It just gets better.
The line-up at the Clickimin Centre on Saturday night had, like a football team, the look on paper of a winning team. The coupon came in.
The Hot Seats were up first, a kind of jug band version of last year’s Pokey LaFarge. This five piece band from Virginia must be one of the most versatile group of musicians around. I was confused at washroom time, you have to be quick so not to miss anything, but these guys almost had me heading for home in a state of dementia. When I left the hall, for a mere 30 seconds (I’m quick) the front man was definitely playing a banjo, you come back and it has grown into a double bass! Now, that’s versatile!
The set swung along in great style, a kind of 30s swing, prohibition classic style. Bass, banjo, guitar and the vastly underrated washboard provide a pounding rhythm section.
Peaches, a lovely swing number, wasn’t really about soft fruit, “innuendo by the punnet” as my faithful festival quote source quipped. The quick paced Looking for Money, a song recorded by the Chicken Chokers (I kid you not) back in the 80s, was brilliant. But, what made me nip up to reception and buy my first CD of the festival was the awesomely titled I Wouldn’t Take Her to a Dog Fight. The title line is followed by “not even if she had a chance to win”. That’s worth the few quid alone.
Alison Brown has visited these shores three times previously, she’s finger pickin’ good. Yes I know!
This time the bluegrass banjo maestro was joined by hubby Garry West, Irishman John Doyle on guitar and vocals and Casey Driessen. All performed wonderfully. They were joined later on by Eammon Coyne from Treacherous Orchestra. He, as Brown put it, added “Catholic banjo” as opposed to the “protestant banjo” Brown provides – I never knew of such a thing but it makes sense, the former will presumably be freer of expression, take drink and be able to play on a Sunday.
The good old staples of the Temperance Reel and The Mason’s Apron were my highlight but many were blown away John Doyle’s solo.
Lewie Peterson had confessed to me earlier in the day to being a little, well nervous, about the prospect of being squeezed into a bill between big bluegrass hitters Alison Brown and J P Cormier. He did mention the brown stuff that sometimes hits air extractors. He needn’t have worried at all.
Local boys Väir were in good company but they were certainly on a par with them all. Pretty bloody good indeed for only their third gig.
Now, firstly, that tea chest Erik Peterson slaps, it looks damn good fun but Shetland’s number one would need to watch his hands.
Lewie and Erik are joined by Jonny Polson and Ryan Couper and the quartet opened my eyes with their range of skills. Erik has a voice akin to that of Neil Finn of Crowded House/Spit Enz fame, husky but tuneful and he sang Black is the Colour, the Damien Rice song popularised by the Christy Moore number, perfectly.
Väir are fresh but there is something inherently “Shetland” about the sound they produce. They were to pop up again later in the concert but look out for these gents.
J P Cormier and the Elliot brothers were here to stun us all again. I could have just cut and pasted the previous night’s concert words here but the show, setting and play list were different. He left out the big songs but filled the gaps with more of the same stunning picking and guitar duelling with Bill Elliot.
J P recalled two young boys at a guitar workshop from a previous visit to Shetland. He told us these boys were inspired by his playing and had had autographs given to them. He introduced them onto the stage to play alongside him, step up Jonny Polson and Ryan Couper, along with the Peterson brothers of course. A fitting collaboration and a treat for the audience.
The floor filled for the final act of the night. For the second night of watching, it was clear to see that Mànran are a band to dance to, no mistake. Multi-award winners, they were at their pumping best again, perhaps spurned on by the large dancing crowd at the front of the hall. A fine end to another fine concert.
The last great hurrah tonight, foy night.