As Celtic Connections drew to a close this weekend, the Old Fruitmarket saw a performance of two diverse but fascinating bands on Friday. The much heralded Highlands and Islands group Blazin’ Fiddles, with their trademark showcasing of traditional Celtic music delivered with sucker-punch ferocity, headlined the evening, with the support from the Quebecoise all female a capella group Galant, tu perds ton temps - translated roughly as ‘Lover-boy, you’re wasting your time’.
After a delayed start to the proceedings, the Quebec quintet took some time to warm up and get the restless crowd on their side. But in full flow they were inspired. The group did justice to their name, reciting songs of female empowerment and female heritage. Without cliche, this truly was a real girl-power group worthy of the title. Some songs were no more than hums and beats, backed by syncopated percussion, and had an almost African world music edge to them. Unexpected, but worth stumbling across.
Blazin’ Fiddles came on stage around 11pm, and immediately set about getting the hands clapping. At first it all seemed a bit too much like a band going through the motions, and attempts at whipping up the crowd seemed slightly contrived. The music was relentless, but lacked a certain spark. It took a change of pace, to some slower, more heartfelt tunes, to really grab the audience’s attention. These pieces showed off a more multilayered arrangement than the sounds of 5 fiddles in unison.
That said, when the band picked up the pace again, the audience was more than happy to go with them, and this time the energy was really there. Apart from a short break to showcase a short country and western duet, this was exhilarating, raucous stuff from the band . A set of short ‘angry Highland’ reels was punctuated by cheers from the crowd, and the Old Fruitmarket was soon scene to a cascade of mini-ceilidhs, both on the floor and up on the balcony. Both performers and crowd had clearly shaken off their earlier sluggishness. The dancing continued right to the end of the extended encore and no doubt on to the late night Festival Club.
In short, Friday evening was exactly what Celtic Connections does so well. If Fiddles were the Celtic, then Galant were the connection. The pairing of these acts summed up the curious link between Scottish and world music that defines this vital festival.
Words: Graeme Jarvie