Americana meets Drygate Brewery: Celtic Connections remains impressive in its ability to fuse.
A major part of this year’s festival was devoted to Americana music – folk, blues, jazz and country being only some examples of all that this term encompasses. The American roots music, as the genre is also known by, has clear similarities to Celtic folk and traditional music, as they share the same goal – to preserve and honour traditional sounds. It was this style that the band the Hackles and their opening act Lizzie No. showcased.
The Hackles are a Oregon-based band, which have recently expanded into a trio formed by Kati Claborn (guitar, vocals, banjo and clarinet), Luke Ydstie (guitar and vocals) and Halli Anderson (fiddle, guitar and vocals). Their folk style combines traditional instruments with beautiful vocals, creating a unique atmosphere that oscillates between joyful play and sombre ballads.
The venue hosting this performance was the Drygate Brewery. While at first this might have seemed like an odd choice, the beer distillery boasted a large performance area with good seating and a well lit stage. Colourful lights decorated the room, which gave it a warm and festive feeling, as well as inducing a more relaxed festival vibe. This set up contrasted greatly with that of the first concert I attended, which took place in a dark downstairs venue and had little to no seating. Drygate was a lot more welcoming and accessible for the older crowd. The relaxed and comfortable environment helped keep the audience excited, and avoided early exhaustion.
The opening act, Lizzy No., started on time and eased the crowd into the evening with her beautiful vocals and playful accompaniment. When she wasn’t playing the guitar, or the miniature harp strapped to her body, she entertained the crowd with jokes and relatable anecdotes about her life, including the memorable quote: “when the boss makes a dollar I make a dime, that’s why I write songs on company time”. The crowd responded well to her, and she left the stage to the sound of loud applause.
Following a short break, the main act came on stage. Much like Lizzie No., The Hackles were humorous and charismatic, interacting with each other and the crowd between songs. The combination of instruments, especially the inclusion of the clarinet, created delicate and beautiful melodies. These complex musical landscapes underpinned clever and unique lyrics, often deceivingly simple, yet overwhelmingly well crafted. All three band members possessed unique vocal qualities which produced entrancing harmonies and striking melodies.Including quirky song names such as steve and elvis, the concert was filled with amazing songs which touched on themes of grief, anger, climate disaster, and love among others. While most of the songs performed were written by Luke, the concert also included songs composed by Kati and Halli, allowing each of the band members to take a turn in the spotlight. Once the concert finished, the Hackles were loudly praised, resulting in an encore at the audience’s request. Finally, the crowd was met with free gifts from the brewery, which made an already lovely night all the more joyful.