This is the second show by the Swell Season that I downloaded from NPR (even though it is not chronologically second). The Newport Folk Festival proves to be an excellent venue for Glen Hansard and The Frames. For yes, in this show, The Frames play with them. A (very brief) history: Glen Hansard was the red-haired dude from The Commitments (yes, seriously). After that movie, he started The Frames and they were HUGE (in Ireland and Czechoslovakia). They even released a record with a few songs that appear in the film Once. Then Glen met Marketa and formed The Swell Season, which was really just the two of them. And they recorded a couple of those Frames songs for their debut album. And then they made Once, and they rerecorded some of those songs for the Soundtrack. So you can get quite a few versions of a couple of these songs. The Swell Season was originally just the two of them. But as of late they’ve been playing with the Frames as well. So it’s like a full circle, sort of.
The big opens space of Newport, combined with a rowdy but appreciative crowd prove a perfect venue for them. Glen is in wonderful storytelling mode, regaling the crowd with funny introductions to songs (that was Elijah!) and dealing with an overzealous fan (who I believe calls Glen a red-headed bastard–out of love: Hansard replies ”I liked you for about two comments…I’ve been wanting to play here forever, you’re kind of wrecking my day…. I’m kidding”).
But it’s the music that is so good. I’ve thought that he sounds not unlike Van Morrison, and this version of “Low Rising” that opens the set brings out the Van. Its’ really outstanding. The really makes some of the songs rock out, too, like when he burst into a chorus of “Love Reign O’er Me” during the otherwise mellow ”Back Broke.” Also, the full band version of “When Your Mind’s Made Up” is tremendous–when the band is rocking out and then stops on a dime for that final “So” I am blown away every time. And yet, despite the presence of the band, some of their solo songs are the most striking. Marketa’s, “If You Want Me” holds the crowd rapt. And Glen’s emotionally gut wrenching “Leave” is stunning–and a little hair-raising.
Interestingly, when you download the show (by subscribing to NPR podcasts), you only get 43 minutes, rather than the entire 62 minutes of the show. I assume they didn’t have the rights to give us the covers that the band played. They open the set with Tim Buckley’s “Buzzin’ Fly,” and he plays Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” while they tune some strings and they rock out Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” (this furthers my assertion that there’s a Van Morrison connection here, although I didn’t know this was played live until I streamed the concert.
The Swell Season seems like an awesome band to see live.
[READ: August 21, 2011] Level Up.
Gene Luen Yang is also a wonderful storyteller. His book American Born Chinese is fantastic. This is another slice of life story, although I suspect it can’t be true about himself (well, I mean there are angels that do his laundry so obviously it isn’t true). But I don’t know a thing about him personally so maybe he is a video game champion and a gastroenterologist as well as a novel writer.
Anyhow, the story is a fairly simple one: When Dennis is six years old, he sees a Pac Man video game console and he is instantly hooked. The problem is that his parents want him to be a successful student–specifically, they want him to become a doctor–so there’s no fooling around with video games. He gets good grades in school. But when his father dies, he finally feels free to get a video game console and he finds himself playing more video games than studying. And by the time he gets to university he actually flunks out.
His mother doesn’t learn about this disgrace because before he can do anything more drastic, the aforementioned angels threaten the dean of admissions until she lets him back into school. They angels (who came to life from a card his father had given him) then monitor him carefully, doing all of his chores for him while ensuring that he studies his brains out. Which he does.
And he gets into med school! (more…)