Stupendous and unforgettable

As Calum MacCrimmon so eloquently put it on Facebook earlier today, “Holy goodness gracious thank fudge for Mondays.” Or perhaps you’ll empathise even more with Ross Couper’s somewhat pithier summation: “My everything hurts.” Needless to say, they have no-one but themselves to blame, having used yesterday’s riotous Sunday Funday session at the Flying Duck as an extended pre-match warm-up before taking the Festival Club stage around 2.30am, among an approximately 10-strong ad hoc line-up also featuring Laura-Beth Salter, Jenn Butterworth, James Mackintosh, members of Rura and a couple of brass players from Neil Yates’s Undivided show at the Concert Hall earlier on. The result was an utterly monstrous, utterly glorious musical rampage that immediately enshrined The Flying Ducks – as they called themselves for the occasion – in the Festival Club annals, and rounded off a truly epic weekend’s music and revelry. One could only imagine any last Showcase Scotland delegates who were still upright thinking they’d made their discovery of the festival, but being doomed to disappointment upon learning that this particular band isn’t really available for bookings.

While the Festival Club is primarily – and justly – renowned for compiling many of Celtic Connections’ main headliners into its schedules, it’s always been a tradition, ever since the Club first started, that the most stupendous and unforgettable sets often come from ‘scratch’ line-ups hastily cobbled together to plug a gap on the night. Back in the day, it would be people like Aidan O’Rourke, Mike McGoldrick, Tony McManus, John McCusker, Iain Copeland and their ilk who’d find themselves flying by the seat of their pants, while several years on, this was how the Treacherous Orchestra was born. Two decades on from the festival’s maiden outing, during which time it’s undergone such enormous change and growth, it’s wonderful to see this tradition continuing to thrive, now in the hands of a whole new generation.

It had previously escaped our attention, but some observant soul in the Celtic Connections office has noticed a distinct wildlife-safari theme among the band names in this year’s programme. We have a pachyderm (Elephant Revival), some big cats (The Leopards), some turtles (as in Trampled By), together with Three Blind Wolves, some Stray Birds and a Capercaillie – not to mention some Deep Dark Woods for them to roam in. It’s a jungle out there.
As a final wee coda to the weekend’s festival shows at the Hydro, two exhausted members of the core production team were overheard afterwards discussing the nightmarish logistics of Saturday’s International Burns Concert in particular, what with the dozens of musicians involved, including a 54-piece orchestra, and the 20-odd complex changeovers, plus the small matter of the BBC filming the show for broadcast immediately afterwards. “It was amazing, though,” said one of the staff, as the fact that they’d actually pulled it off began to sink in. “Yes, it was,” agreed the other. “Stupid, but amazing.” Could we have stumbled across Celtic Connections’ new unofficial strapline?