Bareknuckle Pipes & Drums

Winter Springs Florida Jan. 18th, 2020

One of the perks of covering live music is the number of opportunities you get to discover new bands or artists. Such was the case last Saturday when I attended the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games in Winter Springs Florida. I was there to shoot a band that I had stumbled upon last year. When their set was finished, I was getting ready to leave and came across a friend who said I definitely needed to check out the next band, Albannach. He described them as being hardcore and said it would be a mistake to miss them. I was sold, I’m not one to pass up an opportunity to shoot live music of any kind.

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As I walked back toward the concert area I noticed that the previously empty space in front of the stage was starting to fill up. Up until this point the crowd had been content in watching the shows from their seats in the grassy lawn. I took this as a signal of the intensity that was forthcoming. I was correct.

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I managed to acquire a space up front and saw that the band had assembled on stage. The first thing that caught my eye was a guy that looked as if he had just walked out of the movie Braveheart. Clad in a blue and purple kilt, as all the band members were, his long hair, beard, tattoos, wrist bands, and taped knuckles had already convinced me that he was the front man for this Celtic quintet.

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So who exactly was this charismatic individual that was busy attaching a very large bass drum around his waist? Turns out his name is Jamesie Johnston, also known as “The Baron of Bass”. Johnston was joined on stage by world-renowned bag piper, Donnie MacNeil, bass rhythm drummer and vocalist, Jacquie Holland, lead drummer, Nick Watson, and didger, Drew Reid.

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The band’s thirty minute set was intense and had the audience captivated throughout. The coordination and execution of the various instruments resulted in a single, cohesive musical unit, deep and rich in Scottish culture and heritage. The rhythmic drumming and bag pipes create a sound that is both enchanting and haunting. This was the first time that I’ve seen someone play a didgeridoo. It can best be described as a wind instrument that is roughly four feet in length. Drew Reid is a master at its operation and the sound he produces complements the band’s unique style.

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Albannach was formed in 2005 in Glascow Scotland. Their first album, self-titled Albannach, was released in 2006. They have followed up with numerous albums, the most recent, Gaelgael, was released in 2019. Albannach loves to take their show on the road and frequently performs at Scottish and Celtic festivals across North America and the United Kingdom. They have successfully amassed a huge following of loyal and devoted fans. Among their many influences, are Ac/DC, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Godsmack and Motley Crue. Keep an eye out for Albannach and if see an opportunity to check them out jump at it!