In 1994 a group of college friends at the University of Vermont found themselves at a musical dead end. Everywhere they went, everything they played had been done before them and it was driving them crazy. Hoping to fend off the Vermont trend of becoming another Jam Band they started a program at the University for like-minded folks called "the Experimental Music Program" yet even this provided lack-luster results and strange arrangements of Dueling Banjos played on marimbas by guys in overalls.
Then one day, a bagpiper came into their midst. What strange, beastly creation was this? There was no place to plug in an amp... the piper tuned it with... electrical tape? Could this have been what they had been searching for all these years?
Aron Garceau grew up listening to the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Led Zeppelin. Often experiencing delusions of grandeur, he actually thought that maybe, just maybe, Led Zeppelin would re-unite and he would get to see them live. He imagined that halfway through the show, some freak accident would claim the left hand of Jimmy Page, forcing Robert Plant to turn to the audience holding up Jimmy''s impotent guitar and plead "please, is there anybody out there who knows how to play ''Stairway to Heaven''?" Obviously, this scenario never happened.
Bring in Iain Mac Harg. The son of a world-renowned Bagpipe builder, Iain grew up listening to the music of the Battlefield Band and the Tannahill Weavers. Often experiencing delusions of grandeur, Iain actually thought that maybe, just maybe, the Tannies would play a show in his hometown and half-way through the show, some freak accident would claim the left hand of Gordon Duncan, forcing Roy Gullane to turn to the audience holding up Gordon''s flaccid bagpipe and plead "please, is there anybody out there who knows how to play ''Maggies Pancakes'' and ''Dancing Feet''?"
It was like Chocolate and Peanut Butter. From this unlikely pairing came a band unlike any other with Aron''s hard rocking edge and Iain''s mastery of an instrument, which is a proven, guaranteed DJ repellent. The only thing they had to do was come up with a name. Led Zeppelin was already taken, as was the Tanahill Weavers. The Led Weavers sounded pretty lame, as did the Tanahill Zeppelins so one mid afternoon, while playing hooky from work the boys found their name in a book somewhere. It was actually pretty uneventful. That name was Prydein (don''t worry, they didn''t know what it meant or how to pronounce it either).
After they agreed upon a pronunciation (pry'' den) and tried to figure out the whole "I" before "E" thing, they decided that the Welsh language was pretty strange. But after the release of their first album in 1999 "Unfinished Business", they realized that they couldn''t change their name now that it was in print. They also didn''t much care, "Unfinished Business" was the coolest album they had yet recorded (with 3 or 4 albums to their names with other groups) with the opening track "Farewell to Eirann" being featured (despite having bagpipes on it) on numerous radio stations and podcasts even being hailed "Most Original Track" on https://www.tradebit.com
Shortly after the release of "Unfinished Business", Aron and Iain had a soul searching and decided to disband the group. They both wanted to start families and were basically getting sick of each other. The friendship that they had developed was more important to them than the music, which they had been performing for the last 6 years, so they called the whole thing off early in 2001.
In that time they each had children, they stayed in touch, and once a year they would get together a band and perform for the New World Festival in Randolph, Vermont. Soon things started to turn around, performing together became fun again and in 2005, Aron and Iain brought in new blood.
Andy Smith, a public school music teacher and bass player for the Mighty Sam McLain Band and the jazz sextet Jazzmosis (a band in which Aron plays guitar) heard all of the tall tales that Aron used to tell about his days playing in a celtic-rock band and was intrigued. Andy expressed interest in playing with the group and in 2004 he joined the group for the worst gig they ever played. They didn''t even get paid. Despite this fact (and maybe due to the fact that he got to hang out with Natalie MacMaster all weekendÉ okay, maybe it wasn''t the worst gig ever) he decided that the music was more important than the money so he would stick around.
It was at this festival that a young student of Andy''s came to see the band play, curious to see the group that his music teacher had told him so much about. This young trombone student was fascinated by the bagpipes and quickly decided that trombone wasn''t for him. He quickly became one of Iain''s best students and Prydein became a two-bagpiper band with Hazen Metro at the ripe old age of 17 taking the 2nd piper''s chair next to Iain. The sound of two bagpipers playing in harmony was enough to make blood shoot right out of your eyes and the band was quickly starting to take form. There was only one spot left to fill.
In 2006 the boys were hired to play on the main-stage in Concord, New Hampshire as part of the New Hampshire Highland Games. In a very Spinal Tap way, their drummer exploded so Aron and Andy quickly got on the phone and convinced drummer Caleb Bronz to sit in with the band. As the drummer for the Mighty Sam McLain Band, Jazzmosis and the Gordon Stone Band, Caleb''s drumming spanned all genres and it didn''t hurt that in his younger years he was a devout Zeppelin fan. Caleb immediately hit it off with the rest of the band and continues to be the only member of Prydein who never wears a kilt (and for good reason).
With a new line-up, new inspiration and gigs stretching from Canada to the Florida panhandle, Prydein went back into the studio to record their absolute best album yet. "Loud Pipes (save lives)" was released in September of 2007 and features the group''s high-energy concert closer "Stairway to Scotland", basically an arrangement of the ÔStairway to Heaven'' of bagpipe music; Amazing Grace and Scotland the Brave. After being asked 1,250,347 times if the band played these tunes and after answering just as many times with a resounding "NO!" the boys decided it was time to put an end to the question and just do it.
Forever a tune of funerals and sad occasions, Amazing Grace, if you listen to the words, is a most uplifting and upbeat song. Why it has become a song of sadness and loss, we''ll never know but Prydein decided to take it back. Pairing it with the blood boiling anthem Scotland the Brave seemed a perfect pairing and the arrangement has become the Margaritaville of Prydein. If they don''t play itÉ they get heckled (and not just because they look funny). But in all seriousness, it''s never hard to get the boys to whip this one out as this tune, more than any other, is actually more fun to play than it is to listen to, especially when they are joined on stage by all the itinerant pipers in the audience and you''d be surprised how many pipers are usually in the audience.
Piper Iain Mac Harg''s credentials are impressive (and a bit long) as he''s been at it since he was old enough to hold a pennywhistle. Moving up through the ranks of competitive piping he moved out of grade 1 in 2005 achieving the status of "Open Piper" (which basically means he can play anything). He has been to Scotland to compete in the Pipe Band World Championships twice and has gone on to start his own massive pipe band, the Catamount Pipe Band based in Marshfield, Vermont some 50 strong and comprised solely of his own students.
Guitarist Aron Garceau''s credentials are less impressive but at least he knows who James Taylor is (ask Iain, it''s a long story). Aron Graduated from the University of Vermont in 1996 with a degree in Music Education and a concentration in Classical Guitar (the "celtic guitar" classes were full). Aron then spent the next 11 years trying to get Iain to stop thinking purely in terms of traditional music. Iain, in turn, spent the last 11 years trying to ignore him (see the section on "band breakup"). They eventually reached a compromise deciding that they were both right. Despite originally thinking that all bagpipe tunes sound alike, Aron can now often be seen on stage humming the tune to Iain (who often forgets how they start), while Iain has branched outside the norms of Highland Bagpiping tradition going so far as to tape his chanter (the part that looks like a keyless oboe) so that it will play in strange and magical keys.
Call it what you will, celtic-rock, kilt-rock, bagpipe-rock, Scottish-rock or, our favourite, Sham-rock, two things are a constant, Prydein is a rock band that just happens to use the Great Highland Bagpipe of Scotland instead of a Gibson Les Paul coupled with a Marshall Stack which goes "to 11".
Often compared to AC/DC on Guinness and Whisky, Prydein gives a high-energy performance loved by young and old. Maybe it''s that they don''t swear (on stageÉ much) or maybe it''s the fact that their children often hang out in back of the stage but a typical Prydein audience will usually be a pretty even mix of high school students and elementary school aged children, packs of disenchanted youth with hair the color of toxic waste and holes in their body that they weren''t born with sitting next to elderly couples who could be the grandparents of the band members holding up cell phones in the air so that their children (usually old enough to be the band members'' parents) can hear the amazing sound coming from a rock band with bagpipes. Call it what you will, they call it fun.
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