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.


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.