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In full swing

​And so we are now officially into the second half of Celtic Connections 2015, this being day ten of the eighteen, and the phrase “full swing” pretty much sums up where things are at, as the mighty middle Saturday night gets under way. With tomorrow’s stars from the Scotland-wide Fèis movement having already rocked the Concert Hall at lunchtime, and the building abuzz all day with such participative delights as the Big Groove kids’ percussion sessions and Eddie Scott’s spoons workshop, this evening’s menu of treats offers a choice of – count ’em – fourteen different concerts, which at a conservative tally, ie not counting special guests etc, feature more than thirty artists between them. It looks like madness on paper, and yet somehow, in Glasgow in January, it works.


Or for an alternative view, we feel that a Facebook post from a highly regarded photographer of our acquaintance, in response to Aidan O’Rourke’s announcement that he’s on his way back to Scotland from Japan, merits reproducing in full: “theres nothing here for you anymore,.smoldering ruins,. bruised and battered musicos wandering the streets begging for food,shelter,,,gangrene, lice, poison resistant insects,,super rats fighting over treasures from overflowing bins behind the Holiday Inn.,.the concert hall has become a shelter,,,lawless roma bands and rajasthani drummer gangs clashing in old churches and libraries,.,.stay there,,its ugly here,.,.” Reading between the lines, we suspect our snapper might have had himself some fun last night.


Given that happy musicians tend to equal happy audiences, keeping the artists sweet is a key part of the equation – and it’s nice to know that the efforts in this direction extend all the way through the programme, right to the Danny Kyle Open Stage, with one contender there yesterday tweeting after he’d performed: “amazing crowd, lovely venue, brilliant organisers etc. ALL gigs should be like this.” It’s a big weekend at the Open Stage for aspiring artists from further afield, with acts flying in from Sweden, France and Ireland for their 15-minute slot, underlining what a coveted accolade it’s become: we hope the wee man himself would be suitably gratified.


One of many funny moments in the Festival Club last night came from an overheard conversation in the Ladies’, after a security guard who’d just answered nature’s call received a loudly audible radio message, concerning a blonde woman in her 20s who’d just helped herself to a coat from the cloakroom, despite being minus a ticket, and was reportedly heading for the exit. The young lady in question turned out to be occupying the cubicle next door to our spy, with her pal on the other side – and by the sound of it all was innocent; it was her own coat, she’d just lost her ticket and couldn’t be a***d waiting till the end of the night. She had been handily tipped off that they were looking for her, though, so was preparing to go out with her hands up – and with such good grace that she even commented admiringly on the security’s diligence.


Even funnier, perhaps, was the conversation with a youngish Irish piper now based in Glasgow, who at that point was due at the airport in just over two hours’ time, en route to a friend’s stag party in Amsterdam tonight - which will also be in full swing, at time of writing - after which he’s due back here for his gig tomorrow, to be onstage at 8pm sharp. Is his partner in crime taking bets, we wonder.


Before last night, we’re pretty sure we’d never witnessed an audience giving it full-scale rave-style hands in the air, fist-pumping, the works – to the sound of accordion and guitar. Such were the scenes that ensued, however, when Mairearad Green and Anna Massie took the Festival Club stage shortly after 2am and proceeded comprehensively to tear the place apart, eventually resulting in most of the crowd joining a conga line and all of it baying for an encore. At which point Green came charmingly if perilously close to pushing it when she first demanded that we “go absolutely mental” - then promptly sshh-ed us once she started playing, before introducing the final number by stating, “This requires absolute silence”. Just as well the duo had everyone eating out of their hand by then. Mind you, absolute silence was what Jenna Reid commanded when she played her club slot earlier on, bravely including not one but two slow airs which unfolded in pristine, pin-drop quiet, among a performance that had the likes of Ross Couper and the rest of Blazin’ Fiddles positively agape.


Lastly for today, we’d like to appeal for a solution to a small random mystery. Walking up to the club last night, a couple of people just ahead of us stopped in front of the adjacent School of Art building – the modern one – and spent a few moments tenderly stroking a section of its wall. If anyone has a clue what that’s about, do please let us know.