Last night I went back up to the old Fruitmarket for my final Celtic Connections gig of the year. It was a bit of a strange experience – partly because I was entirely by myself (this being the ticket I got in exchange for one of HD’s as he’d had to miss a concert being ill last week), and partly because culturally I found it really difficult to connect with both the audience and the main act.
Firstly though, this is a photo of the support act, Moishe’s Bagel, who I thought were absolutely brilliant. [As an aside, I’m also really pleased with the photo, as it was taken with a 4-5 second exposure, no flash and no tripod, just me hanging over the balcony holding my breath and trying to keep still. Proving, for the idiots who annoyed me so much in other concerts by taking flash photos when they were asked not to, that it’s entirely possible to take decent pictures without flash]. Anyway, Moishe’s Bagel. They play a mixture of klezmer, eastern European, jazzy sort of stuff and I really liked their sound – fantastic musicians, and when I’m not broke I’ll definitely be getting hold of their CDs.
After they had finished, I hung around and became aware of the groups either side of me, who were both clearly Jewish and were talking about various things which were just not on my radar as I’m culturally from such a different place (actually their conversations were really interesting, so I didn’t feel too guilty ear-wigging). Then the main act, the Klezmatics, came on, and although they were clearly excellent musicians and I actually like the kind of klezmer music they do, something about it just left me cold. I don’t know what it was – they obviously had the rest of the audience totally eating out of their hands, including a family near me doing some great and uninhibited Jewish dancing – but I just didn’t feel any connection between what was happening on stage and my heart/guts. They have been Grammy-nominated for a project they have done recently putting music to some of Woodie Guthrie’s previously unknown lyrics, but to be honest I think Billy Bragg and Wilco did the same thing much better. I stayed for about 40 minutes of their set, but in the end decided that I just wasn’t enjoying it so might as well go home. As I was putting my coat and scarf on, one of the guys standing next to me asked me why I was going, so I just said although I’d really enjoyed Moishe’s Bagel this just wasn’t doing anything for me. He then said something to me in (I assume) Hebrew, which of course I didn’t understand, so I apologised and he said “Ah, just checking … you’re goyim, yes?” And although I know he didn’t mean anything other than a statement of fact, it did just emphasise even more that this was just not my culture and that I was totally an outsider in this context. It was very strange, and a bit sad and disappointing. It did get me thinking about how at home I feel in Christian/church culture and how bewildering and strange and exclusive it must feel to people who aren’t familiar with it.
So, a subdued end to Celtic Connections this year. But do go and check out Moishe’s Bagel. They were great.