The 2013 Grammy Awards

This time last year, I decided to start my blog up again by writing my thoughts on the 2012 Grammy Awards. You can find that post here. I did a pretty good job of keeping up with this blog after that for quite some time, but I’ve waned over the past few months. The 2013 Grammys are on tonight, and I aim to start this blog again the same way I did last year.

I’ve been enjoying the popular music of 2012 over the course of the year. I’ve been listening to the radio much more often that I have in the past, I’ll surf the radio and stop on anything catchy. I’ve found myself enjoying the occasional Katy Perry, or Carly Rae Jepsen, or sometimes Rhianna. I skip the diamond song and anything by Taylor Swift and the rap and R&B stations. Most else is fair game. There are plenty of nominations tonight that I wholeheartedly agree with. Mumford and Sons, Fun., The Lumineers, Maroon 5, The Black Keys, and Adele all hopefully have good things happening for them this evening. Without further ado, let the games begin!

And, we’re off with a bang, Taylor Swift is serenading us with those vocal chords that don’t deserve fame and recognition. I hope some day people might understand her un-talent.

“He looks like an old grandma.” -my brother on Elton John. 

To be completely honest, Ed Sheeran’s “A Team” is one of the songs I tend to skip on the radio. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it all the way through until tonight. He seems like a nice guy, at the least. I’m not sure it’s working too well as a duet.

And Adele wins, naturally, in the one category she’s nominated in this year. Well done, lady, for winning Best Pop Solo Performance for a live version of “Set Fire To The Rain.”  Completely deserved!

I’ve never seen Fun. play live. Nate Ruess is having a few pitch difficulties, poor guy. “Carry On” does seem to be the best song choice, however, for a live performance. “Some Nights” and “We Are Young” have so many tight harmonies that perhaps it would not have gone well, given how this one is going.

Miguel – who is this guy? I’m not so much into R&B, please don’t mind my ignorance. He has quite the wonderful voice.

So happy to see Carrie Underwood winning an award. Best Country Solo Performance is well deserved. I do wonder how many more years she’ll be able to call herself “country,” her songs are starting to feel like crossovers.

We Are Young! Fun.! Song of the Year! They beat Kelly Clarkson AND Call Me Maybe!

Mumford and Sons! I’ve seen these guys live three times and I can attest to their live performance talent. I love how their song lyrics are thoughtful and well-written. They have only gotten better as they’ve become more well-known. Read this past post for a long write up on my love of Mumford and Sons, from when I saw them perform in Monterey.

Kudos to Justin Timberlake for going from “Bye Bye Bye” to so much more. I don’t like him, but I don’t hate him. His music bores me though. However, if I were asked to be a part of that strings section, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I thoroughly miss performing and of those musicians look like they are having a GREAT time!

I think I’ve come across a Frank Ocean song once or twice. He seems like a decent guy. As long as Chris Brown goes home with zero awards, I’m happy. Behavior like his does not deserve awards.

Best Rock Performance- The Black Keys, “Lonely Boy.” Makes me a bit sad that Mumford lost out on it, but they’ve more to come I believe. The Black Keys are quality musicians who deserve any recognition they get.

I think I’ve finally been caught by Adam Levine’s spell (Jeremy, you’re the only one for me though, I know that for sure!) I’ve been a fan of Maroon 5 for many years, “Songs About Jane” was all I listened to the year it came out. Their new music has been consistently well done and catchy (a must for me these days); I may have to actually purchase his most recent CD. I did already tell Jeremy that “Moves Like Jagger” is a must for our wedding reception. Levine and Alicia Keys are putting on an amazing performance, the best one of the night so far, that’s for sure.

Best Pop Vocal Album is filled with some great nominees. I’m fairly surprised Kelly Clarkson won, particularly against Maroon 5 (given my obvious love for them). 

Rhianna’s starting off her performance extremely strong, she may convert me yet. That diamond song is SO annoying, but this ballad is out of this world beautiful. She has obvious talent. She looks beautiful, too. A slow, quiet song as an understated performance, not making a big spectacle- THIS is what I love about music. Showcasing REAL talent. She is BRINGING it!

Carly Rae Jepsen and my sister Emili look remarkably similar. That is all.

Kelly Clarkson is singing the Tennessee Waltz, this makes my heart so happy. I grew up playing this melody on my violin with Dad. I never actually heard the recorded version of the song until years later; this melody will forever be with me. What a beautiful voice Miss Clarkson has. Another spot on, incredibly beautiful performance.

Ah, the Zac Brown Band. What fun music they play! Well done, Best Country Album!

Bruno Mars! I have been looking forward to seeing him perform again since his performance at last year’s Grammys. I had no idea who he was last year, and now if I hear “Locked Out of Heaven” on my way to or from work, it’s definitely a good day. I love the Police-esque vibe, how fitting Sting is up on stage right next to him! This song sounds just as good live as it does mastered. As for the next song- who doesn’t love Bob Marley? This performance is definitely meeting my year-long expectations.

SO glad The Lumineers are being showcased tonight. They were nowhere to be found a year ago, and sure, I’ve known of “Ho Hey” for much longer than radio listeners have, but does it really matter? It’s clearly a great, catchy song, and it makes me so happy to see small folk bands get good recognition. (Perhaps it’s because I would love to someday be in one of those unknown folk bands that gain enough recognition to perform at something as large as the Grammys. I’ll just take it one step at a time …)

Jack White is putting on a nice performance, I was unaware that this folky sound is his current endeavor. I’ll have to look into his newer stuff to see if it’s as enjoyable as this. Anything with a violin is fair game in my book. Sure, there he goes with his more “interesting” stuff, but it’s still well done for the genre (whatever it is) and a good, solid performance. I enjoy music best when the music is showcased, rather than making such a spectacle of the performance that the quality of the music takes a backseat.

And Best New Artist goes to … (Katy Perry put on some clothes!) … Fun.!!! I just put two and two together and realized that Lena Dunham is the girl they keep showing with Jack Antonoff of Fun. To get this point across to my mom, all I had to do was mention “the girl at the Golden Globes with all the tattoos who couldn’t walk in her heels.” I’m happy for Fun. for getting this award, they’ve all been playing music for so long (Steel Train, The Format, Anathallo), it’s great that they’re getting some solid recognition for the years they’ve put in to the industry.

Carrie Underwood- how does one go about getting into the string sections of these epic performances? And those butterflies! That performance was a great example of putting on a show and still focusing on quality music.

Oh, Gotye! Record of the Year! Anyone who says they don’t like “Somebody That I Used To Know” is just being pretentious. How precious are Gotye and Kimbra up there on stage.  Truly thankful for being recognized, truly happy to be doing what they are doing. (And anyone who beats Taylor Swift is good with me.)

And the performance I really have been waiting for all night … “The Weight,” written by Robbie Robertson of The Band. What a great compilation of musicians on stage- Sir Elton John, Mumford and Sons, Mavis Staples, T Bone Burnett, Zac Brown, and others- what a great song, and a great tribute to Levon Helm (of The Band) and all the other music industry persons who have passed this year. I LOVE this song, my first introduction to it was actually through a cover done by John Denver. I’ve heard The Band’s songs live by Glen Hansard and Mumford and Sons. Mr. Helm has clearly left a mark on the music industry for many of the greats, and it will hopefully remain for years to come.

Mumford and Sons win album of the year! Bonnie Raitt approves … did anyone else see that head nod? These guys deserve it. See aforementioned blog posts about them if you need anymore convincing on why I love them so much.

I’m headed to bed in a minute, the Grammys are so much easier to watch when living on the west coast, next year I won’t have to stay up until 11:30 to see everything. It’s pretty amazing that I agree with mostly all of the awards that I saw given out tonight. Credit has been given where credit was due, and Taylor Swift won nothing. What a great night!

Let me know your thoughts on this year’s Grammys. Where did they go wrong? Where did they go right? Who do I need to find an appreciation for? Thanks for reading!

40th Annual American Music Awards: Live Thoughts

Usher’s opening performance is entirely unappetizing. Awkward choreography, bad live singing. What is with all those green lasers? Usher, I know you have talent hidden away there somewhere … ?

12 minutes in and these AMA’s are already/still not impressing me. Justin Bieber’s acceptance speech for Pop/Rock Male Artist is ridiculously cocky. “I want to say this is for all the haters who thought I was here for one or two years. I feel like I’m going to be here for a very long time.” And only after that does he reference his mother? What a terrible attitude he has!

18 minutes in and Taylor Swift just won an award. I should turn this off now, shouldn’t I? It was obvious she’d win it, but I’d rather hear Carrie Underwood give a genuine acceptance speech for something she deserves based off of talent than watch Taylor Swift botch her way through a “thank you” speech that clearly displays she’s bored with all the (undeserved) awards she’s gotten over the past few years.

The Wanted. Can actually sing live. Please get those female dancers off the stage. Who are these guys, anyway?

“Call Me Maybe” live is worse than the produced version. I didn’t realize that is possible.

Kelly Clarkson … I was actually looking forward to her, but now she’s singing Miss Independent? Please stop. I’m so ready for this to be over, Kelly. My little brother- “It’s like someone threw a bottle at her – her make up is horrible!” Hahaha. Ah, a montage of her songs through the one that’s popular today? Of course. What’s with the straining in her voice? These songs were not made for live performance. That’s the problem with pop music today. These songs are all too over-produced in the studio to the point that the singers can’t  capture the same intensity when they’re attempted live.

***

A personal intermission while I switched TVs. Had to reprogram the universal remote. Had to figure out the digital stream box. (We’re so high tech here in our household.) What did I miss? I’m sure nothing much.

A performance by No Doubt is where I’m picking this up.

Aaaaand okay I’ve got to turn this off now. What is she wearing? The sound quality on this TV is terrible … though I almost feel like Gwen’s singing well.

Ah, the Black Keys are nominated for Alternative Rock. At least there’s someone good showcased tonight. But … of course Linkin Park takes it. One could only hope. Oh, and their fifth win? That explains it.

Taylor Swift’s live performance! I was SO waiting for this!!!!! Not.

I wish that someday she could learn that she doesn’t know how to sing. Why has no one told her yet? That eye make up makes her look like she has tears streaming down the sides of her face. Oooh tricky costume change. Not particularly enjoying the theatrical aspect of this performance either. At least she’s yet to over-sexualize herself, I’ll give her that. But please, Taylor, get some voice lessons to back up all those vocal awards you’ve won. (For more ranting on Taylor Swift, please see my post on the Grammys from earlier this year.)

Flashback to Sarah McLaughlin and Cyndi Lauper singing Time After Time. That was when pop music was good. When singers had to be talented to gain recognition. I’d pay to see that performance in its full.

Skipping ahead … I’m actually pleased to see Nicki Minaj is sticking to what she’s good at. After that ridiculous performance at the Grammys earlier this year, she’s back to rapping. I’ll ignore the costume and focus on how she’s properly displaying her talent instead of making a fool out of herself with some sort of spectacle of a performance. Again, see that Grammy post.

You know, I really can’t spend any more time on this. I’ve lasted an hour and a half. I’d love to see Fun. win Best New Artist. I’d love to see some good performances. I’ve a feeling the rest of the AMA’s are going to be full of what this first half was full of. Cocky attitudes, bad live performances, the wrong artists winning awards because people these days do not recognize talent. I’ll conclude this post prematurely and turn off the TV. I really was just hoping to be entertained. Someone please regale me later with what I (don’t care about) miss(ing)!

Glen Hansard- Breaker of my Heart

Okay, perhaps the title is a bit brash or over the top.

Also, okay, this is the third or fourth or hundredth (hyperbole) post about Glen Hansard on this blog. (It has been pointed out by a friend that this blog could perhaps be retitled “Vegetables and Glen.”)

But really, Mr. Hansard, I have some more things to say to you.

If you’ve read that first post about my love for Glen Hansard, you can hopefully realize that I am not a crazy person worshipping some celebrity-type. (At least I hope that’s not who I am!) I have a genuine respect for Mr. Hansard and his talent and art. His music awakes in me an emotional response with almost every listen. I am so pleased that his talent has been recognized in a world where over-processed music receives most of the awards.

And if you read my two-part post (part 1 and part 2) on seeing Mr. Hansard perform twice in one week and having a whirl-wind conversation with him that was quickly forgotten on his end (which is completely understandable, no harm done), perhaps you can find a way to relate to me- we all have favorite music, yes? And if we have the opportunity to hear our favorite musicians live, don’t we all wish to hear that song- that one song we have been listening to constantly in its engineered state, the one we can sing all the words to, or we play on our own instruments while hiding away in our bedrooms? And wouldn’t it be all the worse if the song was essentially promised to you two days before the show, by the musician himself, and then it was never played?

Yes we do! We all want to hear it (whatever “it” is to each of us)!

And after seeing Mr. Hansard perform in three different locations on four different occasions, promoting multiple CDs and accomplishments, over the course of four years, I really expected that by know I would have heard that song.

But alas, life is unfair. Or something like that.

So what? I’ve said that all before in the aforementioned posts on this blog. Why bring it up again?

This is why:

I recently relocated back to Pennsylvania, to a town just about an hour north of Philadelphia. This relocation officially happened on September 25th.

Glen Hansard’s Rhythm and Repose tour (which allowed me to see him twice in June of this year) took him to Philadelphia. On September 20th.

Oh, what? Glen Hansard was in Philadelphia five days before my return?

I allowed myself to get over that up until receiving a phone call on September 20th, at 8pm pacific standard time, from a friend who was attending the Philadelphia show.

Over the phone I heard lots of people cheering, lots of muffled noises, and- oh- what was that? The beginning sounds of that song?

I was five days away from being back in Philadelphia and there was Glen Hansard playing THAT SONG!

Oh, the travesty! Oh, the pain! (Hyperbole.)

But seriously, please feel my pain here!

It’s not like I have unlimited funds to see Mr. Hansard play at every venue he reaches worldwide. I’ve seen him in Philadelphia. I’ve seen him in New York City. I’ve seen him (twice) in Los Angeles. His current tour, through March 2013, is coming nowhere near me again. The only place feasible is Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, as I have a sister in college down there- but it’s at the beginning of December, when I should be conserving money for holiday travels. And who’s to say I’d actually hear that song if I were to attend?

Have I lost my chance to ever hear Fitzcarraldo live? Will I have to suffice with listening to it on Set List or The Roads Outgrown time and time again, just to try to get the live experience?

Can anyone relate to me on this (pithy, yes) matter? Mr. Hansard, if your eyes ever grace this page, can you give me any idea as to when I’ll be able to hear the song you promised to me in Los Angeles? My offer still stands for a jam session. Just name the time and place.

Music Monday- Mumford & Sons in Monterey

Gentlemen of the Road- Monterey Stopover

Saturday was a wonderful day spent in Monterey, where Mumford & Sons put on their sixth of seven world-wide music festivals. It was my first time up in Monterey and I thoroughly enjoyed being in that little touristy beachy town; I will save those details for another post.

This was apparently an “intimate evening,” kept “small” so that everyone could really enjoy themselves. Well, “small” meant a sold-out 10,000 capacity for the Monterey Fairgrounds. Might I also add that it was sold out within one week of the show being announced? These guys are big.

Small and intimate, just the way I like things. (Hah. Despite the crowd, I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself.) This picture was actually taken during Gogol Bordello, the band right before Mumford and Sons took the stage. As you may imagine, the venue just got more full once Mumford began playing.

This is the third time I have seen Mumford & Sons live. The first time I saw them was at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia in May 2010. It was one of their earlier shows in the United States, they were still newer to the music scene here. The TLA’s capacity is a mere 1000, compared to the 10,000 fans Mumford serenaded on Friday. I count myself lucky to have been at that first performance, just as they were starting to become known. There was a magic about that one that can only be found as a band is first reaching stardom. The four of them were so enthralled by the crowd’s excitement that they were getting emotional about it at times. They were still working out kinks and learning things that you can only learn after performing live many, many times. It wasn’t the best presented show, but the music was spot on.

The music was still spot on during their performance on Saturday night.

After a long day of openers on two stages who included Slow Club, Haim, Apache Relay, Two Gallants, Grouplove, Gogol Bordello, and The Very Best (who actually ended the festival after Mumford & Sons), Mumford took the main stage at 8:50pm. One of the (many) wonderful things about this festival is that every show started on time. Gogol Bordello even started a few minutes early. I have a feeling many follow up Music Mondays will include reviews of Slow Club, Apache Relay, and Gogol Boredello. I’d heard of the first and the last before, but Apache Relay was new to me- and as they are from Nashville and have that sort of vibe, I thoroughly enjoyed them as well.

Mumford opened with a song from their yet to be released new album Babel (September 24th you can’t come soon enough!)- Lovers’ Eyes. They immediately followed with the crowd pleaser that is Little Lion Man (language in the chorus). This was Mumford & Son’s debut song from their first album, “Sigh No More,” in 2009. It was nominated for the 2011 Best Rock Song Grammy (though it lost out to Neil Young’s “Angry World.”) It hit prime positions on music charts in 10 different countries, including #1 for US Alternative Songs.

Throughout the show they played a wonderful mix of old and new songs and did it all with the vibrancy and tenacity that I’ve come to see in them time and time again. They also could not have closed out the set any better. After initially ending with Dust Bowl Dance (from their first album), they walked off the stage and then came back for the obligatory encore. Opening the encore with Winter Winds got the crowd going wild (again). And then came the best song of the night (sure, I’m biased)- The Cave. What a wonderful, beautiful song. It has long been my favorite from “Sigh No More.” They closed out the night by bringing all of the day’s musicians onto the stage to play The Weight by The Band. There was no better song to end this epic show with. No. Better. Song. As Levon Helm of The Band passed away in April of this year, I’ve been hearing his music more and more in the circle of artists that I enjoy. Some of you may remember my loving rant posts about seeing Glen Hansard in June. He ended his show with two songs by The Band, in honor of Levon Helm. This is a perfect song for a collaboration of artists, and Mumford & company  played it beautifully on Saturday night.

during the second half of Lovers’ Eyes

One characteristic that draws me to Mumford & Sons is their authenticity. They are really doing this because they love it. They write music and perform it for the fans out of sheer enjoyment. They seem to have no ulterior motives. Let me put it this way- I actually left for 10 minutes or so during one of the other bands, I just walked around and explored the fairgrounds (and, yes, took advantage of smaller lines for the bathrooms). That is not something I do. Music is to be enjoyed. But I left during one of the bands because I was frustrated with their stage presence. The content of their songs and their chatter between them had an air of assumed authority. Sure they were enjoying playing their music, but they (to me) also seemed to be enjoying (to a fault) the fact that all eyes were on them. And that it somehow made them better than the rest of us.

For all the talent and fame that Mumford & Sons has, they exude no air of assumed authority. They never appear to believe that they are better than anyone they are playing their music for. They are playing it to share it. That is what should be done. That is one of the many reasons I follow this band.

Were you there in Monterey also? Let me know your thoughts! If you are reading this and have not listened to Mumford & Sons before, I’d love to know your initial reaction to their music- here is the official audio for their new single “I Will Wait,” which will be found on their album “Babel” to be released on September 24th. Enjoy!

summer playlist

I wrote a guest post on Jeremy’s blog today, contributing to his “Friday Four-Play” series.

It’s a simple, short 17 minute long playlist that encompasses my summer thus far.

You can check it out here. Give Jeremy’s blog some love!

music Monday- a day for randomness

I’ve another playlist for today, and this time it is one I had no control over. I’ve decided that, given the wide and eclectic variety of music I own on iTunes, today’s post is the first six songs (kind of) that play on shuffle from my entire iTunes library of 4990 songs. So, here goes:

The first one to play is “A Short Story” by a band called The Album Leaf. This is a 19.5 minute song that I have never listened to. I will not include it in the playlist for that reason.

The second song to play is track 11 from a Chinese pop CD named “Alcohol Songs” (disc C). I do not have the track names because they are all in Chinese characters. My brother asked us if he could purchase this CD when we were in China with him. I actually managed to find it on Spotify, but it is not one that I am able to share through a playlist. So it will not count towards one of the six.

1. The third song. Here is one I can include on the playlist. “Blinding” by Florence + The Machine. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Florence + The Machine. The style of music is just edgy enough that I can still enjoy it. She has a crazy voice that she has massive control over. My favorite of her songs is called “Swimming.”

2. The fourth song is M83’s “I Guess I’m Floating.” It is a short, lovely, ambient-like song that could make you feel like you are perhaps, well, floating.

Next to play is “Fable Practice Space” by Cloud Cult. I was first introduced to Cloud Cult through their song “When Water Comes to Life.” I thoroughly enjoy their CD “The Meaning of 8.” This song is really just two minutes of idle noise, so I will not include it on the playlist. But check out “The Meaning of 8,” it has some great songs.

3. The next song that comes up, and third on the playlist, is “All Those Years Ago” by George Harrison. The Beatles are one of my two favorite bands (my other favorite is The Frames, in case you haven’t figured that out yet). George is, and has always been, my favorite of The Beatles. I feel like we only get a glimpse into his creative mind through his guitar fills and solos. He was the genius behind “Here Comes the Sun,” and if that can’t convince you of George Harrison, I believe nothing can.

4. The fourth song for the playlist is “Ooh La La” from the band The Faces. It is from the soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore.” I obtained this song through a nostalgia mix that Jeremy made me. You’ll have to ask him why he enjoys it so much. It’s a catchy one for sure. Folky and rambling, very enjoyable.

5. Next is “My Lovely” by Eisley. I have always enjoyed Eisley. This is from their first CD (Room Noises), and the entirety of this CD has more of a bright and sunny feel than the other CDs of theirs I have heard. Eisley is made up of five siblings, and I love hearing the harmonies in their songs- it is hard to make anything sound nicer than sibling’s voices blending together.

6. Last on the playlist is “Danse Carribe,” by Andrew Bird. I actually just obtained this song last night and haven’t listened to it much yet. I really enjoy Andrew Bird, his talent is revolutionary. I was first drawn to him for his violin talent. He includes violin in almost all of his songs, and many times it is layers upon layers upon layers of that beautiful instrument. He whistles and plays guitar and sings and plays violin and so much more for his songs, and he has the ability to be a one-man band when he performs live. It really is a sight to see! I was happy to see him quite a few years ago in Philadelphia. At just over halfway through this song you can enjoy some of his raw violin talent, and I hope you can enjoy the song as a whole, also!

So, there’s a tiny glimpse into my iTunes library. Perhaps six songs wasn’t enough to show the true versatility of it, but there you have it, for now. I have so much music that I don’t actually listen to, and I think it’s fun sometimes to just listen to everything on shuffle and be surprised by a song from a few years ago, or a song I’ve never actually heard.

What could I find on your iTunes library? The good? The bad? I’d love to hear it!

Music Monday- LP

This girl can SING. And I don’t typically enjoy bands featuring female vocalists who have voices that are this strong. But seriously now, she’s got a VOICE, people!

I don’t know much else about LP. I just know this video. And her 2012 album Into The Wild- Live at EastWest Studios (embedded under the video). So here is all I know. I hope you enjoy her as much as I do!

the (almost) redemption of Fitzcarraldo (part 2)

(If you’d like to catch up, find part 1 here.)

So, I saw Glen Hansard play at The Wiltern on Wednesday night. It was definitely an evening of mixed emotions.

I had never been to a show at The Wiltern, and was very pleased with the venue. It is a beautiful older building, the architecture in the interior is quite lovely- the ceilings and all the intricacies on them made it a great setting for a show. It is a smaller venue with a standing room floor and a balcony with assigned seats. The floor has a few different levels and that made it nice and easy to find a good place to view the stage. We were basically as close as we could get for the standing room priced tickets.

I went into this show with much anticipation. I knew I would be seeing quality, regardless of the form it took. I was so hopeful to hear my favorite song, due to my conversation with Mr. Hansard on Monday.

There were a few setbacks, mainly due to the people around me- three girls in front of us with terrible, pessimistic attitudes, and a guy behind us who was too drunk (or stoned? Or both?) to act with courtesy. He sang loudly and terribly out of tune, he yelled out to the stage at the most inappropriate times, and he had no care for those of us standing around him. Luckily, he settled down about halfway through the show.

Kelly Hogan opened the show with a 40 minute set. The girl has a killer set of vocal chords and she positively swooned me with her choice of songs. She didn’t appear to have written any of them herself, but she sang them with soul, and passion … and a bit of cockiness that I had to ignore after a while so that I could continue to enjoy her set. That’s all I have to say about her.

When Glen Hansard takes the stage, he positively controls the audience and everything around. He started his set with The Storm, It’s Coming, off of his new solo album (Rhythm and Repose). (Playlist embedded at the end of this post.) To just stride onto stage and sit behind a piano and play a slow, beautiful song as an opener was a great way to get us all hooked into the rest of the evening. He continued with You Will Become, also from the new album.

Let me pause for a moment and comment on how, alongside Colm Mac Con Iomaire, there were two string players (perhaps a violist and a violinist) in the background adding depth to a lot of the music. I would like to know how they got that job, and how I can get that job next time. Every time they came on stage, all I could think about was how awesome it would be if it were me. I would probably do anything to be able to play violin on stage alongside Glen Hansard and Colm Mac Con Iomaire. Next time, it will be me. I will figure this out.

Ok, on to the rest now.

I already mentioned in part one how difficult it is for me to enjoy shows when I am unfamiliar with the music that is being played. While enjoying this show, I started to wonder how it affects the artist who is singing. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two songs Mr. Hansard played, and I attribute this to the face that I was already incredibly familiar with them. The majority of the audience didn’t seem to connect much to those songs, at least in juxtaposition to the third song played- When Your Mind’s Made Up, from the movie Once and from the Swell Season’s 2006 self-titled CD. The feel of the room changed once this very familiar song started, and the audience collectively got involved with the song and enjoyed it together. How does it affect an artist when he is playing a song he so very much enjoys and wants to share but the audience isn’t connecting to?

After this song he played a few more from Rhythm and Repose, including Bird of Sorrow, which is my favorite from the new CD. He prefaced this one with the thought that it is about his Mum, or about Ireland. In the middle he stopped strumming his guitar and wiped tears out his eyes. A truly beautiful moment- the hearts of artists are something to be reckoned with.

After eight songs with a full band backing him up (including the two extra string players and three brass players), Mr. Hansard took the stage to himself for a few songs. This man is a master at pulling you in, particularly when it is just him and his guitar. (His guitar, by the way, had apparently broken right before the show. We got to hear the story of how special it has become to him after filming Once with it, and how a friend from Long Beach drove up to fix it right before the show started.) The passion that Mr. Hansard is able to evoke while playing music (because it is real, unadulterated passion) is something that he passes on to the audience. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears- and not as a crazed fan, just purely as someone who is being moved by the musician and his music. He ended the solo set with a Van Morrison cover, and got more sound out of his acoustic guitar than I’ve heard some full bands make. Epic.

It was halfway through the show at this point, and not at one moment did it yet seem like the right time for Fitzcarraldo to be played. I started getting worried, but tried not to think about it. I really wanted to just enjoy the show for how it was.

With the full band there were quite a few more Swell Season songs played. It was nice to hear the familiar, but I found myself really hoping at every song change to hear something new, or something from the far-off past in the Frames’ discography. It really would have been great to hear a Frames song, particularly since they were all on stage together. As I’ve experienced with all the other Glen Hansard shows I’ve been too, there were a fair amount of “sing-along” songs to participate in. That is always a nice way to be able to connect with the music. The initial set ended with High Horses from the Swell Season’s second album Strict Joy, and they left the stage for a few minutes while we all did our clapping and cheering in anticipation for the encore.

One more song from Rhythm and Repose was played during the encore, and then Lisa Hannigan joined Mr. Hansard on stage and played one of her songs, Little Bird. The rest of her band was brought up and the whole crowd of everyone on stage sang some songs in tribute of Levon Helm. It was at this point I realized Fitcarraldo was nowhere to be found in the evening’s set list, and I did what I could to let that go and enjoy the rest of the evening.

Lisa Hannigan and many of her friends/vocalists, along with Glen Hansard and the entirety of The Frames

The show ultimately ended with The Auld Triangle, performed by Mr. Hansard and the Frames. I am familiar with this song only from this video of Mr. Hansard and Bono recently singing it together. As it seems to have a lot of meaning in Ireland, it was naturally the right way for Mr. Hansard to end his show.

It was a great show. It really was. Glen Hansard knows how to take the stage and he has all the talent he needs to back it up. It is great to see him playing with The Frames because they are all so familiar with playing with each other. They’ve been together for over 20 years at this point. Oh, what I would do to have friends who I could play music with for that long!

Naturally, due to Monday’s events, I left the show feeling a bit saddened. Frustrated, maybe, but ultimately just a bit sad. There’s no one to blame for not hearing “my” song. I just got really excited that I was told I could expect to hear it. I assume it was simply and easily forgotten about. I was, however, surprised to not hear a single Frames song during the entirety of the show- that was more unexpected than just not hearing Fitzcarraldo.

And now I’ll admit this: on Thursday morning while I was eating breakfast, I made a Twitter account for basically the sole purpose of tweeting Mr. Hansard and Mr. Mac Con Iomaire to complement them on the show and slyly “ask” about Fitzcarraldo. Find me @iamRebekahRae. I can’t promise much tweeting activity, but it is nice to be able to directly converse with these musicians who I so strongly respect. (Mr. Mac Con Iomaire did actually respond to me.) I’ll be waiting in anticipation for the next tour, which I can only assume will be at least two years from now. With all that time to wait, I hope that next time this mounting anticipation amounts to something other than a third let down.

Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy my massive collection of Frames, Swell Season, and Glen Hansard discography, and try to convince everyone I know to give them a try as well.

You can start here! Listen to this playlist and it will be like you were at the show!  And the playlist isn’t live. And you can’t see the musicians. But hey, it’s the exact set list of the show on Wednesday at The Wiltern. Enjoy!

 

the (almost) redemption of Fitzcarraldo (part 1)

You may remember this post that professes my respect and admiration for Glen Hansard and the music he writes and performs. About how he is my favorite musician and he can do no wrong when it comes to music. He has massive talent. He seems to be a down-to-earth, well-intentioned human being.

Well, here is another post about him, but this time about the two shows I was privileged enough to attend this week.

I’ll start with Monday. My employers were so kind as to let me leave work a half hour early to drive through rush-hour traffic and find parking in the streets of Hollywood so that I could watch Mr. Hansard perform for free at Amoeba Records.

I was under the impression that this was an acoustic set, which would have been amazing, but upon arrival I saw the stage set up for much more than just Mr. Hansard. Sound check brought Colm Mac Con Iomaire and his violin onto the stage, and as I was surrounded by strangers, I texted my boyfriend my excitement. The full band was there. This tour to promote Glen Hansard’s solo album (Rhythm and Repose) is a tour with all the members of The Frames! My mind was racing. If I could just get a few minutes to talk with Mr. Hansard after the show, surely he’d agree to play my favorite song when I saw him again two days later (see the aforementioned blog post about that saga).

More about that in a few.

The show was fantastic (like I had any doubt?!). The was the first time, according to Mr. Hansard, that the band was playing these songs together on stage. We, the lucky audience at Amoeba, were experiencing the very beginning of the tour. I was happy to have a decent view of the stage, only having to dodge around people’s heads a few times during the show.

A week earlier I found that Rhythm and Repose was streaming on NPR during the days leading up to the release of the album (June 19th), and I listened to it all week (literally), at least two or three times a day. I find it hard to completely enjoy shows when I am unfamiliar with the music, and I was unsure about seeing Mr. Hansard twice before having time to become familiar with his new songs. Thanks to the NPR stream, I basically had them memorized before the Amoeba show. I also then felt like I was the only one singing along, but I didn’t dwell too much on that.

These two are who I get my strongest musical inspiration from- Glen Hansard and Colm Mac Con Iomaire

The show was a decent mix of new and old songs. There were some nice sing-a-longs included- some requested by the man with the guitar, others just happening naturally. It was a nice setting with all of us enjoying the music and the company. I was very happy to hear a Frames song- People All Get Ready– and also happy to hear my favorite off the new CD- Bird of Sorrow (maybe I teared up a bit during that one). I also now have a newfound love for High Hope, which was initially released quite a few years ago on a CD from Music of Ireland- Welcome Home.

So the show ended and Amoeba had a nice deal for us- though it was the evening of the 18th of June, we were able to purchase the CD there, a day before its official United States release date. Also, we couldn’t stand in line and ask Mr. Hansard to autograph anything except the new CD, due to time restrictions. Fair enough- I was intending to buy it anyway and had just assumed I’d need to wait until Wednesday night and purchase it at his show at The Wiltern.

The CD was purchased (thanks, Jeremy!) and we stood in line. For an hour or so. I was hungry. I had been standing for 2.5 hours after 8.5 hours at work. I was also tired just because night time is not my cup of tea. I already have Mr. Hansard’s autograph (twice, actually), and I have met him before. But I was on a mission. I needed to be sure I would hear Fitzcarraldo on Wednesday night.

Having the opportunity to talk with someone you have a deep, appreciative respect for is a wonderful experience. Meeting Mr. Hansard the first time around, though I didn’t talk much, is a memory I will always keep close to my heart. It was outside, after a Swell Season show, and it was laid back- we just waited by the back stage door to see if he would come out to talk with us, and eventually he did. And we all had a good time without worrying about time restraints or people in a line behind us. This meeting at Amoeba, however, I will always look back on and laugh. Or cringe. Both, probably. It is so much more difficult for me (and- everyone? Maybe?) to keep my cool after I’ve been standing in a line for an hour in anticipation for what is to come. It also doesn’t help that there are people rushing you through this meet and greet and rushing the artist as well.

So, the two minutes I had to speak with him went something like this:

—–

*shake hands*

*push my CD towards Mr. Hansard accidentally, so as to rush the whole process even more*

me: “Hi, great show! Phenomenal, really.”

GH: “Thanks.” (Probably something better than that.)

me: “So, I have a favor to ask you … perhaps it’s overstepping my bounds …”

GH: *a little nod, or something*

me: “You see, I saw you in New York City, with The Frames, and you didn’t play my favorite song.”

GH: (immediately, and with genuine interest): “Oh, what is it?”

me: “Fitzcarraldo.”

GH: (immediately, and once again with genuine interest) “I’ll play it on Wednesday, are you going to be there?”

me: “Yes!” *cower backwards a bit* “You have no idea how happy that will make me!”

GH: *searches his pockets and the table for something to write on and remind himself to play the song*

GH’s manager(?): *dismisses GH’s efforts* “I’ll remind you.”

GH: *Thanks his manager* *signs my CD*

me: *Blubbering about how I’ve seen him here and there, my employers met him in February at an awards ceremony (trying to get him to remember they told him about me, and he signed their booklet for me.)*

Jeremy: “She’s your biggest fan.”

me: *(internally- “oh no, not the biggest fan thing.”) More blubbering. This time about how I’ll follow him everywhere, I’ll even be in Dublin on August 8th and will look for him if that’s where he’ll be. Basically sounding like a stalker.*

GH’s manager(?)to GH: “You’ll be here in LA on August 8th.”

me: *(internally- “so much for that.”)*

*Jeremy and I walk away after saying bye. GH looks at me in the eye and tells me again he’ll be sure to play Fitzcarraldo on Wednesday. My heart is pounding and there is too much adrenaline. My mouth trips over my second goodbyes. I get out of the store as fast as I can.*

—–

I write this only because I can actually laugh about it. I hope that Mr. Hansard can realize that while a lot of his interactions with fans are like this (it’s not only me, right?!), we’re not all crazy. The moment is difficult. I wish I could keep composure. Maybe next time.

I left Amoeba positively elated (albeit, heart pounding). It had been a great night and I was essentially promised to hear my favorite song by my favorite artist, in just two short days. Fitzcarraldo was finally going to be experienced as it should be!

This is where you wait in great anticipation for part two! (Only because this post is long enough in its own right.)

music Monday- strings for all!

As a violinist, I am immediately drawn to music when I hear a violin/viola/cello used. A good use of strings can add merit to even the worst of songs. Of course, I prefer to listen to the good ones. Regardless of my bias, I enjoy how strings can be used in any genre of music. A stringed instrument does not necessarily make the song country or bluegrass. Rock, punk, pop, metal, and even rap all have songs with good uses of strings suitable to their genre. I love how universal stringed instruments have become.

I’ve compiled a playlist of some of my favorite songs with strings. Initially this list had 33 songs on it; I downsized to make it more “listenable.” I left out songs that are only strings, and concentrated on bringing you five fantastic songs of varying genres that make good use of strings alongside vocals, guitars, drums, and the like. You can find the playlist embedded at the end of this post.

1. Rise- The Frames
The premiere Music Monday post was all about Glen Hansard and The Frames. Naturally, I had to include one of their songs. “Rise” is made complete with the violin part. There is a build that starts around 1:50 that continues for the remainder of the song, and the violin solo is integral- it truly would not be the same without. It is one of my favorite uses of Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s violin skills.

2. Rouse Your Bones- Broadcast 2000
Broadcast 2000 makes good and innovative use of strings in most of their songs. This one is a favorite of mine because of how necessary the violin is. There is not much guitar used, instead there are many layers of violins, plucked and bowed, to make some wonderful fillers as well as the bulk of the rhythm.

3. Mayday!!!- Flobots
The violin in this song is used seamlessly and it adds so much. There are smatterings all throughout under the lyrics and other instruments that add to the movement of the song, as well as some solo fillers that that really stand out and- in the long run- help the lyrics make their point. *please be advised that there is a bit of language in this one*

4. Rocks and Daggers- Noah and the Whale
This song is from Noah and the Whale’s first CD- “Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down,” and it remains my favorite of their three CDs. “Rocks and Daggers” is a good representation of how happy and fun most of the songs on that CD are. It is yet another song that has an integral violin part. Not only is there a nice solo line that gets introduced around 1:50 and repeated throughout the rest of the song, there are also many fillers and rhythm lines to take place of guitar chords.

5. Wagon Wheel- Old Crow Medicine Show
This is my all-time favorite “campfire” song, if you will. It is classic bluegrass- four chords, applicable lyrics, great harmonies, and fiddle interludes in between all the verses. I have played this song more times that I can remember with various groups of friends and acquaintances. So, for nostalgia’s sake, it had to be included. It really is a fantastic song.

6. Of course, if The Beatles were on Spotify- Eleanor Rigby is a definite must add to this list. Trivia- it is the only Beatles song that doesn’t include any of the four on their instruments!

What do you think of this list? Are there any songs with good string parts that have stuck out to you? In what genres do you think the use of strings works best?