“What I Did On My Trip To Elfia Arcen”
by Niilo Sirola / Greenrose Faire
It’s now one week until Elfia Haarzuilens and it’s time to start putting my gear together, figuring out what to fit in the restricted amount of baggage I can take on the plane, let alone what clothing to pack. Instead, I find myself browsing the photos from Elfia Arcen last September and going through my notes and memories, as I seem to have promised to write a travel journal from the artist’s point of view for CeltCast. So what better way to prepare for what will surely be one more weekend to remember…
I’ll leave the description of the wonderful atmosphere, the sights, sounds and costumes to others, and instead try to give a glimpse into an ordinary – yet extraordinary – day in musician’s life.
It is now good seven hours since the sandwiches at breakfast, and there is a rumour about a VIP tent where there should be something to eat, so we set off looking for that. The food is not out yet, and will not be before we are due to be back on stage, but the nice people fetch some sandwich supplies from the back. Boterham as they call it. It is getting a bit chilly, and as I return to the backstage area I find the others huddled in our dressing room, door ajar only enough to let in the cord for the electric heater. I guess the Finnish take the sauna with them wherever they go.
Come the second gig and a mad dash to get our stuff on the stage roughly in the same set-up as before, and connect the three hundred or so cables all just right. The start of the gig is certainly smoother with the short intro tape. I notice there is now a different microphone on Pete’s harmonium, sort of flat one that just lies on top of it, and it is bouncing about a lot as the stage shakes from the drums and us jumping around. A belly dance group does their thing in front of the stage during some songs, and there is an Indian chief in the front row with a big grin on his face most of the show. This time I stop in the halfway of The Tavern‘s intro before remembering we just decided to play it all to avoid confusion. Oh well.
Our gigs for the day over, I go man our merchandise desk for the allotted hour after the show. There’s a fair amount of people stopping by to say how they liked us, and quite a many even get the CD’s. Harmony Glen (Facebook) are setting up and doing their sound check on the stage and I pop out from the booth now and then to check out how they handle doing sound check in public as it were, with the audience already wondering about. It seems it’s a show of its own. Their gig proper starts and they rock out and all the time more and more people gather in front of the stage to dance.
In the evening there’s a dinner for the performers at the VIP tent. We’re a bit late it seems and have to wait for a bit for a table, but in the end they improvise an additional table for us. There’s some local organic beer available which is pretty good during the wait for the food.
After the dinner, it is already getting dark and Rapalje is about to start their set. The area before the main stage is really packed at this point, I guess all the other program on the grounds has ended and it’s too dark to walk around in the gardens too. I’m happy to finally see Rapalje live, because ever since I started playing Irish music I come across them again and again when looking for good versions of tunes and songs I’m learning by ear.
Some of us are heading back to the hotel ahead, and because it’s so dark and so crowded it’s hard to keep track of who’s where. Wouldn’t it be nice if the cell phones worked properly and we could use those? Eventually we find everyone and head back to the hotel, stopping for a quick pint in the halfway house on the way. They have these small maybe 2 dl pints which is agreed to be a pretty good idea in terms of synchronizing when everyone’s emptied their glass at the same time so we can move on.
Turns out there’s a jam session at the hotel where most of the musicians are staying. I’m right at home with the Irish repertoire, though I wish I had also my banjo with me. We are requested to do some of our own songs, and as far as I can remember we did at least Witchdance and My Home Is Where My Heart Is. And a Finnish traditional Kalliolla kukkulalla as a capella that for some reason we knew the different voices to (seems you have to go abroad to sing Finnish folk songs together with your band mates). At some point also Harmony Glen arrives and the session gets pretty intense, and so loud that I can’t even hear my own bouzouki. However, the wakeup being at leisurely 8 AM next morning, I call it a night so shortly after 3 AM.
…to be concluded tomorrow…