Of bagpipes and neighborhood festivals

After many, many days of intense heat, Seattle has returned to the grayness for which it is known. This might be the University of Oregon alumna in me talking, but I’d take damp, dreary fog over sweltering sun any day–something I came to realize after posting a complaint about the summer clouds.

Last night I went to my first Celtic music concert in quite a while at a funky little venue over in West Seattle–which might be more aptly called South Seattle, since it’s so far south of downtown. The two groups that played deviated from the typical Celtic sound: one was heavily influenced by French Canadian and Breton folk music, so lots of the instrumentals were accompanied by French singing and a handful of the songs featured that weird triple meter I remember learning about in a Celtic music class back in school. The second group’s sound boasted a Galician influence–that’s a region of Spain that has Celtic roots–because one of the members of the group grew up in Santiago de Compostela and others in the group visited the town to learn about its music.

The concert served to remind me how many tens of subgenres there are for every musical genre. When people say “Celtic music,” it could mean so many things– it could be a folk tune from the Celts who settled in the Scottish Highlands, or a bagpipe march, or even a hypnotic Enya track.

I got overwhelmed just thinking about the dizzying array of Celtic music–imagine how overcome I might have been had I started thinking about other genres! I find that whenever there are an infinite number of possibilities in music that I get overexcited and then exhausted thinking about them.

There’s so much to entertain in this city that I get similarly overwhelmed every time I try to make weekend plans. I go over my mental list of all the things I’d like to see and do in this city while I have the chance and I wonder how I’ll fit it all in. Within just a two-block radius, there are a dozen bars to visit, an equal number of ethnic food restaurants to try, half a dozen record stores to explore, a handful of bookstores to check out, and an intriguing independent movie theater where I’d like to watch something. Heck, there’s even a local grocery store where I must shop at least once to get the full Seattle experience.

And that’s just in my immediate vicinity. When I visit other neighborhoods in the city, I’m overwhelmed all over again. As we drove to West Seattle last night, a friend from high school, another intern and I talked about all the neighborhood festivals we’d seen or read about but hadn’t actually attended so far this summer. There were car shows, seafood festivals, parades and more. There were two festivals going on the day we saw the concert. It was all so overwhelming, we agreed, that whenever we tried to make plans with so many options on the table, we tended to give up and do nothing. We must have gotten too used to our boring college towns, where often there was just one party to attend or one bar we were in the mood for. Now we have to adjust to the polar opposite.

With all these choices already in front of me, I now refuse to take recommendations from any of my sources on stories, any of my coworkers and any friends who have lived here for more than six months. They know too much. We interns know very little about this place, which is good: it means we don’t know how much we’re missing out on every night that we’re home on our couches watching TV.