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Drink, dogs and dignity’s death-knell

​It’s well past time that we gave the Celtic Connections volunteers several hearty rounds of applause and grateful thanks. From artist liaison to venue troubleshooting; dull-but-necessary spreadsheet stuff to deliveries of dressing-room provisions, and a million other ‘as required’ tasks, this small army of willing souls work their socks off helping keep this show on the road – and all for the love of it, plus regular takeaway food, and the chance to catch some gigs as and when time and space align.
 
Those ‘other duties as required by the role’ have in recent days included responding to a major emergency when two tonnes of wine got stuck in a lift at the Concert Hall: evidently said elevator’s feeling the festival strain like the rest of us, and gave up the ghost in protest at the weight, somewhere en route from the loading bay. Rightly or wrongly, dependable distribution of drink is fairly vital to Celtic Connections’ continued happiness, and our volunteers were on hand to assist in short order, going so far as to start unloading pallets manually, before a mechanical solution was found.
 
(And we can only assume that the delivery driver was new to Glasgow, given how he needed to be told, by the hall’s doorman, that leaving a large stack of alcohol unattended on West Nile Street really wasn’t a good idea.)
 
Apparently the wine was destined for tonight’s Galician Fiesta at the Drygate, where our lovely Showcase Scotland international partners plan to ply their audience with fine – and free – Galician food and drink. A welcome gesture at any time, but especially at this stage of the festival, when many stalwarts are somewhat chronically undernourished.
 
Another volunteer assignment that certainly won’t have been in the job description concerned the Celtic Rovers lounge, which is a wee perk for those generous supporters who buy the eponymous membership, which helps fund Celtic Connections’ education programme. With Celtic Music Radio piped in for their entertainment, it’s a cosy wee oasis tucked away in a Concert Hall top corner, signposted by the Celtic Rovers’ red Scottie dog logo.
 
In that above-and-beyond spirit which also keeps the festival running, a team member delegated to the space decided that it wasn’t looking quite festive or welcoming enough – and thus a squad of volunteers found themselves fashioning more wee red dugs out of those twistable animal balloons. The Rovers are now kept company by a colourful veritable pack of - sort of - canine best friends, including a cute white knitted one somebody’s obviously brought in from home.
 
Such were the heights of jubilation attained at last night’s Blazin’ Fiddles gig - a final flourish to their year-long 20th anniversary celebrations, with special guest Karen Matheson at the sold-out King’s Theatre – that founder member Bruce MacGregor (these days also of Travelling Folk fame, and supposed respectability) not only did the splits at one point, but in doing so also split his breeks all the way from front to back. There was no hiding the damage from his audience, so he fronted it out with some kind of bow, or curtsey, but for anyone who’s uncertain as to what they might have glimpsed, he definitely wasn’t going commando and his boxers remained intact. If not his dignity.
 
Another Highland fiddler of our acquaintance regaled us with a tale last night of an early foray into grown-up entertaining, during his student days in Glasgow, when he invited a bunch of pals from home for dinner, at which he served a chicken dish involving asparagus. Much liquid refreshment was consumed over the evening; some of the friends crashed overnight. Before they went home in the morning, their host with the most even provided help with hangover s, in the shape of those magic orange fizzy things, Berocca. Later on that day, however, he had a string of panicked phone-calls from those same pals, whom he struggled to convince that funny-smelling, neon-yellow pee did not require urgent medical attention.