I think tonight's show by The Swell Season
, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova of the movie Once
, together with
Thomas "Doveman" Bartlett) was summed up by a story that Glen told about halfway through the set. Glen, who has been making music as a member of The Frames
for nearly twenty years, remarked that for the first time this week he and Marketa have been getting recognized on the streets of New York. He explained that it feels weird to him to be recognized, and he isn't sure whether he likes it or not. When Marketa asked him "Isn't this what you've been working for for so long?" his response was, "I'm not sure." (I'm paraphrasing.)
As a long-time fan of both Glen and the Frames, I have the same mixed emotions about Glen's recent successes. On one hand, I'm thrilled that Glen is finally getting the recognition he deserves in the U.S., and I'm happy to see that, in some cases at least, years and years of hard work does pay off. I can't think of a single musician out there that deserves success more than Glen (and the rest of the Frames.)
On the other hand, when an artist starts to get big, suddenly you have to "share" that artists' music with a lot of other people. Sure, this happens with every band that gets big. However, at 31 (32 tomorrow... arg..) there are very, very few bands that connect with me on an emotional level anymore. When you're a teenager or in your early twenties, most of what fuels you is your emotion, and you grasp onto bands who "define" who you are. (See: Goth, Emo, etc.) When you start to get older, though, you tend to become (or at least I have) a much less emotional person, thinking in more practical terms about life. It's very rare, and very special, when the rare band sneaks through and makes you feel the same thing about music that you felt when you were younger.
This is what Glen and The Frames have done for me over the last few years, and this is why it's difficult to try to reconcile the fact that they're starting to get very popular in the U.S. It's even harder when you realize that most of the people in the audience don't even know who The Frames are. (Only about 20% of the crowd cheered when the band played The Frames' "Star, Star" at the end of the show.) For me at least, it cheapens the emotional connection you have with the band when a large group of new listeners who don't have the same connection with the music start showing up at shows. A good example? The drunk guy in front of me who kept throwing his fists in the air, "RAWK"-style, during the show. (Folks, this was an acoustic, folk-oriented set, not a rock show.) Another example? The various couples throughout the crowd who decided that the show was a good time to start making out. (Despite Glen and Marketa's current relationship bliss, most of the songs they perform are very raw songs about heartsickness and loss.)
Unfortunately, all of these things were going through my head during the show
, making it hard to concentrate on the music itself. My sense is that Glen himself was struggling with certain of these things during the show too (well, maybe not my particular issues, but his stated discomfort with new popularity), as his performance simply good, but not great. And while it may not be fair to consider that a disappointment, I've come to expect greatness every time I see Glen perform live, and I almost always get it. Tonight, though, felt very much like a "Glen-by-the-numbers" show, without the emotion that has come to define Glen's work.
Two last things. First, no pictures, because for some reason either the band or the venue (the venue blamed the band) requested that cameras not be allowed, and despite that the tickets said nothing about it, they forced people to pay $2 to check their cameras at the coat check.
Second, and more importantly, the opener, Amy LaVere
, took years off my life. Truly, truly abhorrent. She desperately wants to be a bluegrass Norah Jones. Her singing voice might be good (although when she talked I wanted to shoot myself), but her songs were just painfully bad. Sorry, Amy, but it's true.