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Too much happening

​What with a grand total of 44 main concerts taking place over the past weekend – and that’s not even including the Open Stage, the Festival Club, Late Night Sessions or BBC live broadcasts – it’s small wonder that the following heartfelt cry went up on Twitter yesterday, from one happily frustrated music-lover: “There is too much happening @ccfest!!! I want to see it all…” We sympathise, and accept full responsibility – though it is the kind of complaint we can live with. Similarly with another customer, overheard saying that when he first got a copy of this year’s brochure, he took an initial flick through to jot down the most obvious things he definitely wanted to go to – and ended up with a list of 22 shows; already a challenging total for an 18-day festival.


As ever, though, if you have the stamina, the Festival Club and Late Night Sessions are a great way to catch artists you’d otherwise have missed, and such was again the case in the club last night when most of the cast from Just for Gordon – the tribute to late piper and composer Gordon Duncan, staged at the Concert Hall earlier and unanimously declared a triumph – performed again for the late-night crowds. Much-loved veterans the Tannahill Weavers played early on, while later the show’s core instrumental line up, including pipers Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton - both former pupils of Duncan’s - with their mentor’s son, Gordy Duncan Jr, on drums, took the stage. Julie Fowlis – making a rare club appearance – and Duncan Chisholm joined them for a brilliantly funky puirt-a-beul medley, before the band rounded off their set by blasting some of Duncan’s tunes into epic, trance-rock dimensions: the man himself would surely have approved.


The ever mutating organism that is Babelfish were up next, with long-time members Andy Thorburn on piano, drummer Iain Copeland, fiddler Adam Sutherland and poet/rapper Jock Urquhart joined on this occasion by Innes Watson, also on fiddle, and percussion guru Steve Forman. Their trademark freewheeling synthesis of classic tunes with improvisational madness, badness and danger kept the dancefloor full and delighted, with Urquhart in fine eloquent flow, in between doing his best Bez impersonation. Lastly, some of today’s young team continued Celtic Connections’ rich tradition of small-hours scratch-band line-ups, with a sextet including Ross Couper, Mohsen Amini and Ryan Murphy, plus Copeland once again presiding on drums – as he’s presided over several generations before – and they duly tore the place up in electrifying style. So much for a mellow Sunday night…


Unsurprisingly, the Dry January phenomenon hasn’t gained much of a toehold in Glasgow, as was affirmed by a satisfied recent Facebook post from one festival-goer: “New Year’s resolution to drink more beer going incredibly well so far.”


We heard a very sorry tale last night from an Orcadian friend, who’s currently working in Glasgow, and came along to see Saltfishforty on Saturday night. Having partied with pals from home perhaps not wisely but too well, he got on a night bus heading for where he’s staying, away over on the south side – and of course promptly fell asleep, only to wake up in East Kilbride, though it took a while for him to figure that out. “It’s full of lost people there,” he said. “I kept asking folk where I was, and none of them knew either.” Eventually, he started walking, “down the biggest road I could find, figuring it must take me somewhere towards civilisation,” and eventually meet a group of teenagers coming the other way. Somewhat concerned that his once-lovely night was about to culminate in being mugged or stabbed, he adopted his best wide-eyed, island-bumpkin persona – and the yoof turned out to be kindness itself, providing clear directions to “the next small town”, where he was at last able to get a taxi home. The thing is, he then followed his sorry tale by observing, “It’s not the first time that’s happened to me – I did the same in Norway once…” It’s not the first such story we’ve heard at Celtic Connections, either, so beware the perils of public transport – and if you do wake up at the end of the line once, try and learn from the experience.