns or Eddie Delahunt – there was very little time in which neither was playing – I decided to do a split – the first half hour of The Mickey Finns set then run down to Eddie Delahunt play a few songs and some quick pictures. After squeezing into the Pub Stage area, listened to a few songs, as good as I remember! Then back upstairs to The Mickey Finns. The weather highlighted my decision – while under cover I did some long shots and when I came back up the rain had slackened so I was able to get some close shots. The Mickey Finns put on an incredible show and my original plan had been to stick it out to their 10:30 show.
By this time, the early day and being on my feet I was starting to feel the effects with a prospect of a 5 hour drive ahead. While trying to make up my mind, I went inside, hoping to catch the Screaming Orphans, but it was near impossible to get near their stage area and the only other opportunity to see them would be at 9:30. OK, back upstairs then! By that time Jiggernaut had just got set up and started to play – I have heard some great stuff about them from the guys in Rusty Nail and was curious, but I had a nagging voice in my head called prudence. I reviewed the situation – I was feeling tired, my legs were stiff, dusk was approaching and looking at the radar, rain across the state and I had an excellent day already – the time and drive was already worth what I put in so the value of staying as late as I would need to so I can see other bands I wanted was not as high as the value of being safe and getting home to see my kids another day. So for the bands Screaming Orphans, Jiggernaut and Barleyjuice – I am sorry I did not get to see your shows but it just gives me something to look forward to the future.
All in all, I had a wonderful time at a wonderful venue. The prices appeared reasonable for drinks and food – no price gouging there! I cannot say enough about the graciousness and politeness of the people I encountered (and my backpack) made for a pleasant dead even if the weather did not always cooperate. I will definitely be keeping an eye on the event for next year and planning ahead accordingly so I don’t have to make the rough decisions I had to yesterday. Hopefully I will see you there!
You can my pictures on the Rocking The Craic Facebook Page here.