The Hug & Pint opens three weeks of traditional Scottish music.
On Thursday 19 January, the Celtic Connections 2023 festival commenced. Deceptively sparse in terms of musical acts, this first day served as a taster to what was to come. Eager to immerse myself into the musical scene, I jumped at the chance to attend one of the first concerts of the festival, Rachel Dadd.
Rachel Dadd is a singer-songwriter from Bristol, who has played alongside a range of UK artists, including Laura Marling and Sons of Noel and Adrian. Her music is largely influenced by her time living in Japan, resulting in a folk-pop style with lo-fi tendencies. Most recently, she released a new album called Kaleidoscope, which explores the overlap and combination of synth and contemporary jazz.
The venue was a pub in the west end of Glasgow: The Hug & Pint. Small yet comfortable, the pub had a friendly atmosphere and food which smelled fantastic. Having never been before, I walked around a bit and discovered that the concert was in fact going to take place in a room beneath the pub. Much like a room in a nightclub, it was mostly bare, except for a small stage at the front and a dj/sound technician booth at the back. I had arrived at the concert a little bit before 7pm, which was the advertised starting time; however, after walking in I noticed a board announcing that an opening act would begin at 7.30pm and Rachel Daad would not be on until 9pm. I found this frustrating, especially since I had gone to the concert alone. With nothing else to do for the 45 minute wait, I sat at a table and had a drink.
Finally, people started to go to the concert room, and I followed them down. The basement room was not very large, but thankfully the concert was not overcrowded, so the audience fit comfortably. During the opening act, starring Lizi Clark, the room slowly got fuller as concert goers trickled in. I had not expected an opening act, as it had not been properly advertised on the festival page, unlike the events for other concerts later on in the week. However, Lizi Clark’s performance was very enjoyable. She had a friendly onstage persona and played very well. At the end of her performance the crowd cheered loudly, clearly in agreement with me. Following the conclusion of the opening act there was a short break, which many crowd members used as an excuse to refill their glasses or rest their legs.
Eventually the main act began. In contrast to the opening act, Rachel Dadd’s band included a variety of musical instruments such as a stand-up bass, a guitar, piano, drums and other percussion instruments (a collection reminiscent of a jazz ensemble). Their new album, Kaleidoscope, dominated the majority of the concert, with the occasional throwback to her previous work. Rachel’s singing was enjoyable and nicely accompanied by the artists on stage. I found that the jazzy elements incorporated into the music were especially interesting, and that the musical lines of the stand-up bass added a unique quality to several of the pieces. The onstage presence of the band was good, while also being rather chaotic. Overall, the concert was wholesome and entertaining. The audience seemed to enjoy the performance, even requesting an encore at the end.
Some songs that stood out to me were Children of the Galaxy and Moon sails, both from their new album, and Arrows from her album FLUX.
Sadly, several elements outside of the performer’s control affected the overall effect of the concert. For one, the sound mixing was not very good, which resulted in the bass line being too loud at times and causing distortion. Furthermore, the bathrooms in the far corner of the concert hall were illuminated by bright lights which did not turn off, and featured a loud door that was repeatedly opened and closed throughout the night. Finally, the venue presented some accessibility issues. Not only were the stairs down to the concert room very steep, there were also no seats in the venue. The lack of chairs might not have been an issue for a different event, but considering the overwhelming elderly demographic of the audience, the lack of resting areas was noticeable and even led to premature departures and less enthusiasm from the crowd.
Maybe the Hug & Pint was not the best location to host a Celtic Connections concert, but I am appreciative of the effort the festival makes to incorporate different venues into their programme, showcasing how music is present throughout the city. While this was not my favourite of the concerts I attended during the festival, I did enjoy the intimate feel it provided, and have now added some new folk songs to my Spotify list.