“It’s all happening!” is something the characters in the movie Almost Famous say to each other when the things they’ve dreamed about seem to be coming to fruition. But last night, it describes the way I felt about seeing The Swell Season in concert. As the lights went down for the concert, I even turned to Mindy and exclaimed, “It’s all happening!” She just smiled at me and pretended I wasn’t weird.
I get that The Swell Season isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But after I watched the movie Once a few years ago, I fell in love with Glen and Marketa and the beautiful, lush music. I was captivated by the honesty and genuineness in the lyrics and Glen’s voice. Being a hopeless romantic, I loved the almost love story in the movie and the real-life romance between Glen and Marketa (that partnership didn’t last, but the friendship and the music have, thanks be to God!). The Swell Season makes music you don’t just listen to; you feel it. You close your eyes and let it wash over you. You know exactly who in your life you’d sing the angry lyrics to, the person you’d promise to be there for always.
When it was announced that The Swell Season was playing the Ryman, I started to get excited. They are one band I just HAD to see live. And I’d missed my chance the last time they came through Nashville because of a work trip. (Funny how work gets in the way of life, huh?) Plus, I’d grown to love the music so much more since then and they had released a second album. I follow them on Twitter and when they announced a pre-pre-sale on their website, I was there with bells on. And that presale was well worth it since I got seats about 6 rows back from the stage (that’s close in the Ryman) and they were pretty much dead center.
When Marketa and Glen and the Frames came out on the stage, I was a little confused when Marketa was carrying the guitar and Glen sat down at the piano. They sang “If You Want Me,” and it was good, but it wasn’t as good as I’d thought it would be. I felt a little twinge of disappointment. . . then, Glen came to the mic and a guitar tech brought out his guitar. It was the beat-up, falling apart guitar he appears to always play and was featured in the movie. I mean, this guitar has holes in it—where there aren’t supposed to be—because of how hard he plays!
After that, I was in that place I sometimes go at concerts, that place where all you can think is, I am really here and this is really happening and it’s so beautiful and I have to remember everything! “Low Rising” was amazing; Glen sang “Leave” all by himself on the stage and I was intrigued by how one person could achieve so much sound on his own. Glen told stories that were weird, hilarious, and sort of made a point, even if he had to take the LONG way to get there. And the music. Oh, the music. It was just beautiful.
• The first glimpse of Glen’s beat-up guitar
• Glen singing “Leave” all alone on the stage and filling the Ryman
• Glen’s nod to the Ryman: It’s good to be in this building again.
• Seeing Glen meandering down 4th Avenue after dinner and on his way back to the bus before the show and no one trying to mob him.
• Overhearing the creepy groupies (esp. the one who brought his Frames BOOK to the show), mocking them to Mindy, only to discover HE WAS RIGHT BEHIND ME!
• The rendition of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic”
• Glen throwing lyrics from “Sexual Healing” into “Low Rising”
• The song that ended with Glen in a heap at center stage and the whole band fading out until all you could hear was the violin player playing disonant notes that really captured the mood of the song and the moment
• All of Glen’s off-hand (hilarious) comments in response to lyrics in his own songs
• Glen singing “Say It to Me Now” completely unplugged as the first song of the encore, then going into Hank William’s “Lost Highway.” He ended that with a reference to being in the right theater for that and used the word “lads.” I was ready to pack my bags and go on tour with them at that point.
• All members of the frames grabbing their acoustic guitars and coming to the front of the stage to play “Gold.” It was beautiful and perfect.
• That final song,”The Parting Glass,” which Glen taught the crowd to sing the refrain to (and seemed to enjoy our singing), that was like a benediction. “Goodnight, and joy be with you all.” It was a traditional Irish song sung mostly at wakes to express that the deceased has had a good life and leaves it without malice, envy, jealousy, or pride. It was the perfect ending, like an Irish blessing spoken over us before we left.
I think that was my favorite concert ever.
But please help me not to be the creepy groupie with the book about the band and the merch girl’s email address. OK?