I loved Japan with all of its traditional festivals but I missed the Glasgow festivals something rotten. Unlike THE Edinburgh Festival, which is a month long cultural punch in the face, Glasgow spreads its festivals across the calendar. The lovely thing about this is, for locals it’s a lot easier to budget and spread events out rather than spending 100 pounds in one day and reeling from the visual and aural ideas. My favourites include Celtic Connections, the film festival, comedy festival and the West End festival.
I’ve been craving live folk like a junkie. The closest I could get in Japan was a sublime bluesy folk artist local to Sapporo called Taketo Ooe. Nice guy with a gruff smokey voice but where’s the banter, the fiddle, the -perpetually holding a beer and beer- fans?
I went to see The Burns Unit tonight at the Fruitmarket in Merchant City. For one, I forgot what a great folkie venue that place is. Also, I have loved Karine Polwart since I discovered her on the Ballad of the Book providing musical beauty to Edwin Morgan lyrics in The Good Years. If she sang lullabies to everyone, there would be no war. I’m certain of it.
I didn’t know a lot of the group other than Karine Polwart and Emma Pollock but from YouTube they sounded fascinating. It was an ecleptic mix that kept you on your toes although I did wish they had more practice time. Some of their “brand new” songs needed a real polishing and took you out of the mood. I can understand though, with 8 diverse and well-establish musicians it must be hard to get them all in the same room at the same time. But their established songs are very good: Send Them Kids to War, Since We’ve Fallen Out, All of This in Writing, and their last encore song (I forget the name) but it actually allows each vocalist a moment to shine.
MC Soom T was marvellous in bringing the tempo and genre up to date, Karine was divine as always, Michael Johnston was a multi-talented compere and King Creosote was just plain brilliant (in an understated backseat way).
Anyway it was a great wee welcome back to the Glasgow folk scene. There’s a plethora of immense talent playing right now across the city from Seth Lakeman (fiddler extraordinaire), Dick Gaughan (angry!), Roddy Woomble (Idlewild) and much much more I’d like to see but money constraints prevent it. Ah well, there’s always the free gigs and next year. I think folk may be one of the major factors holding me in Glasgow.