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Celtic Connections 2011: My Story So Far

I had great plans of updating this after every gig but I forgot I’d have to fit in things like sleeping and eating, and all the other bits and pieces of work I have going on! I’ve photographed loads of artists/bands in the last couple of weeks and am trying to catch up with everything else.

People keep asking me about the gigs and what I think of the bands – this might be a terrible admission but I rarely hear the music. I’m so focused on what’s happening through my camera lens that I think my aural abilities shut down! I bought fancy earplugs last year to protect my hearing at gigs, and made the decision to get ones made for musicians so that I can still hear the music… but it appears I only have the concentration for the task in hand when I’m at a concert. It seems terribly ignorant not to really experience the show everyone is there to see, sorry!

Having said that, some folk really do stand out and can distract me from my photography. Treacherous Orchestra were the most enticing band I saw at last year’s Celtic Connections and they were fantastic again this year. Their raucous take on traditional tunes is exciting and they have an incredible stage presence, their charm and enthusiasm wins over everyone in the room.

I’m not sure what it says about me when I admit the other band that has won my attention this year is Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Another supergroup of talented musicians who push the expected boundaries of their instruments, they rocked a packed ABC last night. It’s the first time I’d seen them but I was delighted by their camera-loving antics on stage and loved the music. I was also incredibly jealous of the Blue Peter badges they’d been awarded the day before!

I can never stay for a whole gig but I really wish I could have hung around to enjoy both of those gigs in full.

I didn’t have a chance to experience the music of the Monumental Scott gig but it was exciting to see Bill Paterson on stage, narrating Phil Cunningham and John McCusker‘s creation. Laura Cantrell was great at the City Halls on Sunday; it was very quiet so I couldn’t take many photos (they’ll be online soon) but it did mean I could listen to the music a little more. It was a popular show: I bumped into two members of Belle & Sebastian and one Attic Light!

One other band who deserve a special mention is OqueStrada. I believe it was the Portuguese musos’ first visit to Celtic Connections (to support Cheikh Lô) and they didn’t get the warmest of welcomes at the airport. Their double bass got lost in transit but they didn’t let a little thing like a missing instrument get in the way. They just made a new one. Just fifteen minutes before they were due on stage, the musician and Steve Grimes (looking after the venue’s electrics) put their heads together and created something worthy of a Blue Peter make. Using a plastic bin, a bundle of rags and a rope, they produced something amazing, and soundchecked it seconds before the start of the gig. Talk about ‘Make Do and Mend’! Having seen the band perform, it’s hard to imagine anything dampening their enthusiasm.

I am going to attempt to shoot six more gigs between now and the end of the festival on Sunday. All my photos will appear on Flickr and Facebook within a few hours… hopefully ;)

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