The Casper Professional Firefighters Pipes and Drums band will perform at seven locations on Saturday, March 16 as part of their “2019 St. Paddy’s Pub Crawl.” St. Patrick’s Day is officially on Sunday, but the festivities will take place on Saturday.
The band’s first Saturday performance is set for 1 p.m. as part of David Street Station’s “Afternoon on the Green” event. They’ll then head over to Wyoming Bootlegger Liquor for a 2 p.m. “Unplugged” session, with another “Unplugged” session to follow at 3 p.m. at Skull Tree Brewery.
The band will then perform at Gruner Brother Brewing at 4 p.m. before heading to Keg and Cork for a 6 p.m. performance. Their next set will be performed at 7:45 p.m. at Frontier Brewing Co.
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They’ll then head to the Bayou Bar in Mills for an 8:45 p.m. performance, before returning to Gruner Brothers for the final performance at 9:30 p.m.
“The pub crawl is going to be our main fundraising day of the year,” the band’s President Dane Anderson said, adding that this will be their third St. Patrick’s day pub crawl. “Why it’s so important is we are not a City of Casper entity, we are our own thing. So every single dollar that we spend is either our own or is through donations.”
The band is comprised of six bagpipe players and four drummers. They are a subgroup to the Fire Department’s Honor Guard and usually perform at funeral services for fallen firefighters and other ceremonies.
“Our primary mission is upholding what I think are the highest traditions in the Fire Service and I think you’ll find a lot of agreement with that,” Anderson said.
He added that the pub crawl is a chance for people to hear and meet the band in a less formal setting.
“What most people see is bagpipes playing at funerals in the movies, and of course we do that, and we do that very well,” he said. “But [the pub crawl] brings the music to the people who really enjoy it. What I really enjoy about it is being up close and personal and try not to create too much hearing damage.”
Anderson said the bagpipes were particularly suited to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
“With the Celtic background of the bagpipes of course, that’s going to create just another great dimension to your celebration.,” Anderson said. “When we do a typical pub performance, its very powerful, it is very loud, it is ‘we are kicking the door into your bar and you’re going to listen to some bagpipes.”
Anderson said the fundraiser will help the band with the cost of musical equipment which he said can be quite expensive.
“The costs are just astronomical,” he said. “It’s like buying a piece of equipment for the Fire Department. You buy a flashlight at Home Depot, its going to cost $12, you buy a Fire Department flashlight, that’s Fire Department certified, well that $12 flashlight is now $50.”
Anderson said his starter bagpipe kit cost around $900, but kits can run for more than $5,000. He added that just one bass drum can cost $1,000-$1,200.
He said the group was formed in 2012 and they try to purchase their kilts and musical equipment from firefighter owned and operated outlets across the nation.
Anderson became a bagpiper with the group in 2013. He was asked to join after he came onto the Fire Department in 2012 because he had a musical background. He said he’s been interested in music for a long time and played the saxophone.
“I was a band geek even all the way through elementary school,” he said.
The key to learning the bagpipes is persistence, according to Anderson.
“It’s really almost being too stupid to quit,” he said. That’s the number one thing with being a bagpiper, you have to be extremely talented or too stupid to quit. Most of us are too stupid to quit.”
“Besides learning exactly where your frustration tolerance is, it’s a very simple instrument but it’s also an incredibly complex instrument,” Anderson continued. “There’s only 9 notes to the bagpipe. Only nine right? But you look at the music and it is just so complicated.”
“In order to create the melody, in order to create the depth and dimensional sound, it requires and demands with the music so many different finger and miniscule movements that it takes a lifetime to master.”
“You have the dynamics of four different reeds moving at the same time,” Anderson added. “You have to balance the pressure of keeping those reeds going, keeping it a good sound, because the harder you squeeze, it’s going to go sharp and if you let off the pressure its going to go flat, its not going to sound right. There are few things worse than out of tune bagpipes.”
Anderson said that the drummers use drums built specifically for Scottish drumming, which provides a “large three dimensional” sound different from drums used in marching bands.
“They have the thicker walls, the thicker plies, the deeper, the richer sound,” he said. “You can really hear the runs in the drums and stuff like that.
“The purpose for our drums too is to add a different dimenstion to our sound, a large bass and a large three dimensional sound so they literally tune their drums to the notes that come out of my (bagpipe) drones. So not only do you hear the sound, but you feel the sound all in that key.”
“That’s really the challenge, taking all those individual bagpipers and taking those individual drummers too and making it into a pipe band.”
Anderson said the band will perform at least one “Unplugged” session at Skull Tree.
“Do you remember growing up watching the MTV Unplugged sessions on t.v., that kind of thing?” he asked. “I thought of having some of our musicians do some tunes you might not hear in a pub setting, some of the more thoughtful, more introspective tunes.”
“And give people the chance to ask some questions. If you want to feel the material of the kilt, you know, that’s your chance to do that. Get up close, get personal, ask questions and really see what we’re about.”
Anderson said that partnering with local businesses was important to the band.
“We also wanted to partner with some of these newer, up and coming places in Casper like Skull Tree, like Gruners, and Frontier is relatively new still,” he said. “Making sure stuff happens at local businesses is really important to us too. We want local dollars being spent locally.”
Anderson said that Casper Executive Car and Limo will be providing transportation to the band during the pub crawl and urged people to use options like Lyft and Uber if they are drinking.