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Finding live music in Scotland

I've been taking notes when I see them of places that offer live music at my various destinations, but I just found this wonderful website that lists music venues in Scotland, including what/who is playing, when and where. You click on the map and then can narrow down the type of music (i.e., folk, jazz, etc.) and the day of the week. The Gig Guide: http://www.gigguide.co.uk/listings.htm

I did note that there were very few entries for a good portion of Scotland (probably from lack of people reporting) but Edinburgh and Glasgow have an abundance of listings, so it's worth checking out if you will be in either of those cities.

I've also found that many pubs and bars promote upcoming live music events on their Facebook pages, so it's worth checking out and even following them if you're interested. For example, The Clutha and Scotia Bar have FB pages that show who will be playing. I found another one in Scotland called The Old Inn in Carbost on Skye. They didn't have anything listed but I messaged them on FB, and they told me that Wednesdays and Thursdays are their live music nights. Another one I found is Sandy Bells in Edinburgh, which has traditional music nights. And a public FB group called Edinburgh Trad Music and Session Hub that is for both musicians and the public who want to hear traditional music. I doubt if everything is traditional folk music, but I like music and feel like it's worth checking out. :)

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644 posts

Until a few months ago there was a scottish-folk-music.com website, but it evaporated. It listed about 120 towns with links to their bar music. I really used it a lot when planning, but I guess no more.

There is another site https://thesession.org/ that is meant to reflect Irish music, but if you search under the /Sessions tab, you'll get entries that include all types.

Other than that, going through all the local bars via FB will usually lead to an email, they they sometimes respond to queries.

Once we're in a town for the night, I just call all the bars and ask. The biggest problem is "trad music" often means two guitars playing Beatles covers so be prepared. When we were in Portree last June, we were stymied at three different bars by the same duo on three different nights. Good musicians, but not what we were hoping for. That probably reflects what the majority wants to hear :-(

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6803 posts

Other than that, going through all the local bars via FB will usually lead to an email, they they sometimes respond to queries.

Every time I've messaged (about 7- 8 places), I've gotten a personal response. And I don't mind if the music isn't my style. It doesn't kill me to listen to something while having a drink and then move on (unless it's heavy metal, but I can spot that from afar). :)

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4148 posts

Mardee ,While this genre of music isn't something I seek out , I do recall that this place in Dunkeld has programs of traditional music on a fairly regular schedule. There was/is , a longtime poster here by the name of Pam , who knew about a lot of these places . If you look her up in some of the previous Scotland posts , you could send her a PM . Meantime - https://www.thetaybank.co.uk/eventsAlso , if you have ten minutes , listen to these " Four Scottish Dances " by the composer Malcolm Arnold . They are quintessentially Scottish . In the scond dance ,you'll easily hear the voice of a Scotsman whose had a dram ( or two , or three ) too many https://youtu.be/wHnBibfWu2Y

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1376 posts

Hi, Mardee,

You must be counting down the hours by now!

Unfortunately, a lot of the sources for folk music gigs in Scotland have gone belly up. The wonderful folk music magazine The Living Tradition, which was the source off all things folk music related in Scotland, went out of business last August. fRoots, (formerly Folk Roots), the leading folk music magazine in Britain, went out of business a couple of years ago. No one has stepped in to take their place.

The main reason for the demise of these magazines has been lack of revenue and greatly increased production and mailing costs. Covid shut down the folk clubs for almost 18 months, and recovery to pre-Covid attendance has been very slow. However, there are still very active folk clubs throughout Scotland, including Crail, Aberdeen, Stonehaven, Portsoy, Glenfarg, Stirling, and Crieff. Many of these clubs have regular traditional or "come-all-ye" sessions on a particular day of the week.

At one time, back in the halcyon days of the 1970s and 1980s, just about every town and village in Scotland had a folk club. Folksingers and bands could make a decent living touring Scotland. That's no longer the case. Some musicians still continue to perform in pubs, and struggle to survive. Other folk musicians tour Western (and Eastern) Europe, where there is still a strong interest in Celtic music.

There is still a strong interest in traditional music in the Highlands and Islands. It's just hard to find it. A lot of the information is word of mouth. The TI office in Portree used to have a listing of trad sessions. I don't know if that's still the case, but you could check there to find out. I hope that you don't have the same experience that jjgurley did! That happened to us in Ireland.

You could try searching by entering the names of the towns where you'll be staying, followed by "folk club". For instance, "Stirling Folk Club". That would give you a list of their upcoming concerts and sessions. You could also try www.datathistle.com and highlight "folk". Sandy Bell's in Edinburgh was, and probably still is, the place to go for all things folk music related. You could always give them a shout, or stop in, to see what's happening. Or you could call Greentrax Records at 01875 814155 to find out if any of their artists are performing in Scotland.

I hope that you find lots of good music (and no Beatles' covers!) on your holiday. Have a wonderful time!

All the best,

Mike (Auchterless)

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1652 posts

Mardee, thank you so much for this information. I have put Sandy Bells in our itinerary!
Thanks,
Karen

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1352 posts

Gellions Bar (spell?) in Inverness was fun. Traditional music by a solo guitarist at the time of my Visit in Oct2022

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6803 posts

Thank you all!

Steven, I'm familiar with Pamela's posts - I found some when I was searching. She had posted about the scottish-folk-music website (now defunct) that jjgurley mentioned. I will listen to that music - thanks!

Mike, you hit one out of the park again - that's a great idea about doing a search for "town + folk club"! I've found several so far - some unfortunately do not jive with my schedule but I'm hoping. There was one for a band called Shooglenifty that looks really interesting but they are playing the day AFTER I will be driving through that area (Findhorn/Kinloss). Sigh. https://www.wegottickets.com/event/568510

And datathistle is a wonder - I've found so much on there as well, including this schedule of Scottish Ceilidh dancing at the View in Oban! https://www.datathistle.com/event/2034005-scottish-ceilidh-nights/ Unfortunately, I'm not staying in Oban (beating head against wall).

Thank you for the history as well - it's so sad to see the artists finding it hard to perform. I've been such a fan of folk music since I was a teenager - I still remember listening to Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and the Weavers (actually I still listen to them). But also the Scottish and Irish groups and singers, too.

And yes, I'm in excitement/panic mode - I leave on Wednesday!

Karen, I wish you were there the same time I was - it would be fun to meet up there!

Linda, I'm only in Inverness briefly so I probably won't be able to catch it, but thank you!

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1652 posts

Mardee, yes, it would have been nice to meet up if we were in Scotland at the same time. When do you return home? We arrive in Edinburgh on May 30 and fly home on June 15.

Just curious, what is your itinerary? We are staying in Edinburgh, Anstruther, Nairn, Portree, Glencoe, and our last night is at the Dakota Edinburgh near the airport.

Safe travels on Wednesday!

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6803 posts

Karen, I arrive in Glasgow on May 4, then will be traveling to Arran, Tobermory, Portree, and Stornoway. After that, I'm heading from Stornoway to Inverness, will stop to visit Culloden and other sights in that area, then up to Nairn and will follow the coastline around. I'm staying in Elgin (I will be attending the Gordon Castle Highland Games), Cruden Bay and finally Dunfermline before heading to Edinburgh for the last few days, then flying back from Glasgow on May 26th.

Your itinerary looks wonderful! By the way, did you know that Tilda Swinton has a place on Nairn? I read an article about her living there.

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644 posts

We were in Inverness last June on a Sunday night, and although we thought we would go to Hootenanny's or Gellions (based on FB research), MacGregor's had an early session (4pm?). It's a small bar, and there were at least 20 musicians including a 12 year old girl that played the fiddle wonderfully. We were really lucky to find a seat, and being behind a pillar was a small price to pay.

At Sandy Bells we sat next to the musicians through the entire afternoon session. Jock, the bazookie player is now a friend for life, although that's more on my wife than I.

We were in Stornoway during peak Covid, so we didn't find any nightlife except the buffet at the Eleven which seemed to draw all the locals.

In Glasgow, we intended to head to the Islay but ended up listening to Irish trad at Kitty O'sheas.

We spent three weeks and only overlapped your itinerary in those places (plus Portree as mentioned earlier).

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6803 posts

jjgurley, that sounds wonderful! I wish I had more time in Inverness, but my ferry arrives in Ullapool around 1100 and I have to be in Elgin that evening. Plus I want to take some time and explore Culloden, Clava Cairns, Cawdor Castle and Nairn on the way. But I will definitely visit Sandy Bells in Glasgow and will also check out the Eleven restaurant - thanks!

Of course having to miss so much means I'm all the more determined to make my way back to Scotland in the future!

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1652 posts

Mardee, your itinerary sounds wonderful! I wish we had more time but we have other trips and commitments for the summer, and might do something at the last minute in the fall.

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644 posts

The Eleven in Stornoway won't have music. There are a few other spots like McNeills and Criterion that may, depending on the day of the week. There are two venues that have more concert-like performances, An Lanntair and Taigh Chearsabhagh.

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644 posts

I checked my records and McNeill's had music Thurs-Sat so our being there Mon-Wed failed.

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6803 posts

jjgurley, I think I heard that McNeils is closed for good - there was something on a guidebook update about that.

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1376 posts

Hi, jjgurley,

Just a wee comment - it's "bouzouki"! It's a Greek instrument, but it was introduced in to Celtic music by Johnny Moynihan, when he was a member of Sweeney's Men back in the 1960s. It has become one of the most popular stringed instruments (along with the cittern) in Scottish and Irish folk music. Just about every folk group in Scotland and Ireland has a bouzouki player.

And now you know...the rest of the story!

Best wishes, and thanks for taking the time to search for the music!

Mike (Auchterless)

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Mardee, I've been following a couple of your posts closely...and taking notes! We are traveling in July. Your last comment about the time you are having made me all misty. I am so looking forward to the trip. Thank you for sharing your experience and insight. It's all very helpful.

I look forward to hearing how you fared with the music. We have a family of fiddle, guitar, and mandolin players (none of them me!), and are keen to seek out some music if at all possible.

Anyway, no help from me - just popping in to wish you a wonderful trip!

Dinah

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6803 posts

Dinah, you will love it here! I will let you know what I find.