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!

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!

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?

Everything I’ve ever wanted to say to Glen Hansard, or, Everything I’ve ever wanted to tell you about Glen Hansard

While I continue to sort through how this blog is going to play out, I think I’ve decided to include a music Monday post. Music on Mondays is clearly for the alliteration. CSA posts will likely be on Sundays when I get my bags of goodies. Other posts on other days will fall into place as I make blogging more of a habit.

So, onto today’s music Monday (a few hours late depending on your time zone, yes). There’s no better way to start what will hopefully be a consistent Monday post than with one about my all-time favorite musician: Glen Hansard.

(You can find all songs mentioned in an embedded playlist at the end of this post.)

I was first indirectly introduced to Glen Hansard in late 2005, when a playlist made by this guy included a song titled “Fake” by a band named The Frames. Glen Hansard is the lead singer and primary songwriter, and guitar player and all around wonderful musician heading up this rock band from Dublin who have been around since the early 1990’s. I enjoyed the song, but didn’t pay particular attention to Mr. Hansard until a year later, driving in a good friend’s car through the scenic Kentucky countryside, windows down, listening to some beautiful music I had never heard before. It was the soundtrack from “Once.” (You may know the song “Falling Slowly,” which won best song at the Oscars in 2008.) I immediately obtained a copy of the soundtrack and for the next few months it was literally the only music that I listened to. Some would say I overplayed it, but to this day I remain immune to getting tired of that soundtrack. It is just TOO good. The music led me to seeing the movie, and after a bit of research, I discovered it was, in fact, Glen Hansard playing the lead role. This led to many years following of delving into any music that I could find that he put his hands on.

There is something special about Glen Hansard’s art. Years of listening to his music have brought me to a place of utmost respect for him as a musician and songwriter. It doesn’t hurt that, as a violinist, I dream of being in a band similar to The Frames. The energy that they are able to exude from their songs continues to astound me. When asked why I want to play music in a band, I can’t respond in words. The only way I can convey my love for playing music is to direct people to a song- “Revelate,” by The Frames, from the live CD “Set List.” The build up to the first violin solo, and the solo itself (starting around 3:25), conveys so much more than I will ever be able to put in words. I not only have Glen Hansard to thank for that, but also specifically the amazing violinist of The Frames- Colm Mac Con Iomaire. I met him once. I also later conversed with him through Myspace messaging and he was so kind to explain to me the gear that he uses while playing shows. I’ll have to do a post about him another day.

I met Glen Hansard once also. It was during the same time I met Mr. Mac Con Iomaire, after a Swell Season concert in Philadelphia in late 2009. The sad thing is, I was so engrossed in talking shop about violin that I didn’t get any sort of conversation with Mr. Hansard. At the last second, I jumped into a picture with him and my very tall friend John. Slightly awkward moment, but I needed that picture!

That was the extent of my meeting him, but I did observe him a lot while he was interacting with fans. What really struck me was his sincere kindness. How genuine he was. A normal person who has an extraordinary talent and is recognized for it, but hasn’t let any of that get to his head. I’ve met other relatively well-known musicians and this has not been the case with anyone else of his status that I have come in contact with (except for the rest of his band; Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Marketa Irglova were quite lovely as well). That just adds tenfold to the respect I already have for him.

I once drove from Lexington, Kentucky to Philadelphia, PA and then took a train to NYC to see The Frames on their 20th anniversary tour. This was late 2010. As The Frames were, and are, my favorite band, this was a huge deal to me. In fact, I got to Philadelphia the night before The Frames show, and they happened to be playing Philly the night I arrived- I wish I could say I went to that show as well, and though I didn’t, you can be guaranteed I debated heavily about it.

The venue in NYC was a larger one, with a big open area for standing room at stage level, and three balconies wrapping around three sides of the stage. I ended up on the first balcony, stage right, almost immediately over the side of the stage. My view (with a zoom) looked like this:

This show is another thing I have no words for. The best I can do is to say it was the best show I’ve ever been to. Words like that don’t seem to have any meaning, but I can’t describe how amazing this show was. In everything Glen Hansard does, you can see and experience all of his emotion. It is seemingly tangible. He loves what he does. He is invested in it. His musicianship, his songwriting, his performing- it is all part of who he is. He puts on a show, yes, but it’s not that he’s acting for everyone. He just is who he is. There are no frills, there is nothing fake. He is real and transparent and it all shows in his music, particularly in his live performance. (I can say the same for when I saw him perform as Swell Season, but as The Frames are my particular favorite, I will stick with writing about them for this post, so as to save some space.)

I do have something negative to include about that show, something I still cannot let go of, though it’s been a year and a half at this point. You see, I have a favorite Frames song. Who doesn’t have favorites, right? And this song that I love is not some random song off of a B-side CD or anything. This song is the title track of their 1995 album “Fitzcarraldo.” This song is perfect and beautiful from start to finish. I have four different versions of it in my iTunes. I learned the violin part by ear and it’s a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine to play along with the song and pretend I’m in the band. So in the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary tour stop in NYC, I was getting increasingly excited to hear my favorite song live, to see all the raw emotion firsthand, to simply experience the song as it should be experienced. I wasn’t seeing Swell Season this time, I was seeing The Frames. I was seeing how it all began 20 years earlier. So I could be guaranteed to hear this song.

And then the song never happened.

As the night moved on and the minutes passed more and more quickly and they played one amazing song after another, I was increasingly earnest about yelling “Fitzcarraldo!” to the stage below me. It was to no avail. They ended the set and walked backstage and then came back for the encore when I believed surely they’d play my song. They didn’t. I think they played two or three more songs for that encore. I don’t remember a single one. I was too downhearted. It was my chance to hear Fitzcarraldo, and it never happened. The icing on the cake was when I talked with my sister who lives near Belfast and saw The Frames on the same tour a few weeks earlier or later or whenever, and of course they played it there. I really cannot let that go. Or maybe I just don’t want to let it go. I just want to know why it didn’t get played that night. Why, out of all the songs to exclude, did Fitzcarraldo have to be one of them? When will I ever have the chance to hear that song live? Will The Frames tour again?

I was two degrees of separation from Glen Hansard just a few months ago. My employers attended the Scientific and Technical Awards in February, and as it turned out, The Swell Season was the entertainment for the evening. Coincidentally, my employers had asked me just a few days previous what type of music I listened to, and I answered as I answer that question every time- “I have two favorite bands, and though they are fairly different from one another, I can’t separate them into who I like better or who is the better band, they are both the same standard to me- The Frames, and The Beatles. Glen Hansard of The Frames is the most talented musician out there.” (I then further explained to them who  The Frames are by mentioning “Once,” and mentioning The Swell Season and “Falling Slowly.” They got it by then.) And so when my employers saw who the entertainment was that evening, they wasted no time in introducing themselves to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova and telling them how I compared The Frames to The Beatles. I now have a second set of autographs from them, and Mr. Hansard’s reads “To Bekah- Big Love.” I’m okay with that.

I’ve tickets to a June 20th show here in Los Angeles to see Glen Hansard solo. Honestly, I’d been scouring the Internet for months, at least 4 or 5 times a week, to see when he’d be touring again. I bought tickets as soon as I was aware of their availability. I found out an hour later that my darling boyfriend had intentions to buy me the tickets for my birthday. I was too fast for him. Oops. I am extremely excited about this show. He has a solo album coming out on June 19th and I’ve so far heard two of the songs- “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting,” and “Philander” (The latter not available on Spotify at the moment, here’s a YouTube link.) It took me two listens each to love them. The first time through, I was slightly unsettled because they initially seem to be a lot different than his typical style. But on the second listen I was sold, first because I knew what to expect, second because Glen Hansard is a musical genius no matter how he presents his talents, and third because there are still parts of the “old” Glen Hansard I know and love thrown into these songs, you just have to listen a bit more for them.

This “old” Glen Hansard is so distinctive to me. Powerful vocals, thoughtful lyrics, and- what really gets me- intense builds in the songs, these builds are what really bring out the emotion. I think it’s the builds that I initially thought I was missing in his new solo songs. But in reality, they are there, they’re just there differently. Instead of builds, per se, there are more spread out smatterings of the emotion. I’ve grown used to builds like in “Santa Maria,” a song I used to skip almost always because the beginning truthfully bored me- until I saw them perform it at the NYC show and was reminded of how it ended. That song has some energy! “Say It To Me Now,” from the Once soundtrack specifically, has it as well. “Dream Awake” and “Finally” have both smatterings and progressive builds. “The Cost” builds to an amazing violin solo that at first listen still sounds like an electric guitar to me. The best example I can give of his vocal talent is “Falling Slowly” from The Frames’s CD “The Cost.” Around the 3:00 mark he goes into the chorus basically a capella, and the emotion behind the words and the control of his voice strikes me every single time I listen to that section.

When it comes down to it, I’d love to sit with Glen Hansard and pick his brain about how he writes songs. However, I’m so bad at asking questions, that perhaps I’d prefer a jam session over a cup of tea. Maybe then I could finally hear Fitzcarraldo live, from just a few feet away, and fulfill that daydream of playing the violin part with the real band.

And, P.S. that guy who first introduced me to The Frames through “Fake,” well, at one point I attributed that song to him. And five years later, and now two years after that, I can attribute “Headlong.” It’s funny how life works. Thank you, Glen Hansard, for writing songs that are relevant.