Celtic Connections cured my January blues

I KNOW I'm getting older now that I'd rather stay at home than go to a gig that doesn't have allocated seating and access to bountiful, pristine toilets.

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The idea of braving the post-gig taxi queue free-for-all usually sees me as the designated driver.

And call me old-fashioned, but I'm none too partial to being elbowed, sworn at or having to perform a tentative clothing-sniff to determine if the sprayed contents of the stage-bound plastic pint tumbler really is beer.

So thank you Celtic Connections for restoring my faith in live music.

Why can't all gigs – and all audiences – follow the same code of conduct that Celtic Connections fans seem to abide by?

These rules are completely unwritten, yet adhered to by the audiences at every show I attended this year.

There's little talking but plenty of listening; there's "excuse me's" in place of barging in; and there's gig-goers forming an orderly queue to have their albums signed by the artists who have just performed. Can you imagine that happening elsewhere?

I remember watching its self-policing in action a few years back at the Danny Kyle Open Stage, where any nattering during the performances was quickly silenced by those who were there to appreciate the music.

I thought it would be an insult for an audience to be labelled "attentive" in a city renowned for its raucous appreciation, but that's just the compliment paid by Irish duo The Lost Brothers at the Old Fruitmarket on the closing night of the 20th annual festival.

And you could hear a pin drop when Dublin Oscar-winner Glen Hansard dispensed with microphone and all instruments for his haunting tribute to a friend losing his battle against cancer.

What a great advert for Glasgow and for Scotland that more than 2000 acts from as far afield as India, America, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Mexico, Mongolia, Mali, Angola and Senegal could bring 18 days of musical sunshine to the city.

Not everyone was happy, though. The cabbie who transported us through sodden streets last Sunday night said he thought the Celtic-ness of the Mongolian band was "tenuous".

Tenuous. That word stuck with me, not least because I'd expected a chat about the rain.

That eagerness to adopt all cultures and musical styles is probably what I like most about Celtic Connections.

It's the reason the festival's signature ad hoc collaborations work, and why you never know quite what to expect of any given gig.

Roll on next January. Who would have thought that of the dullest month in our calendar year?

Arts and Entertainment

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