About a year later, this guy name Ken (whom I happened to know previously, but his looks had changed significantly and it took me a month or so to realize I'd actually met him before) approached us about putting together a band; he didn't know how to describe what he wanted, but when he was done making a rather gallant effort to do so, it was pretty clear that he was looking for a folk band that could hammer out good instrumentation, solid and powerful harmony, and give off lots of energy the way a rock band might.
This is what has been dubbed by some Renassaince Festival performers as a "power band". It was the sort of band that Greencastle was, or at least was close to being, and sort of what County Cork might have done under other circumstances. It was in any regard precisely what I had been aiming for since I started doing music professionally.
And so, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I came out of musical retirement a year earlier than I had planned. I couldn't let this guy go; there was too much risk I'd never see the chance again. Power bands are, unfortunately, somewhat rare in Ren Faire circles. Those that earn the title go off and make real money, usually, because they can. The handful that remain in the Ren Faire circuit do so because they love the Faire (and, often, the lifestyle it brings), and to get three, four or five people with the kind of Ego it requires just to do this sort of thing to all agree to do Ren Faire is itself an even more rare event. There wasn't room in my schedule, and I knew it was going to rack me up for awhile, but it felt like it was the right time.
So I agreed to join his band.
The Band Grows -- And Shrinks
Our primary venue, at first, was to be the
Colorado Renaissance Festival
since we'd all worked there before, and because it's a reasonably good place for a folk band to sell CDs. We dabbled with ideas of what other kinds of places we'd do gigs, of course, as any fledgling band will do, but we knew our first target was to be ready to audition for Ren Faire. And there seemed to be pretty good odds we'd be the main music act at the Pirate's Pub stage there, so our show would have to be centered around pub songs, at least during the "attention getting" phase of each show.
Originally, Ken was just recruiting people for the band he was already in, called The River Wynde Minstrels (and I have to tell you, I really loved that name). And the band grew to something like seven members (which drastically improves the options for the nature of the music you can do, but also drastically increases the musical discipline required to avoid sounding like a jam session on stage).
But then, very shortly after the band started making actual progress in its structure and repertoire, there were some interesting interactions between members of the band (oh, I know, that n-e-v-e-r happens amongst groups of such stable and level-headed people as musicians; no, never), and several members decided to go their own way, for the most part. That left us with four -- Ken, Melissa, Annie and me.
Baby Needs A New Name
As it happens, two of the departing members were the ones who originally came up with River Wynde, and Ken had joined them afterwards. And to make matters worse, they were considering a contract with the Renaissance Festival under the old name, which they really had every right to do, so we really had to find a new name.
We came up with a number of ideas; Ken had become keen on being called "Bard", "Bard Ken", or "Bardkin" in his Ren Faire mode, and Melissa came up with Bard 'n Us. It was a wonderful pun, but the management at the Renaissance Festival didn't think the name was as marketable as it could be, and though we were miffed that they thought they should be in any way involved in naming our band, we really wanted the gig so we went back to the drawing board.
We listed a ton of names, some wandering into Celtic history, some into Greek mythology, some focused on drinking or the pub scene where we expected to be playing, some inspired by (or directly lifted from) the titles of songs we found in our songbooks, and others just 'cuz they sounded cool. You know, all the basic stuff bands go through when they're desperately trying to become inspired to name themselves. :-)
We settled on Roustabout. Now, a roustabout is a guy who works on a floating oil rig, and he's kind of the "gopher" (go fer this, go fer that) -- the guy who runs around helping everyone else with anything they're in too awkward a position to do for themselves conveniently. But the very structure of the word brings to mind images of a guy who's in a bar and being feisty, so we thought that was kind of neat and new.
Well, CRF management thought most people wouldn't be able to relate to the name, and asked us to try again. This was the point where I got irritated about them meddling in our name, but the same rules still applied -- we wanted the headlining gig, so we had to deal a little with the devil, so to speak. Back to the table.
Once More, With Feeling
In a fit of near-surrender, Ken & Melissa thought we could just use Greencastle, but Annie and I had long decided that the legacy of Greencastle should be kept intact. Besides, in my opinion, Greencastle was what it was because of the interaction specifically between Rowan, Annie and myself, and I more or less thought it would be dishonoring Rowan's very significant influence on the band to reuse the name without him.
Then Annie revisited the idea of using a name she'd suggested early on, one she'd come up with during the year we were away from County Cork. By now, the name was growing on Melissa, and though Ken wasn't completely happy with it, he found it acceptable, and it seemed really likely that CRF management would probably buy into it. And so, in our moment of glory, so to speak, we told them we'd be The Whirly Jig Minstrels, and they liked it.
Whirly Jig was born.
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