Festival Monday's

​Thanks be to providence - defined either as “the protective care of God or nature as a spiritual power” or “timely preparation against future eventualities” - for Celtic Connections’ cup-runneth-over Monday nights.
The cup runneth partly because bedtime comes earlier, after a deal less quaffing - just what the doctor ordered after an epic festival weekend, with a full fortnight still to go. Festival Mondays have the fewest gigs happening, as with last night’s mere(!) five shows: Mariza in the main Concert Hall; an Irish/Scottish duo of trios in the Strathclyde Suite (Dermot Byrne, Eámonn Coyne, John Doyle; Eilidh Patterson, Ruth Trimble and Yvonne Lyon); Haiku Salut at the Hug and Pint; Like a Cat Tied to a Stick (‘A Jazz Reimagining of Radiohead’) at the newly-recruited Blue Arrow, and Willie Watson at Broadcast.
So on Mondays after hours, by Celtic standards, the Holiday Inn/Bonne Auberge is usually very quiet and thankfully chilled, after Fri-Sun’s frenzied maelstrom – but always with a wee post-show quorum, plus the potential wild-card of advance arrivals for gigs later in the week, and a few festival diehards eternally in hope of a tune.
Which hopes were bounteously and exquisitely fulfilled last night, by a session featuring the deadly accordion double of Byrne and Sharon Shannon, duelling with fiddlers Athena Tergis and Liz Hanley (from Mick Moloney’s current Green Fields of America line-up, playing the Fruitmarket on Thursday), alongside Coyne, Doyle and fellow master guitarist Jim Murray - from Shannon’s band; at the Concert Hall tonight.. Shannon’s fabulous guest singer Susan O Neill – whose startling visual resemblance to a young Alanis Morrissette belies a wonderfully individual voice, at once searing gritty and gorgeously soulful voice – was there, too, with Hanley also swapping on some fabulous lead/harmony vocal interplay.
Tremendous tuneage alternated with this latter pair leading a joyous and spine-tingling song selection, re-minting such diverse covers as Tom Waits’s ‘Martha’, Janis’s ‘Another Little Piece of My Heart’ and a lovely ballad from O Neill called ‘Just Be You’ - which she told us was “by a guy called Richie McCoy from Limerick, and if you know him or see him, tell him I’m looking for him.” She seemed like she meant it in a good way. . .
Moving on to Ralph McTell’s ‘Clare to Here’, its famous lines, ‘And the only time I feel alright/Is when I'm into drinking’, were followed by the gleeful ad-lib “True story!”  - and this sadly started a slide, regrettably led by the ladies, into increasingly ribald re-interpretations of classics like Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ and Dolly’s Jolene, over which it’s best to draw a veil. Offering blessed respite from such degradations were moment like when Shannon leant across and urgently poked Coyne’s knee, with the words, “Éamonn! Polka!”
In between numbers, there was a pure dead Weegie brief encounter outside the bar, somewhere around 2am. Three fairly tall/strapping Celtic veterans, out for a smoke, found themselves suddenly confronted by a wee, wild-haired, unmistakably Glesca senior citizen sporting a cowboy hat, who’d been hirpling down the road when he spotted them and veered their way, swinging his crutch like a claymore, roaring, “Who ARE ye!?!” For a fleeting fight/flight instant, our smokers clocked the potential weapon, approaching head height – but only his head height, about a foot below theirs, and also fleetingly, before he just as abruptly veered off again and went on his way, muttering.
What with Celtic Connections being almost as much a blethering festival as a music one, conversations abound where especially choice phrases are coined. (It’s all communication, ultimately.) One such the other night witnessed the lovely veteran sound engineer fondly known as Dinner; formally as Invershneckie’s one and only Alan Mackinnon, recounting his briefing of the mostly young team in the Concert Hall’s New Auditorium, in which he’s running the desk this year. His TL;DR summation was both masterful and moving: “As far as I’m concerned, if we’re not emotionally affected by what we’re doing, then we’re not doing it right.”
Talking of choice remarks, yesterday’s round-up of social-media raptures inadvertently omitted a gem from fiddler Adam Sutherland, dwelling delightedly – but with maybe just a soupçon of pique - on Dreamers’ Circus’s Saturday-night spectacular, at St Andrews in the Square: “Kind of unreasonably excellent, actually!” As vouched by multiple sources, few acts shift CDs by the boxload at the merch table like these dazzling three Danes did, after both their own show and playing the Late Night Sessions, and they left Glasgow having won another horde of fervent new converts.