Telluride Bluegrass Festival: The Langan Band Debuts June 22 on the Main Stage!

Telluride Bluegrass Festival: The Langan Band Debuts June 22 on the Main Stage!

The 51st annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival takes place June 20 – June 23. The Langan Band debuts in Telluride on the Main Stage Saturday, June 22.

Learn more about Planet Bluegrass at

Go here for more about the history of Telluride Bluegrass. (Back to 2009.)

And please scroll down to check out Telluride Inside…and Out’s email interview with John Langan and a video for a taste of the trio’s sound.

Image, courtesy Langan Band.

“The Langan Band have such a unique sound, a mix of old time, Scots music, jazz, and more. It’s compulsively listenable. We can’t wait for Festivarians to experience it!,” said Grace Barrett, Planet Bluegrass.

According to the band’s official bio, for over 15 years now, the three members of The Langan Band have been carving out their own lawlessly virtuosic path of sound. They rampage through the boundaries of conventional genre and cavort into the territories of wild abandon, purest intimacy, and unconditional musical elation.

The trio were initially brought together by a deep respect of traditional song and music, yet they discovered a mutual love of the evisceration and regeneration of those pieces into provocative new compositions, as was recognized by the band winning the prestigious Danny Kyle Award at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival at the start of their journey. That sound went on to inform the band’s now mostly original repertoire and has resulted in a musical experience unlike any other.

Ayrshire-born John Langan is found centre-stage, seated on an explosive foot percussion rig of his own devising and fronting the trio with intricate fiery guitar rhythms and witheringly sweet, yet scathing vocals.

To his right stands Alastair Caplin, a classically trained violinist equally discerning in both the London Prog-Folk/Jazz scenes he occupied for years and also the blistering traditional reels and jigs of his native Outer Hebrides.

Stage left is the domain of Angus-born Dave Tunstall and his double bass. From him a seductive concoction of eerily-bowed soundscapes, heart-stopping bass lines and, in conjunction with Caplin’s blurred bowing, a truly monumental wall of orchestral noise.

The sound of the group reaches its zenith when all of those instruments are joined by the three voices singing together in razor-tight harmony to create an cacophony of joy.

While it is possible to see the evidence of influences the band have drawn on and enjoyed (Trad. Scots music, Eastern European Gypsy, Progressive Jazz and American Old-Time to name a few), the true nature of the sound from The Langan Band is best described as un-pigeon-holeable, yet irresistible.

Now signed with international agents in USA, Australia & New Zealand, and Scandinavia, the Langan Band is truly on their way to becoming a global paradigm of Scottish creativity and success.

This trio plays Celtic-influenced folk with a punk attitude and the talent to pull it off with guitar, percussion, violin and double bass. No accordion… just the stripped-down sound of three guys plowing through tough, tight, Irish inflected music, combining a myriad of sounds — and regularly raising the roof with their instrumental and vocal intensity,” said one critic.

★ ★ ★ ★ – MOJO / ★ ★ ★ ★ – Songlines “Extraordinary” – The Times

“Boundlessly inventive”R2 Magazine

“Fallen angels pursuing demons … a compelling take-no-prisoners style” The Scotsman

“Conventions are abandoned with a recklessness that borders on the insane … That a few guys from Glasgow could conspire to create such an immense sound between them is not unprecedented, but to achieve this with such lyrical and instrumental flair is a rare, rare thing” – Folk Radio UK.

Others weigh in saying these “rapscallions” perform with wild, almost demonic abandon.

Festivarians are sure to come up with there own string of superlatives after Saturday’s show in Telluride’s Town Park.

For more, check out our interview with John Langan.

John Langan, image courtesy the band.

TIO: John. Please take us back, what?, 15 years ago when the trio was formed. What brought you three together? What has kept you together?

JL: We came together in Glasgow. John returned home from living in Spain, looking to find a band back in Scotland and make a proper go at it with the music. He found Dave playing in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with another band. On making some enquiries as to who that guy playin’ bass is, it transpired that they were actually neighbours. When John went round to introduce himself Dave was locked in his own house, manically trying to get out cos he was late for a date. So John put a demo cd through his letter box and left him to it. When Dave finally got in touch (many months later) he invited John round for a jam, when Dave opened the door he was stark naked, wearing some bicycle tires like a sack and said “sorry i cant jam today, I’m too tired.” Dave and John’s cringy relationship with puns carries on to this very day.

Ali and John for a while in Glasgow were arch enemies on the busking (street performance) scene. John somehow managed to get to the pitches first and that got up Ali’s nose so a musical friendship did not seem to be on the cards. Untill one hazy summer evening, they both ended up at a cocktail party in the treehouse of Ali’s cousin, Adam, in Fife. They got blind drunk, played some tunes together and the musical sparks started flying… John continued to hog the busking pitches. It’s a dog-eat-dog world on the streets of Glasgow

TIO: The Langan Band is credited with playing Celtic-infused folk – but with a punk attitude. Would you say that description is accurate? Please sum up what you are after when the trio gets on stage.

JL: Aye, I’d say that’s accurate to an extent, but only covers a small part of our sound. What we’re after when we get on stage purely depends on the situation and the audience in front of us. We’re well known for our high-energy, late-night party slots. In that situation I think we have a knack for whipping the crowd up into a sweaty frenzy, we can have people dancing almost solidly for two hours, but also bringing in some slower moments and crazy soundscape moments to take them on a dynamic journey and keep them enthralled for the duration.

On the other side of the coin, we are playing more art centre and folk club type gigs these days, with sat down, attentive audiences. This gives us the opportunity to play more of our slower, sentimental pieces. It is a very different experience for us and the audience. We love both sides equally.

TIO: A decade elapsed between your 2013 release, Bones of Contention and your latest album, Plight O’ Sheep, which also has been heaped in superlatives. Why that gaping maw between successes?

JL: There were quite a few factors leading to the long gap between albums. Mostly the fact that I (John) got married and shortly after had two kids. Not leaving much time to sit down and write, never mind trying to get together with the band (we live very far away from each other). My marriage then ended and I’ve been co-parenting my kids 50/50. To make ends meet I had been working at many different jobs including tree surgery. I had an accident and broke my arm doing that, which put me out of the game for almost a year.

Then, I had an opportunity to buy a canal boat. In the U.K there’s a massive community of people living on boats on the canals and rivers. This was my opportunity to get out of the extremely difficult house-rental game and build my own home. But the boat was not in good shape so alongside co-parenting my kids, making ends meet and restoring a 117 year old boat, there has been very little time left for writing and recording music. I’m happy to say though that the boat is mostly finished and the music is starting to pay it’s way so there’s now space in my life to get the writing cap on occasionally. Touch wood, I don’t think it will be a decade till the next one.

TIO: Please compare and contrast those 2 releases, then sum up Plight O’Sheep however you wish: in a digestible sound bite or the whole enchilada. Also what inspired the title?

JL: Well, we’re still really proud of Bones of Contention. It was recorded in Glasgow over a few months in the bedroom of a good friend of ours, Hazen Metro (from Vermont, U.S.A).

We were younger and drunker back then and that album certainly represents the excitable, party band side of us, but with the odd moment of calm and sentimentality to keep the listener on a journey.

Plight of Sheep, has a bit more maturity in it I think. Like ourselves dare I say.

It was a difficult process bringing that baby to life. We’d gone so long without writing that we’d almost forgotten how to do it. After we announced that we were going to release a new album (most of it wasn’t written yet at this point) I went through a lot of anxiety and, to be honest, had a bit of a breakdown. But over the course of the year we managed to find the time to get together for a week or so at time and soon got into the flow and started to really enjoy the process.

There are songs in Plight of Sheep that have been brewing for years, and slowly drawing them out into fruition was a very cathartic experience.

Some of the songs are very personal to me and required delving into past emotions that I’d rather have left behind, but the end result was worth it and these songs are touching people in the ways in which they were intended to. I get messages every week from people telling me how “Sweetness” has made them cry with joy, but that they can’t stop dancing to “Old Toms Waltz.”

So yeah there’s that side of Plight of Sheep that was not so present in Bones, but there’s also a lot of silliness and energy on there. It’s all about the balance and the dynamics and I think we’ve nailed it on Plight.

The title …we recorded the album on very remote island in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, in January! On a windswept, sleety walk, Ali was looking at one of the Hebridean black sheep perched on a cliff being absolutely battered by the elements, Ali felt for that sheep and therefore, dedicated the album to it and all its kind

TIO: John, please share some personal history with your future fans. Were you born into a musical family or are you an anomaly? Did you ever consider a career other than music?

No, my family is not musical in the slightest. My dad has a cracking singing voice on him, but that is only heard once in a blue moon when he is drunk enough.

Believe it or not, my love of music and singing started in church. Now, I am not a religious person, but I did go to a Catholic school and my mother used take me to church on a Sunday, at the half 5 mass, instead of the organ they would have a few guitarists and the hymns were sung with a bit more gusto. Some of them got under my skin and I realized I loved singing.

In high school though, even though I was teaching myself guitar and loved singing, I was aiming to grow up to be a marine biologist. But after failing in biology, my favorite subject, I realized maybe that’s not gonna happen.

I realised that I could actually make something of a living from music when I was travelling Europe and Morocco at the age of 17.  At the end of the trip I was in Amsterdam and had run out of money, but I was having so much fun I didn’t want to return home, so I started playing on the streets and was earning enough to eat, have a beer and try some of the other delicacies Amsterdam has to offer. And that was that!

TIO:  Now please introduce us to your two bandmates: Dave Tunstall and Alastair Caplin.

Dave is our Double Bassist, he also plays bagpipes, small, border and Highlands, which we intend on incorporating more into our shows. You can hear his pipes on “Sweetness.”

One of Dave’s main inputs in our music is the groove and the filth, he comes into his own when a song is feeling a bit lacklustre or repetitive. He will either come in hard with some unexpected, sometimes psychedelic middle section or find so subtle ways of messing with the groove to liven things up.

Ali is our fiddler, coming from a very classical background he found his passion in folk fiddle. He has a knack for picking out interesting melodies from songs and adding whole new aspects that weren’t there before. Also he has written many a banging tune from scratch, which sometimes turn into songs or become tune sets of their own.

TIO: The Langan Band has performed in Australia and New Zealand, Hungary, Switzerland, England and, of course, Scotland. But this year the trio has a few gigs in the US. How did the Telluride Bluegrass Festival wind up on your schedule and what can Festivarians expect from your set?

We’re quite blown away that Telluride has ended up on our schedule. We played a showcase in Scotland last year to a bunch of American agents and festival organisers. Apparently we went down really well and had our pick of agents. We went with Mark from Madison House and he’s obviously been doing a good job of spreading the word and extending his excitement about us all over the states.

You can expect us to be giving it our absolute all. We gonna get folks dancin’ and cryin’ and everything in between!

TIO: What are you looking forward to most about your debut on the Main Stage of the TBF?

I’m most looking forward to the view from the stage. F the videos I’ve seen it looks epic! Not to mention it looks set to be an amazing line-up of quality music.

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