A warm up for the weekend

There have been a few records broken already during Celtic Connections 2014, but another one fell last night as Mogwai, making their festival debut in magnificent style, attained unprecedented decibel levels in the Concert Hall, delighting a record-equalling, crammed-to-absolute-capacity crowd of some 2400 fans. One of the festival team, who’d been working away at her desk during the afternoon, commented later, “I knew it was going to be loud, but I didn’t quite realise how loud until everything on my desk started jumping up and down during the sound check.”
Doing his rounds of the evening’s various concerts, Donald Shaw looked in near the start of Mogwai’s set – in part, he said, out of curiosity to see if any of Celtic Connections’ more traditional audience had somehow fetched up at the gig. While he did see a few folk making a decidedly sharp exit, he also spotted an elderly, tweed-clad gentleman who could hardly have appeared more out of place, but was still sat back apparently blissfully in his seat at least half-a-dozen numbers in. Still, as Shaw knows better than most, this folk music malarkey can make for strange – but strangely happy – bedfellows.
As Tim O’Brien settled in to his likewise sold-out show with Darrell Scott at the Fruitmarket – a veritable masterclass in lightly-worn virtuosity, and clearly one of the musos’ picks of this year’s programme, judging by their numbers among the audience – he observed with a smile that, “It’s always funny coming in towards the end of this festival: you see people who’ve been here for two weeks already, and they look like they’ve been through a war – but a good war.” “Yeah,” Scott chipped in. “Some kind of a love war.” Another Celtic catchphrase contender, perhaps?
It may only be Wednesday, but it felt as if the warm-up towards the big final weekend was starting already last night, with a jaw-droppingly stellar array of musicians playing tunes in the Holiday Inn bar well into the wee hours, including O’Brien, Sharon Shannon, John Doyle, John McCusker, Kris Drever, Eamonn Doorley and Aidan O’Rourke. This culminated with a real-life pirate invasion from the Flying Duck, as an optimistic horde of happy souls arrived thus costumed from Folkytown, in hope of one last drink. When these hopes were politely dashed by the already long-suffering barman, they proved remarkably well-behaved for pirates, and departed quietly in search of bevy elsewhere – apart from a few who sat down and joined in the tunes. Sartorial protocol for Folkytown tonight, by the way, is Highland dress, in keeping with a session hosted by James Duncan Mackenzie, Neil Ewart and Anna Massie: it all kicks off at the Duck at 10.30pm.
Going up in the lift at the eventual end of the night/morning, one regular Celtic Connections visitor – a man of decidedly unyielding Shetland/Aberdonian stock, who’d nonetheless been buying champagne for all and sundry earlier on – was simply beside himself with joy at the fun he’d had, rounding off by declaring: “I’m normally a complete moaning-faced b*****d, but this – this just keeps getting better and better.”