Wednesday, September 23, 2009

what a swell season



I forget sometimes how fortunate I am to have the job I have, and to do what I do in the music industry. Most of the time it's all emails and meetings and conference calls with sales reps. Boring stuff.

But then there are days like yesterday.

Two years ago a small independent film called Once burst out of Dublin, Ireland starring Glen Hansard (lead singer of Irish rock band The Frames) and his musical collaborator Markéta Irglová. Shot on a shoestring budget (only $160,000), the film featured the pair as struggling musicians and included original music written and performed by Hansard and Irglova. It was a simple but beautiful story that went on to earn $20 million worldwide and earned Hansard and Irglova an Academy Award, a Grammy nomination, and international stardom. The two musicians now tour and perform as a duo called The Swell Season.

This week I was in California for a music presentation with one of our accounts. We do these a couple times a year featuring artists from all across the Warner label family, and it's a cool opportunity for me to see a lot of various artists perform in one setting. The most exciting part for me - The Swell Season was on the docket to play the showcase. I have been looking forward to this for two months!

And so the time finally came yesterday. About midway through the showcase I selected for myself a spot right at the foot of the stage. A label guy got up in front of us and went through the story about Glen and Markéta and the movie - everything I just told you. And then, the words I had been waiting for, "Please welcome The Swell Season!" And then he gestures behind us! I hear music. We all turn around to see Glen, strumming on his guitar, and Marketa both standing at the back of the room side by side - no mic, no lights - as they launch into one of their trademark songs. And so begins the most incredible, intimate, unassuming, amazing acoustic performances I have ever seen in my life.

After a couple songs Glen explained how he believes stages separate an artist from the audience and creates a line of divison that shouldn't be there, and that when he can he likes to play right in amongst the audience so that there can be a true connection. The set was necessarily short and direct, and simply amazing. They closed with their Grammy nominated song "Falling Slowly" which I captured below. There's a lot of ambient noise, and there are plenty of better live recordings on YouTube, but this one is mine and I like it a lot:



After the set I wandered outside the club, pretending to be checking my email on my phone, but knowing Glen and Marketa had to catch a plane that evening. In general I don't care too much about meeting artists, but there are a few that I have always wanted to meet. And so as Glen and Marketa were walking out the door I did my best to nonchalantly thank them for playing and told them how much I enjoy their music without coming across like a total goob. I'm sure I didn't accomplish that, but they were kind enough to humor me with a little conversation and a picture before getting in their car and jetting off.

Yesterday was without a doubt one of my Top 5 music related experiences of all time. Hard to capture in words and really poor-quality video, but it was great and was a good reminder of why I work in music.

If you haven't before, check out the soundtrack from Once. Keep your eyes open for the new album from The Swell Season releasing October 27th.

2 comments:

jon arnold said...

this is wonderful, so glad you had fun and got to meet them.

Drew Raines said...

1. Oh, the stories that beat-up Takamine must have. I've never seen him play anything else.

2. They have to be tired of singing that song.