California Celts bring kilts, bagpipes to Flagstaff Folk Festival
Bringing a modern twist to songs of the sea and returning to his former university, Chris Poland is introducing his band, the California Celts, to Flagstaff at the end of June to perform at the Green Room and the Flagstaff Folk Festival.
Poland explained that the band’s sound is an eclectic mesh of British and Caribbean island music as well as Celtic rock. They routinely begin their shows with a march from the street to the stage, and always wear kilts while performing.
The California Celts are scheduled to perform at the Flagstaff Folk Music Festival on June 30. Excited to bring his band back to his former school, Poland said they plan to play a wide variety of folk that night.
“We got a slot at the Flagstaff Folk Festival, FFF as some people call it, and for acoustics, we’ll be wearing our kilts, we’re going to be playing bagpipes and acoustic guitar, parading with the ballad drums and then singing some Irish drinking songs, some Scottish marching songs – and at the end – Mexican folk songs.”
Additionally, the band performs at the Green Room for free the night before the festival.
“[The Flagstaff Folk Festival] is the gig that brought us to Flagstaff, and so what I did is I actually got on the phone and tried to book a club gig that Friday night,” Poland said. “So, Friday will be a completely different show. It’s electric, a plugged in version of our world beat, we’ve got reggae with Celtic gig, pirate themed music – a lot of pirate themed music on our tour.”
Poland was inspired to pursue a career in Celtic music after meeting a man who goes by Johnny the Fox, a musician originally from Dublin, Ireland who made a living by performing in Irish pubs throughout the United States.
Before meeting Johnny the Fox, Poland was originally in a band he started with his brother at NAU in 1991 called the Warsaw Polish Bros.
“What happened was when we finally met this Irish lad, he heard our disc, we heard his disc, a love connection was made, and then he showed us the ropes on how to make a living in Irish pubs.”
Poland and his band began to make music with Johnny the Fox, which formed the group Sally’s Gap. California Celts was formed nearly six years ago after Johnny and Poland parted ways.
Now, the band has a solid pub circuit, but they hope to move toward a more consistent festival and theater circuit.
They also have a new record coming out called “Take Me Away” to follow their self-titled album, “California Celts.”
A musician for the majority of his life, Poland loves every minute of being on stage.
“In the words of one of my lads, Miguelangelo Casares, he puts it as, ‘I’m addicted to the stage,’” Poland said. “And it is kind of true. Once you’re making music with your mates, and are lined up and everyone’s harmonizing, it feels like all of the sudden it’s not a job anymore. You’re literally getting high, you know, you’re on drugs and all of that, you get a good rush out of it – being harmonic.”
As a 1992 NAU graduate of the School of Music, Poland reminisced on his time in Flagstaff.
“I was like the last class that didn’t have computers. That was one major thing that is probably different. We had a thing called a computer lab, and if you wanted to use one you were usually a science major or maybe an English major, and you would have a word processor. And it’s like a fancy typewriter that would save your stuff. Before that we would have to pay someone to type up our papers.”
For more information on the California Celts, visit californiacelts.com.