A Transatlantic Family: Kiana and Friends
Kiana Weber (Fiddler for Gaelic Storm/Solo Artist),
Artist Guest Blog, March 2017
Martin Howley and I met at Milwaukee Irish Fest and we had our first date at Colectivo Coffee in the Third Ward. We immediately fell madly and completely in love, canceled our flights home, and ran away to Chicago together for the week. Thus began a transatlantic romance. Many international flights and conflicting tour schedules later, Martin proposed and I moved to Ireland. It has for us been a whirlwind romance of epic proportions. I am telling you all of this, not because you need to know, but because this human element of our more public selves is often left out of what you see. Festival-goers and fans only see a certain side of us - the part that is on stage performing. But behind the scenes is a very real community full of dear friendship. I have found in my travels that this circuit of Celtic music is a small one full of amazing people. This community of musicians, organizers and volunteers is really like an extended family. They are people that you genuinely look forward to seeing each weekend at summer festivals and relationships built on a lot of mutual admiration.
Martin and my’s personal relationship has only strengthened the bond between bands on the circuit and was the original inspiration for me to create the Kiana and Friends showcase hour.
Two summers ago I wrote to Ed Ward, Founder of Milwaukee Irish Fest, and asked if I might be able to host a small acoustic set that celebrates these connections. I wanted to do something to not only bring this to light, but to also connect musicians with some real grass roots music making, while giving back to the festival organizers, volunteers and fans. The idea came: What if we had an hour where we all had a chance to relate to each other just as friends and fellow musicians? Each artist able to highlight something they are passionate about, maybe something that they don’t get to do on stage every night in their own show. This could be an hour that showcases individuals with unique passions and talents and that let’s volunteers and fans see a different side of their favorite performers. Perhaps it could even expose audiences to new bands on the circuit (as well as serving as a chance for us to get to know them). The goal would be to curate unique combinations of musicians and let magical chaos happen.
In the past two summers, I am happy to report that this small acoustic hour has been a wild success. The support from other bands on the scene has been absolutely amazing. We don’t get paid for this; it is simply about fun, friendship and music. And what's even more exciting is that fans seem to be really enjoying it! For Martin and me, it has become a real community event and I have not only gotten the pleasure of meeting new musicians, but also learned new things about old friends, as well as building new ones.
Examples of beautiful musical chaos from the last two years are too many to list, but I will try to describe a few of them. Dougie from the Red Hot Chili Pipers treated us by performing some of his original compositions. Jodi, from Skerryvore, who is clearly a talented bass player, delighted us with his love of funk by rocking some jaw-dropping base solos to Stevie Wonder’s "Superstition." Shane Hayes from Socks in the Frying pan sang lead and played guitar for a beautiful and harrowing song. Martin and I performed a duo that we had arranged together for our first Christmas together. Martin even sang an old Scottish folk song about a mining town (he has a beautiful voice, but I’m biased.) I played some short pieces from my classical past as well as some new original Irish tunes. We also let some newer bands loose on stage (JigJam and Ten Strings and a Goat Skin), as we welcomed them to the circuit, and jamming with them on stage for the first time was such a treat. I try to pick unique combinations of musicians that don’t usually get a chance to play together and toss them on the stage together, like having Fergal Scahill (We Banjo 3) , Ryan Lacey (Gaelic Storm) and Eamon Malloney (FullSet) up for tunes and a Beatles cover. A personal treat was having the chance to play duets with two of my fiddle idols Winifred Horan and Liz Carroll. With so many talented musicians at the festivals, the possibilities are endless. It is all just about creating an open stage for passions to shine.
Who knows exactly what the future holds for all of us, but more than ever I just feel so thankful to be a part of such a vibrant community. I am already looking forward to summer festival season!
Follow Kiana on Social: @kianajuneweber