It was obvious all along that on Friday night, Feb 3, the Old Fruitmarket would be dancing and yelling wildly. With two major Celtic party teams on stage, any other possibility was out of the question.
As the headline act, the current lineup of Peatbog Faeries took the stage in dramatic backlighting and instantly revved up the party machine. Not a small one, either – I counted eleven people on stage.
A football squad’s worth of musicians can generate a mighty wall of sound, or a finely layered and tightly knit tapesty, re: EW&F or Parliament/Funkadelic. The challenge in either case is keeping it together both musically and soundwise.
The Faeries were good but plagued by apparent problems with in-ear monitors and what I felt were often slightly too much extended tunes. “A party-Celtic version of the Grateful Dead, perhaps”, I mused as I swayed to tunes that just went on.
Perhaps my wee bit critical mood was also triggered by the very bass-heavy mix. Even the fab Ross Couper and his fiddle sometimes got run over by the bass rumble that harkened to Mike Rutherford’s bass pedals in the heyday of prog era Genesis. I don’t really think that’s optimal for trad-based music, to be honest. So yes, a good gig, fine playing and a wild crowd, but not quite as perfect as I had hoped for.
Or perhaps the opening act had taken all my surplus energy. Mec Lir, in a very much bigger incarnation than the official four-piece band, were positively explosive and I admit to jumping and hollering throughout their set.
I am biased, I admit: I love their album Livewire and I was so surprised when I noticed that Celtic Connections, in their description of Mec Lir, had used the line “how supercharged can Celtic music be?” from my review of that brilliant album. So I really wanted to see this gig – and they did not disappoint.
The core lineup of the band is all-star stuff: Thomas Callister and Adam Rhodes from Barrule and Ímar, Adam Brown from RURA and Ímar, and keyboard man David KilgallonX. On stage, this quartet was expanded to eight people, including the banjo master Ciaran Ryan of Dallahan (and splendid solo stuff too).
Callister as the lead guy and emcee kept things going with fiddle and banter, and as smashing tunes from Livewire followed one another, me and the crowd lapped it all up. Best of all, it didn’t sound like a lot of people playing, it sounded like a band: a tight package aiming the modern Celtic dance blast right at you.
Way cool, loved it and gave Thomas a quick but warm thank you from a fan when I saw him at another CC gig. This is so nice about CC and other trad festivals, you can just go and say hi and thank you to these brilliant people. It’s simply the best 👍
4 thoughts on “Celtic Connections 2023: Peatbog Faeries, with Mec Lir”
David Kilgallon on the keys for Mec Lir
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Thanks so much for this! I wrote it on the plane back to Finland and there was no wifi; I naturally meant to add the name before publishing but when it’s 1:35 am and you’vs travelled all day… Embarrassing, so thank you so much for you kind intervention 😊👍
Ha ha, you’re welcome. I happened to see the gap and thought I would help out. I don’t think David’s “of” any other band, might be wrong. He was in the Atholl Arms with Tomas Callister and a bunch of other musicians Saturday night after Duncan James Mackenzie’s gig. I had a ticket for Peatbogs and Mec Lir but ashamed to say I didn’t make it. Your advice on standing at the back by the souind desk is good, especially at the Old Fruitmarket.
Loving Folk Notes: keep up the good work!
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Thank you kindly, I’m very happy if my ramblings entertain folks 🙂
Btw, the drummer at the Black Cuillin concert was not the always great Mr Mackintosh. I will try to find out who that brilliant fellow was…