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!

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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.

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?

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.