After walking past the flaming torches which flank the main doors of Waxy O’Connor’s in city centre Glasgow, I had to pause for a few moments in the entry way. That is almost a requirement when I come to Waxy’s: the building has nine areas, several levels, and at any given moment any one of them will be hosting a family gathering, a wedding reception, folk cheering on a sporting match on television (usually several these going on at once), and several different sorts of music. The entry is not, as you might think from that, cacophonous: it is welcoming, rather, with a hum of conversation, the occasional sporting cheer, clink of glasses and rattle of crockery, and that day gradually my ear tuned to what I had come to Waxy’s for on that cold January afternoon: the sound of traditional music.
Following my ear up to the stairs to the left, I soon found the musicians seated around a long table. There wasn’t any room in the seating area of the small bar, and I was not acquainted with anyone there on that day, so I made a space for myself to lean against the wall next the to stack of guitar and flute and fiddle cases the players had built up. It was a great place to watch as well as to listen, actually, as I could see the nods and smiles and glances that passed between the players as they passed notes and tunes along around the table as naturally as, on other occasions, others would pass dishes for dinner.
As some were doing nearby me, in fact. My perch along the wall looked down onto one of the small dining areas, where several couples were enjoying meals in a location that put them just far away enough from the music session going on a above them, and what sounded like a football match on the television in the bar below so that they could enjoy their own conversations, and tune in and out of the music and the sport as they wished.
Waxy’s works like that: many different things going on, all at convivial pace side by side. There are many brews and malts and vintages available, but you’re equally welcome if, like me that day, what you want to drink is a good cup of tea. The food is varied too, most of it locally sourced and including such items as an all day full Scottish breakfast, mussels cooked in white wine, Irish Stew, vegetarian penne pasta, and haggis with the full kit of neeps and tatties to go along.
There are Waxy O’Connor’s pubs in other cities. I’ve not been to any of them, and while I suppose they may be part of a chain, the Waxy’s on George Street in Glasgow does not seem as though it is part of any chain. Rather, it feels like an integral and friendly and unique part of the city and the neighborhood, a place to wander and check out the atmosphere of the different bars, to chat with the kindly staff (who’ll cheerfully direct you should you lose your way), to have a good meal, to linger at a traditional music session on a winter afternoon. You know, too, there’s more welcome, more music, and more to explore should you return.
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