Spoilt for choice

​Even among last night’s spoilt-for-choice line-up of 12 different concerts – nearly half of them sold out – the indisputable main event was Ireland 1916, which saw the Concert Hall packed to the rafters, commemorating the Easter Rising in company with Irish traditional legends The Chieftains, and a glittering array of very special guests. Despite the very Hibernian theme, local musical colour was abundantly represented, with contributions from Eddi Reader, Alyth McCormack, the Glasgow Gaelic Choir and a squad of pipers, but what really made many people’s night, offstage and on, was the appearance of iconic US singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson. For pianist/accordionist Brian ‘Beard’ McAlpine, who featured among the lavish cast, accompanying the man himself in such classic compositions as ‘For the Good Times’, ‘I Can't Stop Loving You’ and – of course – ‘Me and Bobby McGee’, truly exceeded his wildest dreams: rarely has a bigger grin been shared on Facebook. And for those who couldn’t be there, the show was recorded by BBC Alba, so keep an eye out for the future broadcast.

As many will already be aware, Kristofferson is also a late addition to this year’s Roaming Roots Revue line-up – apparently he’s good pals with our own Roddy Hart, who curates that show and leads its house band. Kristofferson has a gig in Edinburgh tonight, but after that, with Roaming Roots taking place next Saturday, we’re told he’s just hanging out in Glasgow for the week (well, why wouldn’t you?), so who knows what gigs he might drop into over the next few days: keep your eyes peeled if you like spotting them slebs.
We’ve had lots of other nice social media feedback already - thank you kindly. Perhaps the best so far was a particularly memorable meme (complete with visual depiction): “THAT MOMENT WHEN THE MUSIC IS SO GOOD, YOU TURN INTO A TRANSDIMENSIONAL SPACE GOAT,” tagged with, “me at the BBC World on 3 show”. Another happy punter, heading for tonight’s Pilgrimer gig, commented, “@ccfest Every year, new experiences I wouldn't normally consider: Joni Mitchell album I've never heard, translated into Scots? Yes please!”, while yet another, tweeting from the Mackintosh Church last night, reported that “Common Ground @ccfest @admiralfallowhq already shaping up to be another of those ‘I was there’ nights”.

Following the Chieftains show, the performers partied long and heartily back at the Holiday Inn – perhaps a little too much so for one American member of the entourage, who went AWOL in the wee hours at one point. With colleagues becoming increasingly concerned as to her whereabouts, the hotel’s night manager – who’s worked throughout Celtic Connections for many a year - was able to locate her via the hotel’s CCTV links, and went out to fetch her back in from the cold, declaring as he exited: “I haven’t lost a guest yet, and I’m not starting now.” Although he can when he wants to – he was last spotted on his way to awaken up a gentlemen who’d wandered in around 6am in search of breakfast. On being informed that service on a Saturday didn’t start until 7.30, said gentleman said he’d just wait, only to fall promptly asleep in an armchair in the bar – though seemingly he wasn’t in fact a Holiday Inn guest, and so getting lost was indeed to be his fate. Even though we had witnessed the hotel’s morning rolls delivery before the “night” fully ended...

Also at the Holiday Inn, there has been much rejoicing among the cider-drinking contingent of its Celtic clientele, with the introduction of Stowford Press – a proper cider, none of your synthetic Magners-style rubbish – on tap. Not only that, but compared to the Festival Club’s comparable draught, the Holiday Inn is now actually cheaper than the Art School – only by 5p, but still. Happy days. (Or nights.)

This year’s ten nights at the Festival Club kicked off in suitably rambunctious style last night, with a stonking line-up including the first ever performance by new Glasgow super-boyband Ímar, comprising Mànran piper Ryan Murphy, Rura’s Adam Brown on bodhrán, concertina demon Mohsen Amini, and Barrule’s Tomás Callister and Adam Rhodes, on fiddle and guitar/bouzouki. They only played for 20 minutes, that being the sum total of material they’ve so far arranged – they’re that new – but even still, fearsome scarcely covered it. There were also excellent and completely contrasting sets from The Shee and Iain Morrison, before We Banjo 3 comprehensively blew the roof off, clearly relishing every second, with a set including a brilliant Irish/country revamp of the Jackson 5’s  ‘I Want You Back’. Again, though, at least one punter got just a bit too carried away with it all, dancing so enthusiastically that they ended up with a broken arm. Mind you, it’s a wonder there haven’t been more major injuries at this festival over the years, given the miraculous state to which some folk are frequently transported.

The Late Night Sessions’ new home at Drygate is also proving popular, boasting the ideal set up of having the bar and the music in separate rooms, accommodating both those who want to blether and those who’ve come to listen. The ambience is doubtless being enhanced, too, by Drygate’s specially-produced Festival Brew, a French-style beer (to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Glasgow and Marseille’s twinning, a partnership also reflected in this year’s festival programme), which has actually been infused with music as it matures. Piper John Mulhearn, with Findlay Napier on guitar, played alongside the Drygate brewing team as its ingredients were combined, while speakers placed inside the fermentation tanks continued the musical accompaniment throughout the two-week conditioning process. The perfect additional excuse to check out our new, mellower club space - should you need one.