A blazin' final Friday

​Putting Blazin’ Fiddles in charge of the Concert Hall’s main space on Celtic Connections’ final Friday night always promised to result in a somewhat monumental hooley, and the occasion certainly didn’t disappoint. In some ways, the band’s ‘Strings Attached – The Next Generation’ show winningly resembled a traditional Highland ceilidh, albeit on a very grand scale, and in an emphatically urban, contemporary setting – but still with our hosts drawing everyone warmly into the gathering, by turns firing out the tunes and inviting pals to step up for a song. For Blazin’ Fiddles ringleader Bruce MacGregor, though – the sole remaining original member; that being partly behind the ‘Next Generation’ tag – the shtick for the evening was to present it as a mock live radio broadcast, somewhere between his own weekly Travelling Folk and a rather more couthy local station. His elegant Shetland colleague Jenna Reid, for instance, was introduced with the “news” that she’s currently being pursued by the island’s Farmers’ Association, because the noise from her shed when she’s weightlifting is disturbing the sheep.

And, of course, those aforementioned “pals” comprised three of the most gorgeously distinctive voices in Celtic music today, namely Aoife O’Donovan, Rachel Sermanni and Adam Holmes, plus the not-so-small matter of the Inverness Gaelic Choir, and the Blazers for a string section – altogether a bit of a dream scenario, musically speaking, and numerous magical moments duly ensued, in between the house band’s bravura instrumental barnstorming.

A little bird told us rather a comical tale from the Thursday night just past, which saw fiddler Adam Sutherland and Peatbog Faeries guitarist Tom Salter among the audience for Konono No.1 and Bombino at the O2ABC. After the show, they decided to look in at the Festival Club, so climbed the hill to the Art School, showed their passes to the now-familiar door team, and were halfway up the stairs when one of the stewards called after them, “You do know it’s a hip-hop night tonight, don’t you?” Because, of course, there was no Festival Club on Thursday – that was the middle weekend only – providing the venue security with a well-earned wee chuckle at all these away-with-it folkies’ expense.

In other Sutherland family news – many congratulations to Adam’s dad, Alex, who yesterday won his second gold medal in the Scottish National Masters Cross Country Championships, in the Men’s 65+ category. Adam clearly comes from hardier stock than it might at times appear. And a quick foreign bulletin, which might console some of those who’ve been complaining about hotel bar prices here – fiddler Patsy Reid, who as reported the other day has been playing in Dubai, bought a celebratory round of four cocktails after her show, without checking the exchange rate, and was billed a cool £99. Ouch.

Some of you may recall last weekend’s tale of the piper planning to set off straight from the Festival Club, around 3am, home to pack and then to catch an early Saturday flight for his friend’s stag do that night in Amsterdam, before returning in time for his duo show on the Sunday. We heard nothing further; gathered he’d made the gig no problem, and we’d even mentally congratulated him for his determination/stamina – only to bump into him last night and discover that in fact he went home, packed, fell asleep, and missed his flight, which until now he’d been managing to keep under wraps: even his duo partner didn’t know. Apparently the stag pal’s in the process of forgiving him, though – after all, that’s Celtic Connections for you.