Celtic Connections is not something that will be new to many of your ears, but what I was lucky enough to experience at this institution of a Glasgow-based festival might just surprise you. Heralded as one of the best things about winter in Glasgow, Celtic Connections, is an annual folk, roots and world music festival. 2,100 musicians from around the world come to perform across 18 days of concerts, ceilidhs, talks, art, exhibitions, workshops and free events. This year, I made it along to a few select gigs that were as diverse as the sounds of an oscillating synth wave.

Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5

Kicking off the festival for me were the headliners Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5. Well known for their audience participatory shenanigans and for storming the festival circuit every summer, I was hopeful for more of the same. Before we were graced with their glittery-bearded-sequined-rainbow-flag presence, Carla J. Easton brought a sultry warm up, so spine tinglingly charming it’d make you want to put on a brew and curl up by your proverbial fire. Working with the likes of Arcade Fire and British Sea Power producer Howard Bilerman, Carla released her solo debut album after branching off from the highly successful Teen Canteen venture and after performing under the alias ETTE for a wee while. She has been making musical waves across the Glasgow scene as well as performing alongside legendary sensations The Vaselines. She even rocked up in yellow in true Dijon 5 spirit.

Ain’t nothing like a Dijon 5 show though. The audience was a literal sea of yellow, with glittery faces, hats, and other sparkling adornments in solidarity with the band of the moment. They rocked up in true style, doing ballerina twirls with folk in the audience, creating mass movements of dancing feet, from the left to the right of the classic Old Fruitmarket setting. Their sound is un-pinnable and their lyrics as frank as the day is long. Their capacity to create rapport is like watching art in motion. Not to mention their tunes giving off the best dance-like-no-one’s-watching, bone deep, can’t-keep-my-feet-from-moving kinda vibe. From ‘Disco Colin’ to ‘Peace, Love, and Mustard’, there’s a wee bit of greatness for everyone. If you have yet to experience Colonel Mustard, get yourself along for an infinitely memorable show.

Kettle of Kites

Part two of celtic connections was a much more intimate, low-key affair with headliners Kettle of Kites at the Hug and Pint in Glasgow’s west end. Kicking of that evening was Man of the Minch. Singer-songwriter Pedro Cameron is the name behind the sound. One that is characterised by traditional Celtic sounds and a finesse for storytelling. Not just a talented man, but also winner of the Open Stage at Killin Music Festival, as well as the Up and Coming Artist of the Year at the 2019 Scots Trad Awards. His tunes are rinse worthy, and heartbeatingly endearing. The softest of subtly delivered sounds, crafted with a skillset so worthy of the reputation that precedes him.

Following on was Michael Timmons, a humbling solo act. A songwriter from Glasgow, providing a reminder of how bursting this city is with musical genius. He brings dark humour as well as a knack for beautiful tunes so dreamy you’ll be on cloud 9 before you’re steamin’. His capacity for enchantment is refreshing and creates an atmosphere so intimate you’ll forget where you are. The reverbing guitar sounds melt in amongst vocals so serenely honed, you’ll wonder why you never listened to this man sooner. Kettle of Kites finished off the night, showcasing their new, space like adventure album. Filled with alien sounds and experimentally interesting meanders through noise and time, it was an experience that stood out against the backdrop of what had gone before. Travelling from afar, Kettle of Kites are made up of musicians across Europe, with origins in Glasgow too. Their new album Arrows was released end of last year, changing things up from their previous work.

Despite the small look into what Celtic Connections had on offer, from these shows alone, it’s no wonder it’s become a much-anticipated establishment in Glasgow. Breaking up those cold winter months between festival seasons, it’s sure to be a regular in the Discovery calendar.