It’s March and March means St. Patrick’s Day parades and bagpipe bands. It takes a special type of person to march with a bagpipe band. Marching down the street in worsted wool isn’t as easy as bands make it look. Having been a member of a pipe band, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Many hours of practice went into what you’re hearing on the street. We practiced together for months with drummers on practice pads and pipers on practice chanters before we picked up the instruments. We also practiced at home. We also spent a lot of time on marching. It’s surprisingly difficult for a group of people to walk on the same foot at the same time while playing an instrument.
The bagpipes are difficult to learn and have a high failure rate. You spend at least the first year on a practice chanter until you can play basic tunes correctly from memory. The huge time investment is a big turn-off and the memorization can be tough. Then, there’s the monetary investment. A set of pipes made of composite material that sounds good costs about $700. A top of the line wooden set is in the $10,000 price range.
Drummers don’t get off light either. The drums are often provided by the band, but they can be a bit awkward to carry, especially the bass drum. Imagine a wind whipping across you while you have a 3-foot diameter drum attached to the front of you. The drum becomes a sail and playing correctly and marching in proper time becomes a challenge.
Given what the band has been through to get to the parade, your cheers and support mean the world. When I marched with the band, I didn’t pay for a single drink. Many parades partner with local bars that allow the bands to eat and/or drink for free. The friendly spirit of St. Patrick also brings out the generosity in parade goers.
The outfits are pretty cool, too. The kilt gave me Catholic school flashbacks, but the cool accessories made it for me. We wore a sporran was which is sort of like a fanny pack only much cooler and was a handy place to carry stuff. Then there were the kilt hose, which were basically knee socks with a fancy popcorn top and inside the top of our right kilt hose we carried a sgian dugh (pronounced skin-doo) which is a small knife.
The accessories we wore were rooted in the Scottish and Irish traditions of wearing kilts into battle. Just like the fief and drum corps that marched with the armies of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, pipe and drum corps marched with the armies of Scotland and Ireland. The sporran was used on the battlefield the same way we used ours on the parade route; as a handy thing to carry our stuff. I imagine what was in our sporrans was very different from what was found in that of a piper or drummer marching with an army. The sgian dubh was carried by pipers and drummers in battle as a means of defending themselves should they need to beat a hasty retreat. I too found comfort in knowing that I was armed when we marched in parades in dicey neighborhoods, especially Newark.
Nobody really seems to care much about our accessories. Everyone was obsessed with what was or wasn’t being worn under the men’s kilts. As a woman I avoided this. For some reason people don’t feel as comfortable asking what’s under a woman’s kilt. That or no one got brave or drunk enough to risk the kick in the nuts that I assure you would result from asking me that and God help you if you try to lift my kilt. I will cut you. I’m carrying a knife after all.
If I had a dollar for every time I overheard the under the kilt question I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this right now. I’d be on my own private island in the Maldives lying in the sun without a care in the world. There’s a tradition in Scotland and Ireland of wearing nothing under the kilt called going regimental. However, if it’s freakin’ March in New Jersey I can assure you that the men with the band are wearing underwear. Hell, they’d be wearing long-johns if they could. It’s so cold that if they weren’t wearing underwear you’d know it because they wouldn’t be able to play. Their balls would retreat whence they came and take refuge in their chest cavity impacting their lung capacity. Can we please talk about how rude it is to ask what’s under the kilts? When did that become appropriate? You wouldn’t walk up to some random guy you don’t know and ask him if he’s going commando under his pants, would you? Mind your business!
Speaking of annoying things can we talk about kilt hoes? No, not the fancy socks we wear. I mean the chicks who try to hang all over the guys in the band because seeing a man in a kilt brings out their inner hoe. I’ll admit there’s something attractive about a man in a kilt. That’s why I’m dating a bagpiper. I’ve talked about it in my act (click here). However when a man in a kilt is standing with his arm around a lady in the same kilt, it generally means HE’S TAKEN! GO AWAY! It’s rude to throw yourself at another woman’s man especially when that woman is STANDING RIGHT THERE WATCHING YOU DO IT!!! Go till a garden because you’re a hoe. Also, I’m not standing under his arm for a pointless PDA. I’m huddled there for warmth because we all just froze our asses off marching down the street for your entertainment. If you’d like to express your appreciation, please follow these very simple rules.
1) No, we don’t want to get a free drink for you so don’t ask. We’re not risking getting kicked out of the bar. Go find someone else to pay for your buzz.
2) No, you cannot take a picture with my boyfriend unless you’d like me to be in it. If you don’t like that, go take a picture with someone else, then take a long walk off a short pier.
3) No, you cannot hang all over my boyfriend if we agree to take a picture with you. Keep your filthy hoe hands to yourself. If you put your arms around his neck, I’ll wring yours. However, if you’d like to hug me, that’s okay. I’m about the hug life, not the thug life.
4) No, I will not take a picture of you hanging all over my boyfriend. Seriously don’t even ask. I will cut you. Again, I’m carrying a knife.
Look, kilt hoes, there’s more than one pipe band and loads of guys wearing kilts. I’m sure at least one of them is single. GO AWAY!
Crowd love is great, but be respectful when you express it, try to keep the drinking within reason, and please don’t drink and drive. I will cut you. Again, I’m carrying a knife.