Stonehenge isn't the only thing rocking through the ages. Celtic music has been around for centuries, and this weekend you can take part in the continuing evolution of this ancient music tradition at the Bakersfield Celtic Music Festival.
"Traditional music is a living art form," said Jill Egland, member of Banshee in the Kitchen, one of many Kern County-based bands in the festival's lineup. "It's living, and breathing, and growing, and evolving, and at the Celtic Music Festival, you get to experience the evolution in progress."
Though it would be hard to detect in today's pop-leaning country hits, Celtic music is found in the DNA of country, Bakersfield's primary musical legacy. That consideration, and the desire to stoke interest in a local Scottish group and Celtic culture in general, led to the first festival five years ago.
"Originally, we held this because we needed to attract younger members to the Kern Scottish Society," said festival organizer David Stroud. "But now, this is a Bakersfield thing --it's got Bakersfield's name on it. I know we're known for country, but Celtic music gave birth to bluegrass -- this is the roots of country music right here."
Country connection or no, Celtic music seems to have struck a chord with modern audiences. Since launching with a one-day concert in 2008, the festival has become a two-day affair, complete with craft and food vendors (yes, there will be haggis), a scotch tasting, and some fairly big-name artists, such as Los Angeles band the Young Dubliners, who will perform Friday night.
Most of the seven bands playing Friday and Saturday are familiar favorites, such as The Wicked Tinkers and Egland's Banshee in the Kitchen.
However, since last fall, Stroud has been fielding calls from popular Celtic music artists from around the globe, such as Gaelic Storm (featured in "Titanic"), and hopes the festival's popularity will continue to grow.
"We'd like to start bringing in some really neat bands from all over," Stroud said. "People are hearing about this worldwide; otherwise, they wouldn't be calling me and asking me to come play. We could push the fence out -- the CSUB amphitheater holds about 3,000 people -- add some more bands; we always have Sunday to expand to."
But, at this festival, the bagpipes played between each set are about the only things at risk of becoming overblown.
According to Egland, in spite of the fact that this two-day tribute to tartan and pennywhistles has become an increasingly desirable gig for out-of-towners to play, the Bakersfield Celtic Music Festival continues to stay true to its roots.
"The Celtic music scene in Bakersfield is surprisingly large," said Egland. "We have at least four groups out and about -- and from the beginning, this festival has always been supportive. There always has been, and always will be local bands playing at this festival."