November 30, 2009

The Swell Season stunned me

Swell Season 032

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova represent everything that the hot & honest parts of me love the most about music. As The Swell Season, they are completely humble and engaging, they passionately perform their craft with every ounce of their souls, and they sound damn lovely the way their voices blend together. Somehow it has taken me until now to see them live, and last night at a sold-out show in Denver, I wondered what had taken me so long.

Swell Season 110-1

It felt alternately like a candlelight church service or a campfire at the Ogden last night, with pin-drop silence when it was required and all-encompassing enthusiasm every time Glen invited us to sing along. “All you have to do is sing this simple melody,” he instructed us with a wide smile from behind his guitar. “I don’t care if you mean it or not, just sing it. Well no, actually,” he reconsidered — “Don’t sing it if you don’t mean it.”

But instructions aside — when all of our voices started to rise together to the melody of “Falling Slowly” or “When Your Mind’s Made Up,” I think everyone in the room had to have been convinced. I’ve sang along at the top of my lungs to “Falling Slowly” in my car dozens (if not hundreds) of times, and I gotta say — it was catharsis at its best, to throw my head back with 950 other fans and let all those harmonies soar out into the darkness. It was one of the most honest and wonderful concerts I’ve seen in years. You get the sense that they are doing this for all the right reasons, and their fans respond warmly to that.

There is an undercurrent of hope in their new material that they played last night, and as much as I loved being melancholy and drowning in longing through their past songs, I too feel I am entering a period of hope and some wholeness, and songs like this new marvelously gospel-infused rendition are exactly what resonates with me:

A High Hope (new song, live in LA) – The Swell Season

Maybe when our hearts have realigned
maybe when we’ve both had some time
I’m gonna see you there

Maybe when we’re both old and wise
maybe when our hearts have had some time
I’m gonna see you there
where the good times go
where you are forever young…

The crowd singing here with all they’ve got, the woman in the crowd with the virtuoso voice ringing majestically over the crowd — this must be how ascension feels, no other way to put it.

All of my pictures are up on the Denver Post’s Reverb site as a slide show, if you would like to see more. What a gorgeous night, what a spark in my heart.

Swell Season 008


  • Thanks for this post. Went straight to my Facebook. After I saw the movie “Once” I remember getting the soundtrack and basically wearing it out. The closest The Swell Season came near me at the time was Charlotte, NC which is a 4 hour drive. It was during the work week so I passed on tickets. Ugh. Kicking myself now of course! Right after the movie though, I hit the interwebs looking for anything I could find and was happy to discover pre-Swell Season material too.

    I’ve been having a pop-music explosion lately and have been doing a poor job at balancing it out with indie fare. Between you and Austin Town Hall, I’ve gotten a much needed injection :) The potato chips to my cake, if you will.

    meredith — November 30, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

  • I saw them in Oakland and they were absolutely amazing. I loved how for the first song, “Fallen from the Sky,” Glen and Markéta came out by themselves and sat cross-legged on the floor at the front of the stage and sang to the crowd (just like in the picture at the end of the post). It was a fun introduction to their set.

    For the song “Say it to Me Now”, Glen sung it without a mic, just singing it like he did on Once as if he were a busker on the street (which he was when he was younger by the way). Heather, I’m curious, did he do this in Denver too?

    Glen had so much energy it was incredible. It was really fun how he got the audience involved and kept encouraging everyone to sing along. Per request he also sang “Happy Birthday” to someone in the crowd. Markéta was quieter but also did a great job. Her voice is absolutely beautiful and complements Glen’s voice nicely. The rest of the band is really talented too, especially the violinist Colm. I definitely recommend that anyone who has a chance go and see them.

    singtothestars — December 1, 2009 @ 12:24 am

  • We’ve had to put off seeing them for a lack of funds, but now I’m kicking myself. What a great live video. Thanks Heather.

    Steve McCoy — December 1, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  • singtothestars, yes, he did come out in front of his mic, alone on the stage, to sing “Say It To Me Now,” with a moving introductory story about an older woman in Chicago that he met on the elevator who was wearing a royal blue “Paddington Bear-style” coat that he complimented her on and wound up learning a lot about what his willingness to say something meant to her. That was a long sentence, but yeah, it was a great moment :)

    browneheather — December 1, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  • Thank you for your post. I was at the Denver concert on Sunday night and you have summed up my experience perfectly! And I’m so thrilled that there is video of the song “A High Hope.” If I had to pick a favorite song from the evening, that was it.

    Anne — December 1, 2009 @ 10:45 am

  • Wahhhhhhhhhhh!Stupid Portland.

    Kathleen — December 1, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

  • They’re on Craig Furgeson tonight, which means they’ll be playing about 1:30 AM on CBS. Or just wait a few days and catch them on his site.

    Maine Character — December 1, 2009 @ 6:35 pm

  • kathleen, i find it amusing that my spam filter nabbed this one.

    browneheather — December 1, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

  • There is also a just-posted-this-week session with them, that is very nice and well worth downloading. They do a pretty cool version of the Frames Star Star meets Will Oldham’s Christmas Time In the Mountains.

    Rand — December 2, 2009 @ 10:27 am

  • Heather,
    Just wanted to let you know I’ve been reading your blog for several weeks now, and enjoying it a lot. I really resonate with the passion you have–it’s obvious you truly love the music, and the excitement is contagious.

    A few weeks before finding you, I started a music blog called The Oomph. Of all the music blogs I’ve been looking at, yours by far is the one I most relate to. I’ve added you to my blogroll, and look forward to checking back here. Thanks for sharing this!

    Jeff McQ — December 2, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  • I’ve been checking out your site for quite a while now and I must say it gets better and better.
    My girlfriend and I saw the Swell Season a few weeks ago here in Houston and it was great. They actually asked a girl to join them onstage during “A High Hope” because her voice stood out while he was warming the crowd up.
    Here is a link from youtube…

    Gil C. — December 2, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

  • Great to hear, Heather. I just got into them, more because of the new album and then retroactively Once, and wavered on trying to get tickets to see them. I finally caved and bought the seats (to Radio City in NYC) and am more anxious to see them than I am to see fellow Irishmen U2.

    High Hopes and The Verb give me chills, and I hate saying stuff like this because it’s melodramatically corny but in all honesty, I Have Loved You Wrong almost makes me weep at the end.

    Eightiesologist — December 2, 2009 @ 6:44 pm

  • Eightiesologist–I’m going to their January show too. Really, very, too excited for it.

    KC — December 3, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  • I am loving the new album.. missed their LA gigs and bummed about it…

    At least i got to see them at the AAA convention late night at the St. Julien. You should have come down…

    Ha ha — December 5, 2009 @ 12:53 am

  • They are class – Glen has so much material worth checking out. The Frames stuff obviously is the start point. Glad to see you enjoyed them Heather. The blog still rocks!

    Rory McDonnell — December 5, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  • holy shit this is a band?
    I love Once so so much. I never realized those two kept making music.

    I will definitely be on board for this, thanks for the head’s up, Heather!

    Hanan — December 5, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

  • 2008′s The Swell Season tour with Damien Dempsey is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Absolutely outstanding. I think the cd & dvd in bonus version of the new album, Strict Joy, are from that tour.

    The band members are as genuinely nice as they are talented and inspirational in performance. If you can find it, look for their set on Austin City Limits last fall, it’s fantastic! They did a couple of songs with a local Austin-area children’s choir – Falling Slowly and a song with Daniel Johnston, Life In Vain, that will bring tears to your eyes when you listen to the words coming from the incredibly talented and challenged Johnston and the sweet, innocent voices of the choir along with Colm’s soaring violin. The Swell Season performs as the backing band and conduit for an amazing performance. On a lighter note, Jason Segal performed a song with them in LA a couple of weeks ago and it’s quite funny!

    ACL is quite protective of their shows, so I’ve only found a couple of YT clips that people have videotaped from their TV and the sound is marginal:

    Jason Segal & TSS is an audience-cam vid, tho not too bad:

    jimbo — December 7, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  • Absolutely beautiful, thank you for posting!

    It’s a a shame I don’t see much talk/mention of The Frames, which basically is the same group as The Swell Season (with the addition of lovely Marketa)…
    Glen and the lads have been making amazing, mind-blowing music – though many times (much) louder than the beautiful songs from the Swell Season albums, there’s lots of great stuff in there, and even some quiet haunting songs (e.g. The Blood / Headlong / What happens When the Heart Just Stops and more)….

    I hope they could do both in the future, release more Frames albums and more Swell Season. And I am so happy that Glen “and Co.” are making it nowadays, been following them for some 12 years…

    Ohh, and there’s a version of Red Chord, from a solo acoustic show Glen did in Chicago at Gunther Murphy’s – June 23rd, 1999 – - – there was a lady from the crowd who sand it with him and they finished it off with Last Goodbye (jeff buckley) and that is one of the most beautiful things I ever heard.

    alright, that’s it for now…

    avi — December 11, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

  • Someone already mentioned this, but I wanted to ask well. But when they performed High Hopes in Houston, the called Moji up to sing with them (as the other commmentor said, they had heard her singing toward the front. The result is absolutely gorgeous.

    Jamie — December 12, 2009 @ 3:37 am

  • Thanks, Rand, for the DayTrotter link.

    Here’s a new interview and concert from the always classy NPR.

    Maine Character — December 13, 2009 @ 3:01 am

  • hey Heather, cheers! You’re an inspiration of mine!

    Linds — December 14, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

  • [...] Via I am Fuel. [...]

    Swell Season – A High Hope « tea@elevensies — January 7, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

  • Went to see The Swell Season at the very intimate Quay Theatre at The Lowry in Manchester last night and found this website while searching for ‘High Hopes’, which was one highlight amongst many, especially with the crowd participation. This is the 4th time I have seen band and the performance was every bit as excellent as the other 3, really gentle and really powerful within the same song and Glen is a raconteur par excellence. For those lucky enough to be catching the band at Radio City be sure to catch the support act, Josh Ritter. Have seen him numerous times in Ireland, Scotland and England and he is the real deal, can definitely mentioned in the same breath as Glen and Marketa.

    Phil — January 18, 2010 @ 2:55 am

  • Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by eyerizzz: Come on, someone bring Glenn and Marketa here already. Review of The Swell Season concert:

    uberVU - social comments — February 12, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

  • I have been fortunate to see The Band several times and each time it is like the very first time! I am not kidding. I have been to alot of concerts in my day and to say this Band is AWESOME is really putting it mildly!!! They really rocked each time and I felt like they were singing just to our location as I’m sure everyone feels the same towards their experience. I am hoping to see them soon again and I can hardly wait.

    C.J. — March 18, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

  • lovely post
    on a lovely blog
    about a lovely duo
    from a lovely movie
    all of which i just
    recently discovered.

    i can sincerely say
    if you love the swell season
    you’ll love the greentrees

    all blessings,
    todd :)

    todd — August 31, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

  • [...] Via I am Fuel. [...]

    Swell Season – A High Hope | tea@elevensies — April 28, 2013 @ 11:51 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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