Showcase Scotland

With Showcase Scotland now in full swing, we extend a particular welcome to our friends from Ireland, the event’s International Partner for 2018. While the bulk of the 180 Showcase delegates, regardless of lengthy flights from all around the globe, have arrived with unmistakably fresh faces to hit Celtic Connections’ home straight (unmistakable, at least, to those of us lucky/foolhardy enough to have been here throughout), most of the Irish contingent and a bunch of others underwent some intensive pre-match training over last weekend at TradFest in Dublin.


For Showcase’s producers, Active Events, nailing down the logistical intricacies of this double whammy - co-ordinating travel arrangements and shuttling delegates, including transatlantic ones, back and forth across the Irish sea – made for a decidedly hectic start to the year, in the midst of which they got a call from one delegate who was determined to see Skerryvore and We Banjo 3, and couldn’t understand why his Showcase pass wouldn’t enable him to do this. He did eventually, reluctantly, accept that the fact of the gig’s taking place nearly a fortnight before Showcase started - on Celtic Connections’ opening Saturday - as an insurmountable obstacle, even if the admirably patient Active staff member managed to refrain from suggesting that if he brought his own time machine (and paid for a ticket), he was welcome to try.


Among the Showcase acts regaling delegates last night was Glasgow-based five-piece Ímar, whose dazzling performance in the Strathclyde Suite saw them inundated afterwards with more offers of gigs that they can possibly fit in unless they clone themselves. Among their jaw-dropping tunes and some excellent banter, it was intriguing to observe the details of their sartorial approach. As a band, they definitely go for the smart over casual, but each member has their own distinct interpretation of ‘smart’: collars and ties for Ryan Murphy and Adam Rhodes; T-shirt and ripped jeans – but with a jacket – for Mohsen Amini. Adam Brown sported short sleeves and a waistcoat, while all-in-black Tom Callister went open-necked with shirt-tails out. Is this all carefully planned and co-ordinated, we wonder, or simply how things turn out?


Talking of stage-wear, ex-Blazin’ Fiddler Allan Henderson is apparently so excited about tonight’s big reunion show, for the band’s 20th anniversary, that he planned his outfit a month ago. There may, however, have been a last-minute substitution of some garment/s, as he was spotted hurrying past the Holiday Inn earlier, bearing carrier-bags from a local gentleman’s outfitters – though this may simply be because, living on Uist, he doesn’t get to the shops very much.


In a lovely Facebook tribute to the Blazers, their former long-term sound engineer, Alan ‘Dinner’ Mackinnon – lamenting that he couldn’t be at the gig – rightly hailed them as still representing “the vanguard of the Scottish renaissance, talented, confident, educated and good craic.” He went on to mention their annual fiddle school, Blazin’ in Beauly – describing it as “a kind of cross between Royston Vasey and The Wicker Man” (which hopefully won’t put off any potential
students) - before signing himself off:

“Sir Henri Laphroaig De Noir of Cluthiebootle.
Silent Meadows
Home for bewildered ex sound engineers.”

You’ll certainly be there in spirit, Dinner.


A venerable repository of tradition met the very latest in musical technology last night. A young local pal of Michael McGoldrick’s arrived towards closing-time in the Holiday Inn bar, keen to show him a prototype 3D-printed whistle, which another friend of hers had just made. Among others, McGoldrick was sitting with former Dubliner John Sheahan – in town for Declan O’Rourke’s gig tonight – whose multi-instrumental talents of course include whistle, although his were customarily made from tin, not powdered plastic. Sheahan was mighty intrigued by this new-fangled variant, and between them he and McGoldrick gave it a thorough expert testing, in the form of a brief last-minute session (the bar now being shut, and the staff somewhat pointedly – understandably - clearing up) after guitarist Jenn Butterworth arrived from Folkytown and Dermot Byrne joined in on accordion.