Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Väir nab big festival slot

Väir, clockwise from left, are: Erik Peterson, Lewie Peterson, Jonny Polson and Ryan Couper.

SHETLAND folkies Väir say they are both surprised and flattered have been handed a headline show at Celtic Connections in Glasgow early next year.

The band will perform at the city’s National Piping Centre on Saturday 16 January on a bill also featuring fiddle/cello duo Hansen + Fraser.

Formed back in 2012 with encouragement from the late Davie Henderson, the all-male four piece – often jokingly referred to as Shetland’s top boy band – say playing the festival has always been an ambition. 

The festival usually features a smattering of Shetland acts, including Fiddlers’ Bid, Jenna and Bethany Reid, Chris Stout and Catriona McKay, but Väir are the first new group from the isles to be given a headlining slot in a number of years.

Banjo and mandolin player Lewie Peterson joked that he wasn’t sure how Väir would break “the fact that we don’t have pipes” to the festival organisers.

“I can’t wait to play in Glasgow for Celtic Connections,” he said. “It’s been a festival I’ve visited many times as an audience member and so it will be great to play onstage. It’s a bit of a surprise to us too but a very flattering one.”

The bulk of Väir’s live set has generally consisted of instrumental tunes, although lately Lewie and his percussionist brother Erik have increasingly been testing their vocal skills on some original songs.

Guitarist Jonny Polson – the band’s other member is guitarist Ryan Couper – said he was thrilled with the news, adding Väir had a busy few weeks ahead learning up new material for the show.

The band members have had a hectic time in their own lives, with Jonny and Ryan recently having become fathers, Lewie busy renovating a house and Erik set to take off on his travels early in 2016.

But with a 75-minute slot to fill as part of a festival featuring around 2,000 artists in all, they’re now trying to squeeze in as many practice sessions as possible.

“Since we formed back in 2012, Davie Henderson always tried to get us a gig there but unfortunately it never happened,” Jonny said. “It was a surprise when we got the phone call out of the blue.

“This will be our biggest gig to date. We’ve already been rehearsing and arranging some new sets which are very different. The whole band agreed that we had to try something new and be a bit clever about our arrangements, so it’s going to be a busy winter for us!”

He added: “I’ve been to the festival once, back in 2007. Over the years they promote the festival so much on the radio and BBC Alba, and with some big names you can’t help but be drawn into it and excited for it.”

Shetland promoter Davie Gardner said it was great to see an isles-based band being booked to play the prestigious festival – and “well deserved too”.

“It’s especially good news as they are the first home-based band for a few years to be on the bill in their own right,” he said. “Through their music they will bring a breath of Shetland fresh air to Glasgow and show another side of the local music scene up here that many on the mainland might not be aware of.”