Mile 12 plays Irish Fest, live music comes back after virtual year

For the first time in two years, live music came back to the stages of the Summerfest grounds during Irish Fest. For those who attended, it was a step back to normalcy, and for those who make their living making music, it was a welcome opportunity to play again. 

It's hard to tell who's happier that live music has returned, the musicians or those who love them. At Milwaukee's Irish Fest, it was safe to call it a draw.

Things are a little bittersweet right now, still strange at the minute amid the coronavirus pandemic. Getting back on the road feels a little bit foreign and being able to share live music with people again. 2020 was not the year music died, but it was put on serious bed rest.

Stages, now full of joy, were silent, and musicians like David Benedict, who plays the mandolin, had to find other ways to keep connected with fans.

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"Crazy with all these gigs canceled," said Benedict. 

Fortunately for Benedict, he's an excellent and patient teacher. While he rode out the pandemic in Northern Ireland, he was able to share his love of music through lessons. He virtually tutored serious musicians and musical wannabes. 

"Who knows when things will get back together," said Benedict.

Well, we're getting there.

Benedict and his fellow musicians that make up Boston-based "Mile 12" are back doing what they love, and what they're very good at: Bringing people together through music. Their travel schedule is filling up. They made their Cream City debut during Irish Fest, and playing live sure beats virtual performances.

"It’s definitely a different animal," said Benedict. "When you’re doing a livestream online, you don’t really get any feedback online except for the comments line. There’s something you can’t replace by being somewhere in person."

The coronavirus pandemic made us realize the things we truly missed, but it was also a time for real creativity.

"Who knows. The next bands are going to come up through the craziness of the past couple years, so I’m excited for that, as well," said Benedict.

Frontline workers at Irish Fest, ceremony honors COVID heroes

Frontline workers were allowed into Irish Fest for free, with organizers wanting essential workers of all kinds to know they are appreciated.