Music for my soul: The Swell Season. Their music has so much emotion and passion. It reminds me why art of all forms is so important.
Backstory: The Frames – Irish rock band consisting of four musicians and lead singer Glen Hansard
The Swell Season – Glen Hansard meets Marketa Irglova (young, Czech musician) and they begin
writing music together forming The Swell Season
Once – Independent Irish movie starring Glen and Marketa with a story based on music they
wrote. They won the Oscar for best song in 2008 for “Falling Slowly,” a song from the
The Oscars are where I first heard of them. I proceeded to Netflix Once, buy their album, and fall in love with their music.
When I heard they would be performing at Radio City Music Hall, the fact that I had no money was not a consideration. I bought tickets immediately.
I had trouble finding a friend who knew who they were to go with me. (Get with the program, people!) Luckily, my friend Megan who I met on the play ground (we both babysit in the same neighborhood) knew who they were and was happy to go with me!
The concert was intimate – they turned off the projection screens and had a minimal set. It was just them, the audience, and the music. Perfection. They sang songs from their first album (The Swell Season), Once, and their new album (Strict Joy). Thought they tour as The Swell Season The Frames band members tour with them. They are still two separate groups but they have sort of become one as well. It is really amazing.
I should also note that their opening act for the night was Josh Ritter. I was not familiar with him but he was great and I am going to check out some more of his music. He is performing at Town Hall this Spring. Anyone wanna go?
Note: I have lots of pictures from the show. I already posted them on facebook. This post is really long as it is but in the next few days I will do another post about the concert with my favorite photos included.
Highlights from the show:
The entire concert was amazing but a few things do stand out as memories I think I will keep for quite a while. Of course when any band comes on stage and settles down to play their first song it is always exciting. Also, When Glen (who began playing guitar) and Marketa (who began playing piano) switched places it was great. Glen is so talkative and Marketa is very quiet. He will tell story after story (which are so amusing to listen to) and she simply says “good evening, everyone.” It is precious. Neither way is better than another – I just love how different each of them is.
Glen also talked a lot about how great it was to play a venue like Radio City. He mentioned this a few times and you could tell how excited they were just to be there. They are such a humble people which is one of their most endearing qualities.
One of the stories Glen told the audience was about a woman he met in Chicago named Lois (she was actually from NY). She was wearing a blue coat and he complimented her on it. She told him how she loved that coat because it marked sort of the end of a bad period in her life. Just before they parted she said “my son was about your age…” Turns out he had passed away in one of the Word Trade Center towers. She said something to the effect of “If only he hadn’t been in that building.” There was an audible gasp from the audience. We all knew what building she meant. He said he gave her his contact information so that when they were in NYC she could come to the show if she wanted to. Glen said he didn’t know why he was telling us this story but he dedicated the next song (and a song later in the concert) to her.
Lois was not at the show but someone in the audience knew her and put her in touch with Glen so the circle was completed:) (I got this info from his twitter….see, my addiction isn’t so useless.)
I wish I could convey in this blog the charm and conviction he tells these stories with. Unfortunately, it just isn’t possible so you should probably go to a Swell Season Concert and hear it for yourself. I hope I at least did the story some amount of justice.
Another highlight was when it was just Glen on stage for a bit and he stepped away from the mic to sing part of a song. I am sure people in the balcony could not hear him but it was one of the best moments ever at a concert. Here he is at Radio City and he just puts it all on the line. He got a standing ovation for that. It was breathtaking. He also rocks out on the guitar like I’ve never seen anyone rock out on a guitar.
When the Swell Season plays different cities, if possible, they try to learn a song from the region to play. The song they played was official from New Jersey….it was a Bruce Springsteen song. Here, he told us how at his first Springsteen concert everyone had been yelling “Bruuuuce” but it sounded like boo. This is important.
When the exited the stage and the concert was “over” everyone started yelling “Bruuuuce.” Absolutely one of the best moments! He and Marketa came back on stage for the encore (he tripped on his way out…it happens) and then said “You have no idea how good that felt.” (The “Bruuuuce,” not the tripping.)
EDIT: Apparently he slid out on his knees and did not trip. It was dark so from where I was it looked like he tripped. Thanks to the person who commented on this blog and corrected me:)
They sang “Falling Slowly” for their first encore song. Beautiful. Then The Frames returend to the stage and they played a son together. Then, the brass trio of sorts (They aren’t part of either band but they played in some of the sogs) also returned and everyone played a song together. The encore was quite long actually….I think four songs total.
Megan and I decided to go on an adventure and find the stage door. Mission accomplished. We did not even walk half of a block and there it was. We were among the first four people there. We waited. And waited. We saw Josh Ritter leave and the load out take place. Then, their tour manager came over to us and handed us each a set list from the show that Glen had signed. I dorked out. Completely. Then he felt bad for the girls beside us because he only had two so he ran back inside and grabbed some sheet music for them.
Finally, Glen came out, then Marketa. Marketa came to our side of the baricade. She signed out posters, bags, etc, took pictures, and was so completely shy and humble. Love her. Then we waited hoping Glen would come to us but there were bunches of people on his side so we went to him. He signed my poster and my friends tote bag. (I have to say that he drew a mini self portrait on her bag….it was awesome!) He didn’t have time to take a picture with everyone. (Although I think he would have if he could. Other people were telling him they had to split.)
Before they left their tour manager made sure we were all set….he is my new best friend, he just doesn’t know it yet. I doubt he’ll read this but just in case: THANK YOU one hundred times over!!!!!
When they left, they literally walked down the block and turned the corner. No fancy car or rushed exit. Brilliant.
I was never expecting to actually meet my favorite band that night. I got to talk to them and tell them how much I loved their music. Although, since I was not expecting this to occur I was ill prepared with words but I don’t think words are really sufficient anyway. Hopefully the annoying fan girl didn’t come out too much.
Absolutely one of the best nights I have had in a while. I am not even trying to top this one. I want to soak in the memories and then when something else amazing happens, this blog will be the first to know.
Also, I would like to note that since this concert I have been practicing my guitar again. I will never be a musician, at least not like that but the entire night really instilled this creative burn in me and I am glad it is driving me to do something that I was putting on the back burner.
Thank you, Swell Season!
I would like to dedicate this blog post to my friend Anna. She watched the Oscars with me the year they won and went to their concert with me in Atlanta that same year. She lives in China now and I wish it was not so far away. Love and miss you, Anna!