Mary Irvine’s Blog:Merchant City Festival Outdoor Stage at the Tron 22.07.2017
The positive – the offer of hours of free music. The negative – the unpredictability of the Scottish weather! Fortunately the former outweighed the latter and I donned wet gear and boarded the train for Argyle Street. A slight digression at this point (you can do that in blogs!) re: Scotrail – use them often for Glasgow visits. Have been unlucky of late as cancelled/delayed trains (no explanation given) have twice resulted in arriving late for pre-arranged meetings. And yes, I do always ‘allow’ for delays on the way.
Back to the Tron. A stage had been set up with tables and seating for c. 30 people, all under pub umbrellas. I managed to find a seat, away from any drips. That’s water ones from the umbrellas for the sake of Hull people who may think I’m referring to a male presence!
The first duo, who were already playing when I arrived, was Reptile House – two men and two guitars. An enjoyable and well-presented set of Country and Western with the duo in full harmony in all its senses. I did access their website – worth a visit – and listen to a few more of their songs. Discovered there are sometimes four of them, a female singer and a percussionist.
Next up was Jim Byrne, back to solo for a while following the completion of the project, ‘Ten Writers Telling Lies’, a collaboration between Jim and ten Glasgow authors, which is now being promoted. If you haven’t seen the presentation watch out for the next venue. The accompanying book and cd are good value too. The former has brilliant art work by Pam McDonald and Jim has brought accomplished musicians on board for the production of the latter. (See earlier blog for Review of Launch of Ten Writers Telling Lies)
In his trademark relaxed style Jim presented some new songs, two ‘old favourites’ and a couple from the above project. Something for everybody! One of the new songs was a comment on Brexit, ‘Fifteen Metre Cable’ – reminiscent of some of the 60s’ protest songs. The two ‘old favourites were Buddy Holly’s* ‘It doesn’t matter anymore’ and the classic, ‘Crazy’ one of the best songs ever written (and that’s not just my opinion!). Jim presented each with new arrangements and both worked well. The poignant arrangement of ‘Crazy’ was especially sympathetic to its theme. Two from the aforementioned project were ‘Burden of Your Cross’ and ‘Promise that We’ll Meet Again’. I defy anyone to listen to the lyrics of either and not be moved. Although I do enjoy the project presentations it was good to hear Jim going solo!
Feeling a wee bit cold by now I decided to go for a walk around Merchant City. I’d only visited the area twice before, once to eat at the Kublai Khan restaurant and once to see Leon Russell** at the City Hall (Old Fruitmarket). To get the feel of any place you have to walk and observe. And that’s what I did for just over an hour. The Festival was in full swing (despite the weather). Wandering round the stalls and activities, I was again struck by the talent and diversity of the Glasgow people. Just wandering round admiring the architecture reinforced my opinions of Glasgow as a city of culture and history and that its diversity has added to that over the years and continues so to do.
I strolled back to the Tron where a larger crowd was now assembled. A young duo, possibly mid-twenties, were setting up. They were the Step Brothers. They sang several songs which they had written. Although I found some of them very similar their harmonies were good. I particular compliment the one who sang excellent high harmony – not strained at all. Apart from playing guitars we were also entertained with a mandolin. Maybe this would have been better accompanying one of their gentler songs to allow the full beauty of the instrument, rather than using it much in the same way as a guitar. At times they were reminiscent of the young Everlys. Anyone remember the 1958 album ‘Songs Our Daddy Taught Us!
Because of feeling damp rather than cold I took a bus to the St Louis Bar/Restaurant and finished off the day with an early evening meal, before heading home to the bonny banks…
*Written by Paul Anka this was Holly’s last recording before he died in a plane crash along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson Jr.) Anka passed on all royalties to Holly’s widow.
**Leon Russell died November 2016. I like to think he went back to that island…
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