I chose to drive the whole way to Houston, then Phoenix for some Clandestine gigs last weekend. On one hand I got to spare myself the uncomfortable experience of flying. On the other hand my behind is kinda sore from sitting for 17 hours at a time on each leg of the journey. Our show in Houston was fun as ever and the long drive let me catch up on listening to some of the band tunes. After the show I got in the car and started the long drive to Phoenix where we had to play 36 hours later. It took me 24 to get there on account of my sleeping in the Buccee’s parking lot in Luling Tx for 7 hours. The drive was beautiful as I knew it would be and I got to indulge my love for going 80 miles an hour while seeing the beautiful desert. Over the weekend Clandestine played at the Phoenix Highland Games, sharing a stage with the Wicked Tinkers, a band we used to see on the road a lot in the west. Their band is comprised of a very good bagpiper, a couple of drummers, a digeridoo player, and a player of the “Bronze Age Irish Horn”. Hmmm…. Surprisingly it actually works and they were both very entertaining and played some good music. The horn and digeridoo kind of sounded like a synthesizer together and filled out the sound of the pipes and drums. The weather was amazing and we got to play a new song “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” in 3/2 time, the same as an Hanter Dro breton dance that I love. I’m hoping to play my new Subois at NTIF on that song this weekend and maybe some people will come dance an Hanter Dro to it. I’ve been in the market for a new set of Highland pipe drones for a while now and bought a new set of Naills (that’s a brand) just recently from a cop in Ottowa who had bought them for his daughter but she didn’t stick with learning the pipes. They played great over the weekend and surprised me by tuning right down to A with the SM90 drone reeds I’ve been using. For the last 10 years I’ve played a turn of the century set of cocus wood Hucheons and they’re badly in need of some restoration. Arizona dryness can be hell on woodwinds and when I was here two years ago my old pipes just about disintegrated, with cracks in a couple of the drone tops. I wasn’t sure I should bring them here but Phoenix had a lot of rain the week before we came and there was actually more than 3% humidity this time. This week I got in the set I’ve been waiting for: a set of ebony Lawries I’m guessing from the turn of the century. They sound amazing and they’re not in pristine shape but I really love them. Those will probably never go to AZ but they will go to Dallas this weekend for NTIF. After the Phoenix games I went to the Arizona Ren Faire where Abby Green, a wonderful singer and octave mandolin player, is playing for the next few weeks. Her CD released last year has my flute playing and piping all over it and I think we’re doing a gig together in Round Top in April. We spend a couple of days hiking and birdwatching and I took a few pictures of the gorgeous desert. Like I said, there has been a lot of rain in the weeks before and some of the washes still had running water in them. The ground that I had only seen as bare dirt dotted with cacti and Saguaro before had a carpet of green all over it and there were wildflowers everywhere. The short green carpet with all the cacti sticking out gave the impression of a vast putt-putt golf course with a desert theme. There were tons of birds out and we had a great couple of days before I went back to Houston, and then back to Asheville to re-start my hectic pipe-making schedule. Here are some of the pictures from the TX-AZ trip. Coming up: North Texas Irish Festival in Dallas!