Robert Burns Night @ Free Times Café

Regular readers of these missives (I was going to use the term ‘aficionados’ or ‘devotees’ but I thought that might be pushing things) will know that they usually follow a particular narrative arc (I do like ‘narrative arc’ it sounds so much better than ‘formula.’) The emails usually begin with an interesting observation about popular culture, politics, or technology, then have some tangential strolls down fascinating alleyways, perhaps some very cursory Internet research (or just making stuff up), and then tying it all up in a nice bow by linking it to the latest gig from Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room. There is also often a postscript that pokes some light fun at the bagpipes (although some disagree about the term ‘light fun’ but we’ll leave that for another day).

The early part of the evening happens chez Gus & Mary. This is a snapshot of their 34th annual celebration.

But while that may be the narrative arc of most of these missives, that’s not what’s happening this time because I have a lot of important information to impart about our next gig and I need to get to it right away (and it is fair to note that if I really needed to get to things right away why haven’t I got to whatever it is I’m getting to, but bear with me, we’re there now).

Our next show is our wildly popular (I understand that ‘wildly popular’ is a relative term, but certainly, in relation to our other shows, this one clearly deserves the designation) Robbie Burns Night gig which, for the first time since 2020, will be returning to the live stage at the Free Times Café. That’s right, after three years of virtual Burns Night shows we’re going back live!

Please note that the show will be on Thursday January 25th because that is Robbie Burns’ birthday. We’re not sticklers for lots of things, but we do insist that Burns Night be celebrated on Burns Night – none of this ‘let’s find the most nearly adjacent Saturday to January 25th and call it Burns Night’ no, we’re going to do it right by celebrating on his birthday.

Over the years (and we started these shows in 2004 so it’s been a lot of years) Burns Night has evolved and so I think it’s necessary to set out what have become the three distinctive elements to our live Burns Night extravaganza (once you read all about it, I think you’ll find that ‘extravaganza’ may be too modest a term).

First, at around 8.30pm, a smaller subset of the larger Living Room ensemble will be playing tunes of the non-bagpipe variety. I refer to this part of the evening as the musical portion to distinguish it from what happens after the arrival of the bagpipes.

Second, is the arrival of the bagpipes and the other members of the band (and because it’s the arrival of the bagpipes you’ll know when that happens), followed by the bringing in of the haggis from the kitchen, where it has been marinating, fulminating, contemplating, and rusticating for hours. Following the arrival of the haggis there is the mandatory address to the haggis (and yes, the haggis does wear a dress but its preferred pronouns are ‘they’ and ‘them’). Finally, this portion of the evening concludes with the consumption of the haggis by the delighted guests – although we’re not forcing it on anyone and if you don’t want haggis there are still neeps and tatties to eat. This portion of the evening will start between 9:30 and 10:00 – it’s impossible to know for sure because bagpipes have a unique and quirky sense of time.

The final part of the evening consists of tunes, most, if not all of which, will feature the bagpipes playing in dizzyingly wide array of genres, as well as some highland dancing. The whole thing will probably wrap up a bit after 11 (but time will have no meaning by this point).

It’s been a while since we’ve done a live Burns Night, but if my recollection holds, there’s a lot of interest in the show (because you know, free haggis) and so you’ll probably want to get there early to get a good seat and also to hear the musical portion of the evening. There is another event at the Free Times before Burns Night so the doors won’t open for our show until around 8:00.

For those who may have forgotten, the Free Times Café is still located on College just west of Spadina, and to celebrate our return to the stage for Burns Night there will be no cover (all that and free haggis – wow!!!!)

Hope to see you there.


P.S. Not that any further incentives should be required to bring people out to the gig but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Bert Clarke, bass player number 3 of the 5 who have plied their trade with us, will be joining us for a one time only reunion and Stephanie Miletic, the first of our fiddlers, will be joining us for her first show since the birth of her child (the child of course will not be at the show because, well, bagpipes).